Bo was suddenly the little one. The one who wouldn't remember having to wait and who needed my essence more than he really needed me, but P. had the power of patience. I knew because I'd seen it in action. P. could be helpful and wanted to be. Get me a diaper from the changing table, please, I'd say, and she would. P. can walk through a parking lot holding the hand that's not holding Bo. P. can do so many things and that was a good thing when she had to wait for me to be done nursing Bo. Done changing Bo. Done trying to lull Bo to sleep when all he wants is to make eyes at his big sister.
My big girl has made me so proud in the past five months, but something was weighing on me, too.
And then just recently, I read this here, in a story about parenting regrets:
I regret making my son the "big boy" as soon as his sister was born. When she arrived, my son seemed so big, so grown-up, a real big brother. He was kind and gentle with her, giving her careful kisses and cuddles. As the elder, I think I expected too much of him. I expected him to understand that when I needed to put his sister down for a nap it was easier if he played in the lounge rather than in the bedroom with me. I forgot that until his sister arrived, he hadn't had the luxury of having mummy at home. Instead, he was at nursery while I worked. I forgot that he needed time with mummy too; forgot that everything had changed for him with his sister's arrival. Now my daughter is just a bit older than he was then – and she seems so little. I regret that in my head he became the big boy overnight when really he was still my little boy.Oh my, yes, this, exactly. Some other mother finally put into words what has been causing tiny tears to sting the backs of my eyeballs whenever I think about how P. will never again call herself Payoma or say "Mama, hold you" when what she really means is me.
At the same time, P. sees herself as a very big kid and would scoff at the idea that she's anything but. Even if bath time means about a thousand toys in the tub and she still sleeps with Flatcat clutched in her small fist, tucked under her chin. Even if mama and papa's arms are her first stop when something hurts. Being a big kid means she can get her own napkin from the drawer and use an open cup and go to dance class, not that she doesn't need cuddles and compassion when what seems so minor to us adults shakes her compact world to its core. It's easy to forget sometimes, because she now feels so big, that four years old is still so very little.
But I'm trying so hard to remember because there's a part of me that would give almost anything to revisit that summer day when P. still felt small enough to gather up in my arms to carry all the way home and I still had both arms to do it.