There he goes

Yesterday was a huge day for me. A day I’ve been dreading and worrying about for months.

Yesterday F started playgroup.
From now on, every Friday morning I will drop him off there after I’ve taken O to school and I will pick him back up after lunch.

And for the four hours in between I will do… what? Clean, I guess. Do the laundry. Run errands.

Miss him.

I didn’t think it would be this hard. But I should have known, because the thing about F is that he and I are together all the time. I go to work two days out of the week, and the other five days we are together.

And it’s not just that.

I didn’t bond with F when he was a baby. At all. Because he was so unsettled all the time, and because I couldn’t cope, maybe I thought he wasn’t for keeps. I didn’t feel like I was good enough for the job of being his mother. I thought that somebody else could do it better. And then everything started to spiral out of control and it was only on the night when I thought there was real chance that he might actually be taken away from me that I started to realise how much I didn’t want that to happen.

Maybe I’ve overcompensated for those first few months. Maybe I’ve babied him more than I should have done. Maybe I’ve allowed him to be a little more dependent on me than he otherwise would have been.

The simple fact is that I adore him. Which is not to say that I don’t feel exactly the same way about his brother, but the thing about O is that he has always treated me as more of a satellite in his life. He wants to know that I’m there if he needs me, and he has no doubt that I love him, but he also wants to be independent.

O and F are different children. Very different. O sees me all the time, but he rarely gets to spend time with his daddy since he started school. So if he’s given the choice between being with me and being with daddy, he will choose to be with daddy.

That’s fair and it seems perfectly logical.

F also sees me all the time, but he also sees a lot more his daddy than O does. And the fact that I’m around a lot means that F always gravitates towards me because I guess he finds me reassuring.

He needs me so much more than his big brother does.

Or so I thought.

But yesterday surprised me. Because I was terrified about how hard it was going to be to walk away and leave him. I was afraid that he would cry and refuse to settle. I was worried that I would get a call asking me to go back and pick him up.

I needn’t have fretted.

F kissed me goodbye and, aside from calling out to me once as I left, he went seamlessly from constantly orbiting me to stepping out on his own without me.

And yes, I cried in my car after I left him. I couldn’t believe that I had walked away from him.

I felt like I’d abandoned him.

But he had a wonderful morning. He didn’t cry, he didn’t once look for or ask for me. He involved himself in new things with new children and he did fine. Better than fine. The play workers showed us photos they’d taken of him playing and he has a big, beaming smile in every single one of them.


When I picked him up, he was happy to see me. But I could also tell that he’d been just fine without me, that his happiness wasn’t dependent on my physical presence. Once again, he amazed me with how strong and brave he really is.

He also proved to me what I have always been unsure of; that he knows I love him and that he is secure in that fact. I’ve always wondered if he knew, or if the fact that I was a terrible mother at the start would somehow ruin his chances of ever
feeling safe and loved.

It’s a relief to know that I haven’t fundamentally damaged him. That everything I’ve done since those dark days has been enough for him to know.

My baby is growing up, and while that wrenches at something inside of me that I can’t quite put a name to, I am so endlessly proud of him.

I am so privileged to be his mother.

In which F turns two

Tomorrow is a big day.

Tomorrow my little one, my baby, turns two.

There are two things about this that I find strange.

The first is directly linked to how very, painfully clearly I remember the first few days and months after we brought him home. I suffered hard with the “baby blues” about three days after he was born. The sleep deprivation was catching up with me and I was just so fucking tired. I couldn’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t be just exhausted.

Then the other stuff came. The reflux. The flat refusal to feed at 1am. The vomit-soaked sheets at 3am. The endless crying through the night. By the time F was two months old I was bewilderedly wondering what the fuck I’d done to my life by deciding to have a second child.

It felt like it would never, ever end.

You know the story. We got help. We got it via A&E on a dismal Sunday afternoon and we left without our son in the early hours of the following morning, but we got help. Things got better, slowly at first and then with gathering momentum. The cute, heart-melting moments gradually began to outstrip the moments of panic and strangulating fear.

By F’s first birthday, I was more in love with him than I could ever have imagined in those early, awful months.

That love has only grown as I’ve watched him change and develop. He has a cheeky wit and a fierce stubbornness that both amuses and infuriates me in equal measure. I love him. I love the life out of him, the very bones of him, every little thing that makes him who he is.

But a part of me also feels sad tonight, which brings me to the other strange thing:

The fact that my youngest child is now two.

By this milestone in his brother’s life, I was halfway through my second pregnancy. And I know that I’m not going to have any more babies. Which means that all of the cute things that F is doing now, all of the first times, the hilariously mispronounced words, the post-nap snuggles… all of those things are gradually going to stop. And then I’ll have to navigate life with older boys, who don’t want to cuddle me so much, who don’t need me to reassure them when they go someplace new, and who won’t tell me, “I yoooooooove yoooooo!” with reckless abandon.

And I know I can’t stop them from growing up. I don’t want to stop them; I want them to go ahead and become whoever it is that they’re going to be, because they will be brilliant no matter what.

But…

Can we just stop? Just for a tiny, little while? Can we keep these moments for just a little longer?

My mom used to tell me, “I wish that I could pickle these cuddles and keep them in a jar.” I always thought she was so weird when she said that.

Now I know exactly what she meant.

Happy birthday, F. You wonderful, brave, strong and very special little boy, you.

“Do you wish you had a girl?”

There are two things that people usually ask me when I tell them that I have two sons: Am I going to try for a girl and, if not, do I wish that I had a girl. These are not questions with basic yes/no responses, and they’re not getting any easier to answer.

“Are you going to try for a girl?”

The simple answer, when you strip it right back to its most basic form, is no. No, we are not going to try for a girl.

The slightly more complicated answer is this: Having another child would change our lives completely. The very least of things is that neither of our cars could comfortably accommodate a third child seat. But then there’s the other stuff. The big, less easily fixed stuff. Our house isn’t big enough for five humans and two cats to co-exist without constant privacy issues. The sums don’t add up. The far-reaching financial implications of a third child are, without exaggeration, insurmountable. Also, my second pregnancy almost physically broke me, and F’s first six months of life took such a toll on me emotionally that it was almost a year before I started feeling mentally stable again.

And.

Even if we did try again, there’s no guarantee that we would get a girl. In fact, there’s a very good chance we would end up with another boy. And I would love him; of course I would. But I am already incredibly outnumbered by males and I already have three other people in the house who think I’m having a psychotic break whenever my menstrual mood swings get the better of me. I also don’t have a clue what I would call him, having exhausted my very limited resources of names for boys.

“Do you wish you had a girl?”

Firstly: Rude. Unintentionally, I’m sure, but that question never fails to poke the defensive Mama Bear in me. Because what I really feel like I am being asked is whether or not I wish that one of my existing children was a girl.

And the answer is: No.

No, I don’t wish that. I cannot imagine what my life would be without, specifically, them. Exactly as they are. It makes me feel as though I’m somehow expected to look at their being boys as an unfortunate side-effect of their existence. I know that’s not the intention behind the question. I know that. But they are my boys. My brilliant, clever, funny, beautiful boys, and I love every little bit of them. I love how O is so extroverted and sassy and brimming over with excitement about life. I love how F is sensitive and empathetic and mischievous. I love who they are together and how they interact with each other and adore each other.

Here’s the thing: I grew up naively assuming that one day I would have a daughter. I’ve known since I was 14 what I would call her. In my head she is witty and smart, she loves to run and jump and climb, she reads for hours in her room and she wears whatever the hell she likes. And when she grows up, she is my best friend and most trusted confidant. When we found out that F was another boy, I mourned that imagined daughter. Because I knew that she was never to be and I very quickly had to re-write the future I had expected for myself. At the time, I hated myself for that feeling of bitter disappointment, but I’ve since realised that it’s something I had to experience. And I honestly never, ever look at F and think “I wish you were a girl.”

What I think when I look at both of my children is simply this:

“Thank God that you are YOU.”

It’s true that I am sometimes uncertain about how motherhood will look 15 years from now when my boys are grown-up. I don’t know if they will call me once they’ve moved out and started creating their lives away from home. I don’t know if they will ask my advice when they’re trying to make big decisions. I don’t know if they will ever give me a hug or tell me that they love me.

I know that I love them to a degree that I cannot easily express in words. I know that I am excited to see who they turn out to be. And, above all these things, I know that I wouldn’t trade either of my sons for a daughter.

Mum of boys

What more could I want than this?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday