When I wanted another baby, part of it was that I so wanted to be able to do better at all the things I felt I had failed to do well with the girls; I was too busy, 4 children in 6 years rather took its toll, there wasn’t enough time, I was tired etc etc. I thought another baby would give me a chance to be an uber mother, the type who actually does the things with her child that she collects on a Pinterest board full of things to do with a toddler. I had such high hopes of myself back then; life had got so much better and I was optimistic. I never really expected I would home educate Freddie, I suspected by the time he was 4 or 5 that the girls would be in school (correct! in timing at least) but I thought I would relish all the time I had with him. I thought I’d be full of amazing blog posts of all the creative stuff we did.
And then everything went wrong and so much has happened that I’m only now beginning to realise that I’m having to heal from the inside out. I’ve been quiet and I’ve not been terribly creative generally (I’m not sure I can ever go back to writing and doing as well as I did after Freddie) but I do know that’ve I’ve done Bene’s babyhood absolutely as well as I possibly could. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. I’ve parented and mothered and cloth bummed and breastfed and co-slept and baby worn and enjoyed every inch of him. All the illness and fear and anxiety was tough but I can look back and say it wasn’t something that defines his babyhood. My enjoyment was truly heightened by what was lost before him but he has been everything I needed and wanted.
I’ve got some guilt about toddlerdom though. I’m not terribly good at toddlers if I’m honest. Never have been. Once they walk, I’m pretty useless until they are about 3… maybe 4. I just don’t have the patience. Truthfully I’m not sure I’m brilliant at children beyond 1 at at all! I meant to suck up every second of it and make myself love it but when the girls went to school, my over-riding feeling was that of panic, that I’d be home alone with him 5 days a week. One of the legacies of Freddie’s death has been that I never really did all the yummy mummy swimming, NCT and groups I meant to indulge in. It is just too damn hard to be an older mum, with lots of kids who never used to go to school, with a boy after a big gap and the dead baby that you can’t quite bring yourself to gloss over when people comment on the late restart. My panic about trying to go back to the old days of home alone with one raucous toddler was very real; in the end Max and I decided to split the working week so we took it in turns. More recently Bene has started nursery, one day a week which will soon be two. It’s so much not what I planned but a) he likes it, b) the business needs it if we are going to survive and c) mental health counts for everything and me going quietly bonkers again is not in anyone’s interest.
And you know what, I’ve decided to cut myself a break. I’m NOT very good at toddlers. I’m just not. I adore him totally and can cuddle and tickle and snuggle and do all of those things above quite happily. Buy I’m rubbish at messy play and getting out enough and running about and setting up activities. I just am. And he’s a very busy toddler. Winter is going to be loooooong.
Luckily for Bene, he’s essentially being brought up by a team of 6. He rarely has to see the same face for long and I can manage a day or two a week entertaining him without going stir crazy. And if I’m not very good at messy and doing things the long slow way with much meandering and pointlessness, luckily for him, there is Daddy to throw balls and play pretend rugby and there are sisters who just love to indulge him.
So today he made cakes. Lovely big sister Fran helped him all along the way and my contribution was to clean up before and sort out the dishwasher after. And he loved it. Loved every second of making them and just BEAMED when they came out of the oven and he got to eat one.