Sunday, August 9, 2009

Parenting 101.

Before I had children I was a health care professional. I helped people rehab from accident or illness. I worked with people to adjust to their disability or even impending death. It was challenging work. It was a cake walk compared to being a full time mom.

On Friday the six year old disappeared into her room for over an hour. When she emerged she was exuding pride and joy.
"Momma - I made a book!"
"Oooh! Let me see."

As we sat on the bottom step of our stairs to read it, I made mental note that the fifteen month old had gone upstairs. The book was glorious. I quickly became engrossed by the six year old's creativity and imagination. It was easy to follow the story by the pictures. It had heart, beauty and intrigue.
I was delighted and felt happy and proud.

My oohing and aahing caught the attention of the baby who came to see what we were doing. In my mind the following events happened in slow motion.
She made it down two steps while I jumped up to get her before she fell. Too late. Watching the baby bounce down the stairs, floppy and banging her head was horrific.
Her face was panic stricken. I caught her after about six steps.
Thankfully she was essentially unhurt but very scared. I held her tight as she howled.

The six year old looked stricken and started to howl too. I held out an arm for her but she pulled back.
"She's OK - don't worry."
She started screaming.
"Honey - it's OK, she'll be fine - she's just scared."

I was stunned. I'm not sure how I stayed quiet but I sat there holding the still sobbing baby while I let the emotion of the situation wash over me.
At first I felt incredulous at the six year old's lack of compassion, then anger took hold and finally, after some time, I felt compassion for the six year old's disappointment.
Inevitably, guilt settled on me.

I knew the baby had gone upstairs and I should have made her safe before we started reading the book. I remembered the crushing disappointment of having your parent dismiss you when you had something to show off. If it was to give their attention to a sibling - even worse. I felt a strong sense of failure. I had got it wrong for both of them, One was physically hurt and the other emotionally stung.
In that five minutes I had gone from feeling happy, blessed and relaxed to feeling overwhelmed and a failure.

I sat the six year old down and explained. How I couldn't leave the baby to get hurt.
How I loved her book and how I understood what an important thing it was. Her first book! How being a mommy is hard and how I will make mistakes.

The hardest bit for me is that there was no-one to sit me down and talk me through it.
Once I had smoothed everything over with the kids and they were back to playing and laughing - I was still shaken and upset.
That's the challenge of motherhood - absorbing an enormous amount of intensity and emotion and then shrugging it off in time to move on to the next thing. In kidland you usually have about a five minute window.

I went to college for four years, full time, to get my degree. I didn't even get one text book with the babies. What's wrong with that picture?


  1. Oh, Joy I have had so many moments like this one (not stairs, but other equally scary things) and even just the day to day feeling that the older one is not getting what they deserve as far as our love and attention because so much has to go to the younger one, trying to find the balance where they both feel mama's love equally... oh so hard. I can so relate... Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Um. So I log on, ready to read something light and funny. At six months prego with #2, I'm ready for a stiff cocktail, and no thanks, not just a sip. I'm ready to go for a long trail run. I'm ready to wear clothes whose labels don't include the words 'due, motherhood, too'. I'm ready to wear a bra that doesn't have to accommodate pancake-sized areolas. You get the picture. But, you know, I guess I can wait a little longer. Like maybe another year. Sigh.


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