You’ve heard the story many times, how you came into this world quickly, deep in the night five years ago. How you couldn’t wait to get out, how Daddy ran every red light between here and Montfort and how even then you almost couldn’t wait for the hospital or the resident who had been sleeping in the next room. Or the epidural, but we don’t need to talk about that right now. The pain of that moment is forgotten anyway.
Being my second baby, I thought it would be easier. I thought I would be a better mother with you, that my instincts would be sharper and that I would worry less about every little quirk of your infancy. But it wasn’t so. You were, from the minute you were born, from the experience of your birth onwards, very different from your sister. She, who took two days to make her way out of my belly and onto my breast, while you came literally bursting onto the scene 26 minutes after I staggered through the emergency room doors.
I worried more about you than I did Dee. She was my benchmark, and when you were different – when you wanted to nurse incessantly (or failing that, when I was just too tired or too sore to let you use me as a pacifier, to suck on my middle finger, tucked softly into the roof of your tiny mouth), I wondered if you were getting enough to eat.
But now you are five. You come home from school and open your lunch box and treat yourself to whatever leftovers you find. You ask for a second bowl of Shreddies; you order your own food off the kids menu at restaurants and you agree to try the butter chicken that Daddy and I have made for ourselves. You’re little, but you are healthy, and so we can let you decide for yourself when you are full.
When you slept 20 hours a day for the first 3 months, I worried that it might not be normal. You were too easy to put to sleep at night, and yet when you woke to eat, you couldn’t settle back down. You grunted and groaned and seemed to be on the verge of tears, and yet you didn’t cry. I cried for you, exhausted and concerned and not sure what I was supposed to do to make you more comfortable (even though now, 5 years post-partum, I know that you were completely comfortable, and just needed to find your own way.) You have always been an easy child to put to bed. At two, the mere mention of bedtime would get you looking for your blankie and heading up the stairs. But once awake in the night, you were awake for hours, confounding your father and me and making us wonder whether we would ever get a full night’s sleep.
But now you are five. If you wake up in the night (as you did last night, to call me out of my sleep into your room and tell me that you just love me too much), I can talk to you for a moment, or climb into bed behind you and feel the warmth of your curve in my belly again, and whisper in your ear and stroke that silky hair, and say good night darling and you will say good night mommy I love you mommy and I will leave you and go back in my own bed, and you go back to sleep.
When you didn’t talk a lot, I worried that I was doing something wrong. We took you to be evaluated, because I was reading too much then, and everything I read was about what babies should be doing and how smart they are supposed to be and my kid can do algebra between bottles, can’t yours?
But now you are five. You talk non-stop, in two languages. Your vocabulary makes educated adults pause and tilt their heads. You spin stories and sing songs and can recount the life cycle of an apple tree without skipping a beat. You negotiate and you charm, and just the day before yesterday you told me I was the BEST mommy for making birthday cakes, and I want to scoop up your sweet self and never let you go.
When you raged and threw yourself on the ground and couldn’t learn from consequence after consequence that hitting is wrong, that we only draw on paper, and that you can never, ever bite your sister, I wondered if you would ever outgrow the tantrums. Dee had never been like that – she had her own ways and means, for sure, but she never had the kind of blind fury that we saw in you. For nearly five years, I stepped gently over your flailing body, or carried you onto the bottom step, or put your luvvies in time-out on your behalf (because punishing them is the worst punishment of all).
And now you are five, and when you get angry, I can see your little brain stopping in it’s tracks to look for a better way to express yourself. And I can see the pride you feel once you’ve succeeded. And together we work through whatever injustice has been committed, and we try to find a way for you to get what you need, in a way that is reserved for big girls.
Big girls like you. You, ma cherie d’amour. My baby.
Who is five.