Miss Rose is a brave girl. I regularly panic about her lack of fear as she scales climbing frames, leaps from furniture, and launches face first down slides. She will approach strangers and befriend them, scream to go higher on the swings, and loves roller coasters that make lots of children cry. She’s a tough cookie.
She’s a tough cookie except for her family. When it comes to her family, her people, she’s incredibly vulnerable and insecure.
When The Boy leaves for work, she will refuse to say goodbye to try and stop him going. Then he goes and she breaks her heart so much he has to come back and give her a cuddle. Then we have to lean out of the door to watch him walk away whilst she shouts down the street to him. When The Boy works late and Z is with his birth mother so they aren’t here for dinner, she sobs and needs to know where they are. When she’s been naughty, she can be incredibly stubborn about everything that is taken from her (Doctor Who viewing, ice cream, excursions to playgroups etc) but telling the people she loves what she’s done ruins her. On Monday she was incredibly naughty and everything I threatened her with then took from her had no effect, until I said I would tell Daddy.
I worry about it. I am glad she loves us so much, I am glad she loves cuddles and kisses, misses us when we’re gone, and looks forward to us coming back. I am glad that she feels as strongly as she does about her people, and I admire her understanding of her own emotions and feelings. But I worry. There are times we can’t be together, and those times will only increase with age.
Confidence and security are things I have always tried to instill in her. I want her to know she is safe to explore and experiment because the people she loves will be there if it goes wrong. And there is no doubt it works. Watching her approach, befriend and join a clutch of older children who were hogging the roundabout in the park one day is proof. She soon had them lifting her on and off, letting her push them round, and squealing with joy as they took it in turns to push her round. No fear of rejection, no shyness or insecurity. Simply here I am, I’m awesome, I know you’ll agree. But with us, it’s different.
It could be our constant closeness. We spent barely an hour at a time apart for nearly a whole year. She was in our bedroom, often in our bed, for the first ten months. She breastfed for ten months. She didn’t spend a night away from me until she was fifteen months. I carried her in a sling or a baby backpack for the majority of the time until she was nearly two. Day in, day out, we were together.
I chose this closeness to build her security. I was a very insecure and shy child and missed my working mother intensely. I longed for time with her and being cared for by a steadily changing army of strangers in the form of au pairs and nannies left me feeling unrooted and unstable. I longed to give her a different start. I wanted her to know that no matter what she faced in the world, no matter who knocked her down or left her feeling unwanted, she could turn around and see her mummy. That she could fall and I would catch her. I wanted that knowledge to give her the strength and confidence to try anything.
It could be her father’s leaving. It ruined her. She had panic attacks through the night and cried in misery and desperation as she searched for his belongings during the day. She stopped eating and she stopped sleeping. He was AWOL for the first two and a half months after he initially left, and when his visits recommenced she had violent and hysterical outbursts after he left again.
That fear could still be with her. When Daddy leaves for work he might not come back. If Daddy knows she’s been naughty he might stop loving her. If Mummy spends the night away she might never get another night with me. Could that damage he did still be with her?
Or, could it just be how she’s wired. Could she just be incredibly needing of reassurance and love from the people whom she loves most. Could she need her emotions mirrored to her for reassurance. If that is the case I sympathise because I am emotionally needy, I am emotionally vulnerable. I distance myself emotionally from most people, but cling to those I love with an intensity. Even though The Boy and I have the most committed and honest and safe relationship I have ever been in, even though he offers me no reason to doubt his love, I still regularly need reassurance that he is still with me. Even though my mum and I are closer than most best friends, I still need regular contact to feel safe. I am Miss Rose’s emotional double when it comes to my loved ones, but my background is so different.
Currently I deal with it by gradually spending nights apart from her, sending her to her nanny’s for a night. I make sure she knows The Boy and I are in contact by showing her his text messages or let her type a message to him on the computer. I prove to her, slowly and surely, that the people she loves DO come back, DO still care, DO love her when they’re away from her.
Sometimes I wonder if I regret the amount of time I’ve spent with her. The way we have been so connected to one another by my own design and intention. In my more self doubting days, yes I do. I should have toughened her up more. I should have spent more nights away from her and left her in more people’s care, it would have made it easier for her in the long run and ensured she is used to me being there, leaving and returning.
But when I’m not feeling insecure? When I am giving myself rare pats on the back for my mothering skills? No, I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t want to do anything to change the little human she is right now. She is loving, she is compassionate, she is emotionally honest and she is confident. She is smarter, braver and funnier than most full grown adults. She is strong, she is fit, and she is well. She has passions and interests, a love of learning and a desire to make those she loves feel happy. If I hadn’t put the amount of time into her that I have, would she still be here? Would her father’s leaving have damaged her more? Would The Boy’s arrival be harder for her to accept? Would she be more scared of trying new things, doing the unknown? Would she be less assuming of acceptance from strangers? Would she stop being her?
Had I been away from her she’d still have been her, and she’d have strengths and weaknesses in her life just as she has now. Things I would be proud of, and things I would be worried about. No child can exist in the world that doesn’t offer a loving parent both pride and fear. But who she is is who she is. I wouldn’t change her.
She is an incredibly vulnerable little girl in a lot of ways. She needs The Boy and I with a level of intensity that I rarely see in others. But it’s worth it to have the child I have. Her security with us is something I can work on and build on, and building on a base as solid as this one is easier than if she was fragile and frightened in all of life.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!