Hindsight on what matters – a note to my eldest child

When you were born, I didn’t know why you cried. I carried you night and day, thinking I was doing something wrong, but now I understand, you just wanted to be near me, as newborn babies do. It’s so very obvious in hindsight.

And 20 months later when your sister was born, I thought you were so grown up, and expected far too much of you, when of course you were still a baby yourself, not yet two years old. I see that now, in hindsight.

When I went back to work after that second maternity leave, I expected your sister to have trouble settling into crèche – she didn’t, but you did, and I couldn’t understand why. Looking back it makes sense – four of us commuting to the city centre every morning five days a week was a huge change in your little life. That’s clear to me now, in hindsight.

When you were five, you went through months of being unsettled and I couldn’t understand why. I look back now and marvel at my naiveté – you started school, I went back to work, and we got a childminder, all within ten days. That you handled it as well as you did amazes me now, in hindsight.

And last night, when you came downstairs for a goodnight hug, and to ask your customary night-time question – “Can I help you with anything for work Mum, do you need to go through some article ideas?” I realised that it’s been months and months since we argued over anything at all.

We clash from time to time because we’re similar but now our similarities bring us together, often for something as simple as shopping and cake and chatter. The battles we fought have been split into things that matter and things that don’t. Like, I’ve completely failed to train you to make your bed unprompted, but when you sleep on the top bunk, it doesn’t really matter as much as I used to think it did. You’ve stopped asking for things you know you can’t have, and I’ve stopped saying no to things that are important to you. You still don’t get upset at sad books or films (“It’s a made up story Mum!”), but you do when your brother or sister are hurt – the empathy is there where it matters most. You take school and homework in your stride, and you come to me when you can’t. You are kind and thoughtful and caring and the most enthusiastic, energetic proponent of trying new things I’ve ever met.

We’ve met in the middle somewhere over the last while and I didn’t notice it happening. Until last night. And I hugged you and told you I love you, as I do every day. And I told you that I’m so proud of you, as I do on many days. And I told you I think you’re so grown up and so kind and so lovely, but I’m not sure it went in.

So I’m writing it here. And you know the way sometimes when you’re supposed to be researching a school project you sneak on to Google to search under my name? Maybe some day you’ll find this and know truly how much I love you.


August edit: She was googling how to make homemade lipstick one day, and then appeared in the kitchen and said, “I found it. I love you too.”

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10 thoughts on “Hindsight on what matters – a note to my eldest child”

  1. Lovely piece and isn’t that all any parent wants – that their child knows how much they are loved a different adored?

    A woman I worked with told me she never really got it until she had children of her own. Yes she knew her parents loved her and she loved them but it was only when she felt that heart bursting love holding her baby that she really understood it.

    1. That’s such a perfect way of summing it up – we really don’t know what it’s like to love a child until we’re there doing it. My kids always try to tell me they love me more than I love them (um, in a good way now – not that they think I don’t love them!) and I always say “No, and you’ll know that when you have kids of your own”

  2. What a great article. My eldest is only 3 and half but I feel the same. I think I expected so much of her when we moved back from London just before she turned 2 and in the space of 4 weeks move country, moved house and she had a new sister. She stopped sleeping and eating properly. I feel guilt all the time as I feel she never went back to the way she was. She is growing up though so I suppose I need get to grips with that! The article is lovely, I think I’ll have to write one for my little pet aswell.

    1. That’s it – she may not have gone back to the way she was but she’s older, and they change so much at that age, it’s hard to keep up! And they’re fabulously resilient little things really. I know I could learn from mine!

  3. Well I wasn’t expecting to react to that piece quite the way I did. I ended up wiping unfamiliar Irish male salt tears out of my beard. So simple and yet so powerful. I’ve resigned to tell my own two “children” (in their thirties) how proud of them I am and how much I love them. Keep up the good work, but give me time to recover before you drop another one like that on me!

    1. That’s such a lovely comment to read, and would you believe, in over four years of blogging, yours is the first comment from a man!

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