Monday, March 25, 2013

So Very Big and So Very Little

The day we brought Bo home from the hospital, P. climbed up into my arms to be carried and I found she'd grown overnight. Whereas just days before, I'd have sworn she was the tiniest three-year-old in town, now she felt substantial in my arms. Months before, pregnant in the heat of summertime, I'd carried her for just under a mile with only minor complaints by my lower back. Now picking P. up felt something I had to really put my back into.

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.

sisters and brothers


  1. I hope P gets to read this someday, and know that her mama thought so highly of her, even in the days when Bo needed so much more attention. I'm all teary eyed reading this. Absolutely beautiful.

    1. I don't know if this blog will still be around years and years from now, but I've thought about having it bound up as a book to share with my kiddies someday.

      Thanks for your kind words :)

  2. Maybe because I have to remind Christopher almost daily that Ev is still only 4 and still a little boy I don't have this particular issue. He expects so much more from the kids than they are capable of, part of his Asperger's issues in not understanding other people. I'm always saying "stop, she's 2. You can't expect her to do X yet." or "hey, he's 4. His emotions are feeding off yours, so if you get amped up he's going to see it and get amped up too." etc. I definitely expect certain things from Ev and he has suddenly transformed into what I consider a 'responsible' kid..meaning I can let him and Del out in the backyard and know they are going to follow the 'stay in our backyard' rules and he's going to make sure she stays with him and doesn't run off. But that doesn't mean I don't check on them constantly and make sure I know exactly where they are when they are out there. Because yeah..still just kids.

  3. That was a really moving post; I wish I'd had it to read 40 years ago when I gave birth to my second son when my first was only 18 months old. I just stopped by from SITS to say hello and really liked your post! Hope you find time to visit me one day.

  4. Ah, so beautiful - the photo and the words. I remember thinking my daughter was so little (and actually she really - shortest in school) but it was actually the day before my son was born that she seemed huge to me. I was looking at her head really - I guess I was having birth fears. Obviously my son was born with a newborn-sized head. It's funny how she's so petite and my son is growing so fast that even though they're three years apart, they can't be more than ten pounds apart. Anyway I know we're not talking about size here so much as development and love. This is a nice reminder. She's three and she's huge and she's a "big kid" but so very much my little girl too.

  5. I cried. I've been having to remind myself of that with Em already, because she can do so many things on her own, tht sometimes she really needs to be a little kid too. It's hard when one minute she is absolutely asserting her independence, and a short while later is calling us to fight off the monsters. But yeah, thanks for this article.

  6. ........annnnnnnnd now I'll start crying. I can actually remember the dynamics shift when my brothers (twins) arrived. It is also the reason all my personal musical interest begins at '79. It's the year they were born and I was given a radio. Not a bad memory - just a shift. If that makes sense.

  7. Such a great post. I really look forward to my next baby, but I love having just my little girl right now. With her tiny hands and feet, little head. I can't imagine a day where she seems 'big' to me. I'm in no rush to change this.

  8. This makes me want to cry too :( it's very reassuring coming here and seeing persons put into words EXACTLY how I feel and wondering if anyone feels the same- thanks much :) i make a conscious effort to remember at times that my 'big boy' is still only 2 (he'll be 3 in June) and still needs mommy's snuggles and attention even if he pretends he doesn't. I realized there were times when he'd act out or get extra quiet but the poor guy doesn't know how to say he needs his mommy and it hurts my heart. I'm getting better at it though and both my babies are doing fine :)


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