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Jun 25 / Caro

Hurtling in to Childhood

Lately, when I look at my little boy, I can’t help but realise how fast we are hurtling away from baby-hood, and now even toddler-hood, on in to full-on childhood.

It’s in the way he looks. His face, suddenly so much more grown up, the trademark fine and curly baby hair now just a memory. His bottom more streamlined, without the added bulk of nappies. His limbs ever more gangly – not that he ever had much baby pudge, the wriggle-monster that he is. It’s also in the way he speaks. Vociferous from the outset, he was an early talker, and a clear one at that. But his sentences grow ever more complex and the strangers he approaches to share his stories with can’t help but comment on what a great conversationalist he is!

Most of all, though, it’s in the way he acts. Confident to run wide circles well away from me, hardly even checking back over his shoulder. He’ll ask for exactly what he wants in a restaurant or shop, adding the appropriate pleases and thank yous. I see the child in him when he intones “oh pleeeease” whenever he has been denied something he wants to do or have. It’s a stark contrast to the fist thumping tantrums that immediately followed such denials just mere months ago. Now the tantrums are the last resort, instead of the first.

I see other, older children when we’re out and about, and I see clues already of what our future might be like. At our local carnival this week, Thomas was still content mostly to run around and take it all in. But there was insistence at a turn of the miniature flying chairs. The beginnings of pester power. Every way we looked were slightly older children, begging their parents for a turn on the various stalls, and carting around the associated winnings. And i see these children all the time too. At the park. In the swimming pool. Even at work. Recently I’ve started to properly take them in. All of a sudden, I see the pathway in front of us illuminated a little better.

Ever since Thomas was born I’ve known, of course, that I would one day have not just a baby, but a child. Although there is so much focus on having a “baby”, they can’t stay babies forever. But leaving baby-hood behind is something that is hard to imagine when you’re pregnant or a new mum. It feels particularly bittersweet at the moment, of course, since we haven’t managed to have another “baby” and it looks increasingly unlikely that we ever will. But all of that aside, when I think about Thomas as the child he is becoming, my biggest reaction is terror.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

The last time I felt like this was immediately before Thomas was born, when I realised that they were going to let me take my baby home and I had absolutely no idea about what I was supposed to do.

It seems ridiculous, because I know this parenting thing is pretty organic in its development. We’re all up-skilling all the time, as each new challenge came along. And when I look at my record, even I have to concede that we haven’t done too badly. We’ve negotiated various hurdles from the early days, through mastering breastfeeding, on to weaning, then walking, talking and this growing independence. It seems daft to feel so unnerved now, but it’s that word that does it: independence.

Of course I want Thomas to grow and spread his wings, hopefully go on to achieve things that make him happy and fulfilled. I really want him to do that. But already, at the tender age of two, I’m afraid of this pulling away too. I’m afraid of the shift in our relationship, because knowing that it’s coming is akin to walking on unstable ground, never knowing quite when you may trip, stumble or fall.

This probably sounds self-indulgent and over-protective, but that’s not my intention. In fact it’s really the opposite. I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t want these changes to happen, but I am afraid of them too. Once upon a time all that Thomas needed for happiness was cuddles and breast milk. Things that were, for a long time, easy to provide. I’m afraid of not knowing how to support him as he grows up, and not knowing quite how to let him go to do the things he needs to do now that mummy cuddles and milk are no longer all he needs. It feels like more of a challenge than any of those we’ve so far encountered.

Only time, of course, will tell.

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