Something has changed recently – you’ve felt it and of course I have too. Our days together are often unpredictable and the routine you crafted around me so carefully – the net which kept both of us safe – has crumbled. You don’t know where you stand all of a sudden and you feel a bit helpless. But remember, I feel this way, too.
I am sure it must be confusing when one moment I am happily smiling and the next I am yelling and screaming at you, crying so much it makes my voice wobble and my breathing shuddery. You’re shocked and I am in too deep to stop it – I don’t know how to stop it – and you don’t either. It’s hard when you don’t know how to fix things; we’re both lost and flailing in this new territory, playing roles neither of us imagined.
I’m so frustrated and you feel weary, you just don’t have the energy for it you tell me sometimes, it’s the third time today and it’s not even noon.
You wonder how I can become so upset over something so minor, over not getting exactly what I want the minute I want it. I used to be so affable, so laidback – well at least a lot of the time. Now I am defiant, difficult and awkward. I keep rejecting you and it’s upsetting when I push you away and tell you to go. You do so much for me.
You wonder how long this will last – not just this particular tantrum – although that too as we’re running late and you hate seeing me so upset, but this phase… this behaviour. Will it be weeks or months or years? You feel overwhelmed and want so much to handle these changes well, to support whilst not indulging me; to help without encouraging a pattern of poor behaviour because it gets me what I want. You feel very conscious that your actions now will help shape who I become, it’s the kind of pressure you could do without.
It almost makes night feeds and newborn screaming seem simple doesn’t it?
You rack your brains to find a cause: tiredness… sugar… differences in routine… changes to our family. You feel guilty, because you are so good at blaming yourself for things. Is it due to going to nursery? Or that you went away last weekend? Or that you have less energy sometimes – are you causing this?
I don’t have many answers I’m afraid. But it isn’t you, and it isn’t really me, either. It might be lots of different factors, all playing their part; plus don’t forget I’m trying to figure out who I am and where my needs and wishes fit into our world. To an extent, I’ll perhaps always be doing this – working out who I am – I’ll just get better at handling it, in some ways at least.
But I have always known who you are, I know that much.
You are my go-to, my safe place, my home.
I don’t have to pretend with you. I don’t need to be polite, or disguise my tiredness or upset; I don’t need to be brave. If I’m angry I can tell you and if I’m sad I know that you can handle it. Isn’t it better I can share these feelings with you; be whoever I need to be in that moment, rather than hide who I am from the person who knows me better than anyone? It may not always seem like it, but it’s kind of a privilege because to me you are always who I need you to be, however I need you.
You’re tired, I know. I’m inconsistent and you hate being unsure about how I will react to all the things you used to know by heart. It isn’t forever though, and nothing is lost, it’s just changing shape.
There was that afternoon last week that still sticks in your mind. It had been another mixed day of giggles and fun mingled with tantrums and tears. I had demanded you stop blinking your eyes and refused to let you change me out of my rain-sodden clothes, you couldn’t reason with me. Then came the stress at the supermarket, where you were almost frightened to say no to my strange and varied demands because you dreaded a public scene. Wrung out by the time we got through the check-out, you were thankful when I fell into an exhausted slumber in the car as you drove home.
It didn’t matter that it was a bit late in the day for napping, because you just needed this rare spell of peace, half an hour where someone wasn’t demanding something from you. We sat there together on the drive, me dribbling and resting, you wondering how you were back here – just like the early days when you didn’t truly know me and felt lost in your new role.
But please remember this – you are my comfort and my constant. And for the times I won’t walk beside you, there are a hundred where I hold your hand and squeal as you twirl me around. For every ‘No Mummy!’ there is a cuddle on the sofa with our favourite stories. For every scream there is a belly laugh (usually caused by you) and for every trying moment there are a million beautiful ones.
We are connected, you and I, so don’t ever doubt our bond or my love. The only reason I can swim these new waters is because I know you are there beside me: to pull me back when I go too deep, to carry me when I am tired.
I feel your love, it is there as I transition and grow, as I let go of parts of me and hold tight to others. You are my safe place, my friend – and I will always come back – to where you are waiting for me.
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