Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Constant Companion

Does the guilt ever go away? Or is it just one of those visitors that you wish would go home, but that keeps on making itself more comfortable on the couch, ignoring your glances at your watch and asking for yet another cup of tea?

Yesterday was our first day back to work after the Christmas break. JP had had lots of chill-out time in our house in the country, watching movies, playing with his toys, falling asleep on the couch… it was everything that Christmas for a three-year-old should be. In fact, it was probably everything that a regular week for a three-year-old should be.

And then suddenly we were back in Dublin, in a house that felt like an ice-box because the heating had died, and there I was, bundling him, still puffy-eyed and half-asleep, into a car on a dark, cold morning and expecting him to be enthusiastic about going back to the crèche. He stood at the car door and wept, the sadness of the occasion seeming too much for him to bear.

Guilt swept over me like cold, black wave. It just never, ever gets any easier, does it?

Mr. G is able to much more practical on these occasions than I am and focuses on how lucky JP is, rather than on how much he is missing out on. In some ways, he’s right. JP has a loving home, a warm bed (well, when the heating works), enough food to eat whenever he’s hungry and a safe place to play each day, even if it’s not where he’d ideally like to be. But I can’t help harking back to my childhood and the warmth and comfyness that came from being at home with my mother all day. True – she was harried and short-tempered a lot of the time (who wouldn’t be, with six children to raise on a shoe-string) and the wooden spoon was frequently used for much more than cooking, but at least I was with her.

On days like yesterday, JP seems so small and vulnerable as we walk into the crèche in the watery, grey light of a slow winter sunrise, his little face upturned to mine as he clutches Snoopy, his constant companion. I can’t help feeling that I’m somehow letting him down. Maybe time will prove me wrong and his early experiences outside of the home will make him a stronger more confident person, leading to great professional accolades and even presidency, but I’m not so sure…

Even if all of that happens, I’m sure I’ll just find something else to feel guilty about.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Three Ears Old

I never thought an internet newsletter from Parent Center could make me want to cry. But yesterday I received my ‘last PreSchooler This Month’ newsletter and little tears pricked the corners of my eyes. The message was loud and clear… your son is now a child and you don’t need to keep watching his developmental progress like a hawk anymore. I felt like something was slipping away from me, like a shadowy object sinking into the water that you try to reach for but can’t.

Watching him open his third birthday presents on Monday drove the message home even more. He wanted to open each one ‘his own self’ and spent ages trying to get his little boy fingers under the seal of the wrapping paper so that he could get sufficient leverage to rip the remainder to shreds. It was painstaking. I sat there on the couch with him, every muscle in my body straining to grab the package and tear the paper off. But I managed to control myself and JP actually did it… it took a while, but he did it. It seemed such a grown-up thing to do, to open his own presents successfully. And I have to admit to feeling a pang.

Then I was browsing the M2B board on Magicmum the other day and saw the December 2005 thread buzzing with excited posts about recent births. I almost replied to the topic to say congratulations and to reminisce fondly about being in the same situation last year. And then the reality hit me like a splash of very cold water… that was three years ago! God. I know it’s the ever-present cliché, but time really is flying.

I look at JP sometimes, at how his body seems so long and how his bruised little legs seem so boyish and I wonder how I got to this point… being mother to a three-year old boy. The whole process has been so natural and so right (when I wasn’t falling down from lack of sleep, that is) that I almost haven’t noticed it happening. But here I am. Three years down the road looking at this little boy and thinking with utter surprise and delight - he’s mine.

JP surprises me every day with his new achievements and I feel so proud of him when I see how grown-up he’s becoming. At the moment, he wants to count everything on his fingers, after his dad showed him how to hold some fingers down with his thumb. If I mention any number (‘you have only two days left at the crèche this week’ or ‘you can have three chocolate buttons if you eat all your dinner’ yes, bribery is alive and well in our house), he holds his hand up in a fist and carefully releases the correct number of fingers, his thumb straining anxiously to control the others. ‘Mummy, one, two three. See?’ His face glows with pride and self-satisfaction.

It is hard though to share the delight all the time these days… especially when I’m counting out fish fingers and trying not to throw up onto his dinner plate. All I can think about these days is crawling into bed with a hot water bottle and my book… if I was told I could be beamed straight there or to sun lounger by a pool in Mauritius within the next 30 seconds, I’d pick the bed at the drop of a hat. But I guess that goes with the territory. I’m longing for the 2nd trimester, when I might begin to feel energetic again.