When you have babies you want them to stay little forever, while at the same time willing them to get past whatever challenging stage they’re at – be it pooing after every feed, waking every hour in the night, teething, the tantrums of the terrible twos, potty-training. And then, one day, reality comes a-knocking, and suddenly your baby is no more and is en route to nursery school, the first stage of her inevitable journey into growing up and independence (from you).
And now, my baby is starting her travels into the world without me. This week, Bear’s nursery teachers popped round for the initial visit in their carefully planned practice to ease the new Rainbow Class attendees into life at school. While I expected her to hide on my lap having protective cuddles, Bear surprised us by happily chatting to her new teachers and was keen to draw a picture of herself to proudly grace the front of her About Me file.
And while I sat discussing my child with her soon-to-be teacher, warning her that she is nothing like her sensitive and cautious big sister, my mind also drifted off to remembering the lead-up to this proud moment… My tiny little Bear, although much bigger than her sister at 6lbs 15 when she was born, was so precious and so longed for. Her shock of dark hair and russet coloured skin immediately making our chosen name unsuitable and forcing me to consider something more fitting, more earthy.
And from that first night, cuddling together just the two of us through a long night in the hospital, I knew that I had added someone really special to the world and to our family. Having Bear in my life also opened up a whole new social network I didn’t know existed. From the first visit to our local children’s centre seeking out breastfeeding help (I may have done it before, but it wasn’t working and I wasn’t about to give up!), to the cloth nappy and baby sling libraries I went on to help run, Bear and I had such fun meeting and making friends. In fact, it is hard to believe that we did so much together in those first two years.
With Bunny, the early months were lonely, the two of us going for long walks around London, finding it seemingly impossible to meet other mums. And then a move to Broadstairs and long days away from home commuting to and working in London meaning I missed out on so much of that precious time of Bunny’s first years. So while those memories are fond, they are tinged with a sadness. Yet with Bear, those days were among the happiest of my life, we were so busy and our lives were so full, I didn’t want it to ever end.
But then I got a job. Which had to happen eventually, but gradually the social side of my life suffered as I had to give up my involvement in some of the groups and time became more valuable. And in the year since Bear’s second birthday, life has taken many twists and turns and those halcyon days seem but a distant memory. Happy memories but bittersweet that they are now merely that.
As Bear’s school life begins, I am certain that there are new friends for her and me to make just as I have with Bunny’s friends and their mums. But it is all different. As Bunny goes off to play with her friends, she no longer needs my cuddles and the soft folds of babyhood have left her body. Bear has just turned three and her physique is more rounded and squidgy than her sister’s. And those cuddles have suddenly become more important than ever as we struggle against the tide of time that will eventually steal them away from me.
When Fairy Non-Bio asked parents what they missed most about this time, a quarter said it was those super soft kisses and cuddles, 43% said it was their child and 28% said it was just the constant background noise. I certainly don’t miss the noise but I will miss being there to kiss her better when she falls or being able to give her cuddles of reassurance when she’s frightened or shy and Fairy has captured this feeling of pride mixed with sadness so perfectly in their video.
Such a great reminder to all of us to treasure every cuddle with them while their skin is so soft and new (and while they are sitting still long enough to want them!).
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