Sometimes I forget that you’re only four years old. Actually, a month ago you were just three. Maybe I expect too much from you at times because you’re a big sister now. Maybe it’s because I’m tired, grumpy, or haven’t been for a run for three days. Maybe it’s because I just haven’t taken the time and effort to see things from your bright little eyes. But my darling, I am slowly learning to do exactly this, and I’m sorry I sometimes forget.
You’ve started to remind me of this, not intentionally, but in your own lovely innocent way. The other day I must have sighed and signalled to you I was very annoyed when we were out shopping and you said you had to go to the toilet. I was feeling stressed as I tried to look for what I needed to buy and you were getting tired and very very bored. I had already snapped at you for playing inside the clothes racks, lying on the floor, and running away. I was starting to feel resentful, those thoughts of “I never get any time to myself now, I can’t even get a simple task done with kids around, what a terrible life I have now, no time, no time, no time”. Then you said “Mummy I have to wee” and I huffed away and hurried you to the toilet. After using the bathroom you said “I’m sorry I had to wee, Mama”.
That was the moment. Something fell inside me. It was my heart. It broke for all the times I had made you feel like you were a burden, a nuisance to me. The times our agendas conflict – you want to play, I have to get someone a birthday present. The times when I am in a hurry and you dawdle. The times when I need you to get dressed in the morning and you find a puzzle to play with instead.
Yet I know we’re ok. I know it because we also have lots of times when we share the same sense of joy. When we laugh at something very silly. When we’re tucked up in bed together and reading a bedtime story. When we dance in the living room to your favourite song. When we have these amazing conversations in the car about life, and you listen to everything I say as though I’m the wisest person in the world. yet I think you are truly the wise one. The other day we talked about feeling grumpy, and what we could do if we felt grumpy. Your suggestions were to “make yourself feel happy” and “perhaps we need some alone time”. Then I asked if I seemed grumpy a lot of the time, or just a little bit of the time. “Just a little bit,” you said. I then said that I felt bad about feeling grumpy because I shouldn’t really get grumpy. And you said, in your best reassuring voice,
“It’s ok, Mummy. It’s just a little bit.”
So I’ve started really seeing things from your point of view. I want to connect with you as often as I can, so that the occasional times I lose it with you or make you feel bad about yourself can be healed quickly. I want you to have so much joy and security from me that you never doubt what a beautiful little girl you are. We’ve started talking quietly in your bedroom before you go to sleep. You lie in your bed and we whisper to each other about what sort of dreams you will have that night. Tonight you said “sometimes I wake up and I’m scared”. I said “Any time you need me, just call and I will come”.
“Will you scream at me, Mummy?” you asked in a small voice.
My heart broke again, and I fought back tears as I promised I wouldn’t scream at you if you woke crying in the middle of the night. I am finding it hard to write this as I can hardly see through the tears. But I promise you this. I may not have done it very well up til now but I will try my very best to remember you’re just a little girl. You need to play, to imagine, to discover. You need your Mum and Dad a lot still, even as you become more independent. If you could have your way you would be with me all the time – you tell me this often (but you have also cultivated strong relationships with other loving carers and friends, giving me the time I need). It’s hard always having a little brother around that Mummy has to see to all the time, and who is often noisy, pushy and can’t play well yet. It’s not easy going to bed on your own – but you’ve been so brave, even when you’re feeling afraid of the dark or missing Mummy at night. What you need is a constant source of the most tender love, the space to learn and make mistakes in a non-threatening way, firm boundaries about the right things. You need us to laugh with you when you’re being funny, wonder with you when you find something amazing, and hurt with you when you’re feeling sad. Then you need us to teach you what to do with your big emotions. Most of all you need to know that you’re the best little girl in the world, which is something I’ve started telling you every single day. And I mean it from the bottom of my heart. The best little girl in the whole world.
All my love
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