Andrea Mara

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Hindsight on what matters – a note to my eldest child

When you were born, I didn’t know why you cried. I carried you night and day, thinking I was doing something wrong, but now I understand, you just wanted to be near me, as newborn babies do. It’s so very obvious in hindsight.

And 20 months later when your sister was born, I thought you were so grown up, and expected far too much of you, when of course you were still a baby yourself, not yet two years old. I see that now, in hindsight.

When I went back to work after that second maternity leave, I expected your sister to have trouble settling into crèche – she didn’t, but you did, and I couldn’t understand why. Looking back it makes sense – four of us commuting to the city centre every morning five days a week was a huge change in your little life. That’s clear to me now, in hindsight.

When you were five, you went through months of being unsettled and I couldn’t understand why. I look back now and marvel at my naiveté – you started school, I went back to work, and we got a childminder, all within ten days. That you handled it as well as you did amazes me now, in hindsight.

And last night, when you came downstairs for a goodnight hug, and to ask your customary night-time question – “Can I help you with anything for work Mum, do you need to go through some article ideas?” I realised that it’s been months and months since we argued over anything at all.

We clash from time to time because we’re similar but now our similarities bring us together, often for something as simple as shopping and cake and chatter. The battles we fought have been split into things that matter and things that don’t. Like, I’ve completely failed to train you to make your bed unprompted, but when you sleep on the top bunk, it doesn’t really matter as much as I used to think it did. You’ve stopped asking for things you know you can’t have, and I’ve stopped saying no to things that are important to you. You still don’t get upset at sad books or films (“It’s a made up story Mum!”), but you do when your brother or sister are hurt – the empathy is there where it matters most. You take school and homework in your stride, and you come to me when you can’t. You are kind and thoughtful and caring and the most enthusiastic, energetic proponent of trying new things I’ve ever met.

We’ve met in the middle somewhere over the last while and I didn’t notice it happening. Until last night. And I hugged you and told you I love you, as I do every day. And I told you that I’m so proud of you, as I do on many days. And I told you I think you’re so grown up and so kind and so lovely, but I’m not sure it went in.

So I’m writing it here. And you know the way sometimes when you’re supposed to be researching a school project you sneak on to Google to search under my name? Maybe some day you’ll find this and know truly how much I love you.

*

August edit: She was googling how to make homemade lipstick one day, and then appeared in the kitchen and said, “I found it. I love you too.”

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