My toddler loves his grandparents. What’s not to like? They pretty much let him get away with anything. They never tell him off, they don’t instil discipline, they give him lovely food (which he doesn’t have to eat if he doesn’t want to) they spend all their energy taking him to parks and he always seems to get a present. My mum won’t have him over night though because he won’t sleep when he’s there. She can’t understand why…
Grandma: “I can’t understand why he won’t sleep when he is here dear.”
Me: “Well, when he wakes up the first time, second time etc… do you make eye contact with him?”
Grandma: “Of course darling!”
Me: “What else do you do?”
Grandma: “Well of course I cuddle him and kiss him and tell him everything is ok and how much I love him.” (and probably how special he is! Grandma’s special little soldier).
Grandma has basically failed Supernanny ‘get them to sleep’ 101. No wonder he always comes back with a new attitude.
But I have a job to do; I am his mum. That means it is up to me to make sure he eats his greens, keeps to a strict sleep schedule, understands right from wrong… and to be there to say the word ‘no’. I would say Daddy contributes to this too…but not so much. With him working full time he is “Mr Fun” who bursts through the door at 6.00pm every evening to play gladiators and give him yet another toy car he picked up on the walk home. I am boring old 24 hours a day warden.
However, last week something strange happened. I was checking on him, as I do every night – at around eleven. I went into his room and sat on the bottom of his bed and was rearranging his blanket when he woke up, eyes wide and saw me. Immediately a huge smile spread across his face and he stared at me in the dark. Instead of thinking “Shit! abort! Get out of his room asap and don’t let him see you!” or acting like a person who had just been clocked by a T-Rex (Don’t move an inch and you’ll be ok) I sat there, relaxed and smiled back.
He carefully sat up and grinned at me some more. I neglected all my Supernanny rules. He quietly spoke to me in toddler tongue for a few moments before moving towards me and snuggling into me. We sat and whisper babbled at each other for a while and I hugged him (something he won’t entertain in the day). After a while he lay back down and I left the room, tears in my eyes – feeling something I hadn’t felt in a very long time.
Then another odd occurrence yesterday. The heatwave was upon us and I decided to give my son a cool bath. I put some toys in the bath, filled it with very cool water and placed him in it. I made sure I washed his hair, all the while mentally listing what needed to be done as soon as I was finished. It was hot and my lower back ached from leaning over the bath at nearly 38 weeks pregnant. The bath looked lovely.
Moments later I was sat in the cold bath with my son, my clothes still on (it was a split second decision). I sat opposite him and he giggled in delight that mummy was in his bath. He couldn’t believe it. The last time this had happened he would have been just a tiny baby. The joy and surprise on his face was astounding. I felt myself relax and we spent a good thirty minutes in it playing with his bath toys. And I mean really ‘playing’.
My mum instincts at bed time – get him to sleep! Be regimented. No eye contact, no smiles, bed is for sleeping. He must be in it at 7pm without fail. Sleep is all that matters!
My mum instincts at bath time – get him clean, don’t flood the bathroom floor, get him in and out as fast as possible and into bed.
Both of these had gone out of the window and I had felt less like his mum – and more like a fun friend. I looked at my son’s face, across from me in the bath, as he giggled at mummy playing with his toys and realised – that is what I had made: A little friend. And sometimes I should realise how much fun we can have together. I don’t always have to be the fat controller.
People always bleat at you “enjoy them when they’re young! Enjoy them… because they grow up so fast” but it is easier said than done. I seem to spend so much of my time worrying about what I should be doing with him, about not annoying strangers with him, about him developing – that I rarely spend time truly enjoying him.
Maybe it’s the realisation that in ten days his brother will be here and we will have less time to enjoy each other that is making me savour moments. Or maybe this is how long it takes to truly relax into parenthood – Two and a half years.
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