An open, honest letter to my child who won’t be starting school this September
Today we’ll take it easy,
No rush, we’ve lots of time.
The whole day lies before us
And the weather’s looking fine.
Perhaps we’ll picnic in the park
Or on the front room floor,
For you are still so little;
You’ve only just turned four.
You choose the clothes you’d like to wear
And bring your teddy too,
Tell me where you’d like to go
And what you’d like to do.
We’ll take our favourite things for lunch,
Lay down and watch the skies
And if you fall and hurt yourself,
I’m here to dry your eyes.
Then we’ll go and see our friends
And share the afternoon.
We’ll talk and listen, play and paint,
The time will go too soon.
Because you’re still so little,
You don’t have to be alone
‘Till you decide the time is right
To branch out on your own.
‘Till then, I’m right beside you
When you need to hold my hand.
We’ll explore and learn together;
The best way to understand.
You’ve been alive for just 4 years,
Your place is here at home,
It’s our job to nurture you
And keep you safe from harm.
You fill my world with happiness,
I love to watch you play.
You’re learning all you need to know,
We’re doing it our way.
So before we go exploring soon,
I’ll kiss you one more time,
Happy that you’ll always be
Forever truly mine.
Sometimes, as a Mummy, the best things I hear, are those things that are said in the moments before sleep.
I know I have been lucky.
I know I am one of the fortunate few.
Our bedtimes have always (or almost always) been peaceful.
I often hear about other parents’ bedtime battles – arguments, screaming, whatever it takes.
I don’t know how we have managed it, but our bedtimes tend to be, on the whole, peaceful.
That’s not to say I’ve always been the most patient of parents at bedtimes. Oh no! I’ve bribed. I’ve begged. I’ve told the odd little white lie: “I’ll be back in a few minutes, after I have brushed my teeth” – knowing that she will be asleep within minutes anyway.
And of course, as society would have you believe, children should send themselves off to sleep… in a room… by themselves… in the quiet… and often in the dark… with no-one else nearby… in a short space of time…..
Now that I write that, it seems ridiculous. But I never really questioned it until recently.
Over the last few months my perception has changed. My bigger monkey will be 4 next month, and I suspect that she may be going through a developmental leap that is leaving her feeling anxious, insecure and in need of reassurance. For the last 3 weeks, she has asked me to sit with her in her room while she falls asleep. Or she has asked, at some point in the night, to come and sleep with me in my room. At bedtime, I am usually happy to sit with her for a while, but of course, I do not go to bed when she does. I have things I need to do. Things I WANT to do. A couple of hours of being me, instead of being Mummy.
Tonight, as usual, Daddy takes her up to bed, tucks her in and comes back downstairs.
Five minutes later, as usual, she calls out for Mummy.
I go up. I don’t begrudge it. I never do really, except for those times when I have had a mountain of planning or marking to do ready for my next day’s (paid) work. Everything else can wait (or be recorded – in the case of TV programs). Plus, I keep telling myself that other families have much worse bedtime battles than this…
So I go up, and I sit with her for a while, and she is calm and quiet… and I think that she is going to sleep, and I hope that I might be able to creep stealthily out of her room…
Suddenly she turns her head over to where I am sitting, beside her bed.
Her voice is like a bell in my ears…
“Mummy, please will you lay down with me and give me a cuddle?”
And in my head, silent to anybody else, but LOUD AND CLEAR to me, as if it were truly spoken aloud, I hear these words…
“My love…. I would lay down my LIFE for you…. my whole LIFE…. of course I will lay down with you and cuddle you!”
It is my inner voice.
My inner voice that so often is silenced, quashed, because other things seem to take priority.
My inner voice that has to shout to be heard above the clamour and din of every day preconceptions and ideologies.
My inner voice that has been gradually eroded, like everyone else’s since the day we entered adolescence and began to think for ourselves and have our own ideas.
Silently, I pull out the fold-up bed that I have been sitting on, and flatten it onto the floor; no wider than hers, but at least a little longer than a toddler bed – long enough for me to lie comfortably on. I grab the pillow and spare duvet that I keep nearby, and I whisper to her, “Come here, Sweetheart.”
She slides onto the mattress next to me and I wrap the duvet around us both.
For a moment we are both silent: warm, comforted and reassured as we hold each other close.
I breathe in the delicious scent of her, feel her little body in my arms, and I watch her eyelids flutter as she seems to drift into her own little world.
Then her eyes flutter open and she notices me gazing at her…
“Mummy, go to sleep,” she tells me, our roles reversed… or perhaps equalised.
“I was just thinking how much I love you,” I whisper, and the corners of her mouth twitch, almost into a smile.
“You must go to sleep, Mummy!” she urges. So I close my eyes, trying.
A minute later, I open one eye – partly to see if she has her eyes open or closed, and partly to get another look at that beautiful face.
She is wide eyed, and most-definitely awake. I open my other eye and smile at her.
“Mummy, I’m thinking how much I love YOU now,” she says, sincerely.
I pull her closer still, and my heart melts into hers.
“I love you,” I whisper.
“I’d lay down my life for you.”
Today is a poorly day in our household.
We’ve had a long week of them.
These days, I have discovered, are the longest, hardest, most exhausting days of parenthood.
For the last week or so, my littlest monkey (2 years old) has been ill with croup and a head cold, which is exhausting enough. But it’s never that straightforward: it’s a chain reaction that, with a horrible inevitability, gradually hits everyone in the household.
As a mum to a poorly 2 year old, all sense of my own personal infection-control goes out the window.
It is my job to catch the snotty sneezes, even when they land right in the middle of my face as I’m cuddling her.
It is my job to wipe the tears, dribble and other unmentionable mucus from her nose, her cheeks, her hands, her legs and every object she touches.
It is my job to hold her tight while she wails in between the spluttering cough that hurts her throat and her chest and seems unending.
It is my job to do my best to wash her hair, matted and knotted with all the aforementioned bodily fluids, so that I will not have to go at it in desperation with the scissors later on.
It is my job to try to get calpol into her, which if it were as easy to do as it is to say, would be one less frustration.
And it is my job to lovingly receive all the dribbly, snotty, germ-ridden kisses that she plants on me because, even through all my exhaustion, I am managing to make her feel a little better.
Of course, with all that comes the inevitability of catching this bug myself. Predictably, 3 days later, I am able to fully appreciate how awful she was feeling through all of that, as I now feel it just as bad. Still I desperately try to keep her comfortable and keep the bigger monkey (3 years old and as yet still surprisingly healthy) entertained as usual. It’s exhausting. Feeling ill, all I really want to do is curl up in bed.
And I know that my older daughter will get it next. In a few days it will start all over again with her.
A week of poorly days is HARD! Really hard!
But like all the other difficult times in this amazing, rewarding, life-changing role of being a parent, it’s all part of the job.