As a new mother, I felt disoriented a lot, I imagine like most of you. I mean, who was this wondrous little creature, equal parts mom and dad and maybe bit of a wayward uncle somewhere in there.
New babies are all instinct, nervous system and an unrelenting digestive system. We, the new moms, eagerly search for any hint of their uniqueness – anything that separates them from other babies and helps us learn about the little emerging person they are. Are they independent or clingy? A giggler or more serious? An old soul or a new one (if you’re so inclined to think that way)?
And with every expression of something new – a proclivity or an interest or an emotion – I wondered: Is this just typical baby stuff or is it an expression of his unique Caleb-ness. We found it incredible how much he responded to music and loved to kick around balls with a deftness that seemed beyond his babyhood. We harbored fantasies related to orchestral and athletic prowess. But, really, wasn’t this stuff universal? Don’t all babies love music and playing with orb-shaped objects?
That was the root of my disorientation: which of this stuff was the embodiment of babyhood and which was the embodiment of this particular baby? In this one way (and ONLY in that way) I was a bit envious of a friend who had fraternal twins. At each developmental stage their uniqueness was obvious. Susie was the shy one who loved to snuggle and Jack was the independent one who never wanted to sleep.
With an only child there is simply no point of comparison. A first born defines what a baby is. It’s a tall order for such a little guy.
Now here I am with my second boy in my arms. And everything he does is inevitably compares to his brother. He talks later, clings more, sleeps worse, snuggles more, fears strangers more etc… THAN his brother. His teeth came in closer together, his fingers are longer, he loves animals more, is less interested in television shows and wants to be carried more THAN his brother. You’d think I’d finally be relieved by being able to know my baby in comparison to some precedent.
But instead of providing a touchstone to better understand my baby, I find myself wondering if these comparisons are fair to the little guy. It’s as if I can’t understand him outside of his relation to his brother. Somehow, now that I have a frame of reference, I find myself doing the inevitable human thing of sorting and comparing. Sometimes it provides a useful orientation, and sometimes I wonder if it prevents me from fully seeing my baby.
I love those boys more than I thought possible. I feel more protective of and endeared to them than anyone else on the planet. And cliché as it is, that love grows every day. That love defies an intellectual “understanding” of who each one is as person. But, knowing your child is the color within the thickly etched lines of that raw human love. I want to see those colors as clearly as possible.
What do you other mamas think of this? Do you have trouble truly “seeing” your kids not in relation to their siblings? Does it even matter?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our writer in Kenya, Mama Mzungu, who writes at www.mamamzungu.com .
Photo credit to the author.
I have three sons and they are a lot of fun. They are also a lot of noise, mess and busyness.
They adore one another most of the time and loathe one another at other times. Needless to say, living in a small house can get a little hectic and the fact that we live a car trip away from most of the boys’ friends—and I don’t always want to drive to fetch or deliver children—means that, from time to time, my boys can have a little too much of one another.
We are one small family and that can make us all tiresome to one another – no matter how strong the love between us.
The healthiness of living in an isolated, nuclear family unit has always bothered me a little. Not that living with my extended family or my in-laws would suit me, or them I suspect, either. But the cousins. Oh my goodness. The wonder of having cousins around – that appeals to me.
With cousins there is the common bond of grandparents and other family members, and the common history and the common family rituals. There is the emotional connection of knowing they all belong together, and the emotional connection of having been all together for their life times.
But, what I really love is the bond I see between our boys and all of their cousins in terms of visible affection and loyalty. When we have been away on holiday together, older cousins have often taken our boys off for adventures or have played with them, especially as babies and toddlers, so I could have a break. Younger cousins provide opportunities for my older boys to teach and help, in their turn. Sometimes it’s just fun to hang out together.
With their cousins, my boys are learning that things their brothers have said to them repeatedly, and they have ignored, are often the same opinions of others – and their cousins are not afraid to tell them so, sometimes bluntly. They are learning a higher level of co-operative skills and greater negotiation techniques, than they get to use with just two others. They are learning to walk away, when they need to walk away, and they are learning when it is appropriate to comment on another’s behaviour and when it is best to stay silent.
Like their brothers, their cousins love them. Unlike their brothers, their cousins are listened to. Like their friends, their cousins enjoy playing with them and will tell them to go away, when they‘ve had enough – but only for a short while. Unlike their friends, they cannot be transient members of their lives. And that last point, in particular, I love.
Do your children have good relationships with their cousins? Do you see a deeper bond between your children and their cousins, than with their friends?
Potty training my three year old son has not been easy. He’s been resistant to the idea for quite some time. I chalk this up to two things. First, he has a willful spirit and often rejects my proposals on principle. Even when dealing with treats or play, if it isn’t his idea, he’ll pass. Second, my son verbalizes to me regularly that he is still a baby. (more…)
When my boys were learning to roll over, I never stopped them from bumping their heads on the floor. We had carpet, vinyl and tiles, and they had access to all of those surfaces and often rolled from one to another. By the end of the first week there had been a few bangs and tears, but nothing that couldn’t be sorted with a cuddle and rock in my arms – and they had all learned to lift their heads up as they rolled.
I didn’t really think about this approach much but assigned it to other events as they grew. I did things like: holding my hand over the corner of a table when they toddled by; casually pointing out the floor was wet after I had mopped it; physically turning them around as they crawled down our concrete steps, so they could get down backwards; making sure they had one bed they could bounce on; and showing them how to get out of the trees they had climbed. As a result by the age of four they could all do things like; cut food and sticks using sharp knives, get themselves out of tight spots, and use a battery-drill and an iron without hurting themselves. By then they knew the difference between tools and toys.
I never pushed them or even encouraged them to do these things; I just (mostly) allowed them to as they were inclined to, taught them a few tricks, and turned up with plasters and cuddles when things didn’t go according to plan.
I have come to accept that children are driven to seek a certain amount of danger and I have found the more I have allowed my boys to set the pace of their ‘dangerous’ behaviours the more self-assured and capable they have become, and more aware of the risks NOT to take.
They occasionally have bitten off more than they could chew (when four years old, our eldest decided to ride around our block alone on his bike, he didn’t want to do that again for another two years) but most often than not they have taken small steps, fast. I often see children who have not been allowed to take the same small steps and they seem, to me, to be either too timid to take any chances or they over estimate their abilities to truly dangerous levels.
There seem to be two strong opposing forces in New Zealand parenting at the moment. One in which ‘safety first’ is the catch phrase, and the other which emphasises the importance of children being allowed to take measured risks. It seems I’ve ended up on one side of this debate without even trying, but now am really pleased that I have taken the approach I have taken.
What’s the approach to danger in your house? Do you think children need to be kept safe or that they need to learn to manage danger?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in New Zealand, Karyn Van Der Zwet
The photograph used in this post is credited to the author.
This morning, I received news that a friend’s little boy had died. During the weekend, he was wading in a river with his dad and brother, and he got pulled underwater by a current. He was immediately taken to hospital, and the doctors and nurses tried oh-so-hard to pull him through while we – friends and family members – held vigil at our computers, anxiously awaiting updates.
Luke was just seven years old. He was a vibrant kid with his whole life ahead of him. When he woke up one morning, he was excited about a day of fun with his dad and brother. Two days later, his parents are having to talk about funeral arrangements and child-sized caskets. There is no possible way for me to imagine what it’s like.
But when I look at my younger son, who is just a few months older than Luke was, my heart gives an almighty twist. I am hit hard with the realization that this is the kind of accident that could happen to anyone, that life is so incredibly fragile, that nothing should ever be taken for granted. (more…)
My husband and I have four boys – his, mine and ours. We have one child each with other partners and then the two younger ones we have together. They now range in age from 16 – 24 years of age.
This morning my son sent me a text message to say his girlfriend has begun having contractions – which have since stopped and started and stopped again – regardless the baby is coming (be it today, tomorrow or next week) and this has raised all sorts of emotion in me.
This new baby is not biologically my son’s yet he’s been with the baby’s mother for almost the entire pregnancy. The girlfriend treats my son’s little boy like her own and my son in turn has been there for her every step of her baby’s short life from the first movements, to birthing classes, to sticking by her side today as labour has stopped and started and stopped again.
Raising happy, healthy children is a massive undertaking. As is maintaining healthy, sound relationships with all of the involved parties when relationships break up and family dynamics change. Step families have a dynamic all of their own with all of the extra people involved; from different partners and new siblings, through to step parents and step siblings. Wrap this entire group up with lots of emotion, plenty of personality and opinion and you have a good idea of how challenging step families can be.
The early years of family life were challenging in my world – with my husband’s ex-partner, my ex-partner and then all of the grandparents and family members who didn’t suddenly stop loving the children or wanting to see them because their parents had split up.
Consider Christmas which is hard work at the best of times; it’s harder when you have to coordinate four immediate households, four children (plus their step / half siblings) and numerous aunties, uncles and grandparents. Christmas is exhausting to say the least.
You may wonder where I’m leading with this post…
I’m excited for my son and his girlfriend, but I’m also a little reserved because I’m not sure how I should act. Am I a proxy grandma, a step nanny – I’m not really sure where I fit into this picture. This baby already has two sets of grandparents and I don’t want to step on anyone else’s toes. Then I realise I’m probably being stupid about the whole thing and I don’t have to ‘fit’ anywhere. I realise no baby can have too much love or attention and that biology alone does not make a loving family member.
Regardless, I guess this newest member of the family, when he finally arrives (yes, they already know it’s another boy – why am I not surprised?), will no doubt enchant us and beguile us. He’ll add an extra element to Christmas Day and I will goo and gaa over him, hug him and cuddle him just as I do with my own biological grandson.
In the end – happy, healthy babies and loving families are all that matters – biology surely doesn’t count for as much as love and emotion does.
What’s your experience with step families? Do you have special ways of dealing with the ex-partners, extra siblings and family occasions?
This is an original World Moms Blog post by Fiona from Inspiration to Dream of Adelaide, South Australia.
Image credit courtesy of Vlado of Free Digital Photos