Just over a year ago, I was waiting for the sudden appearance of what would become the most remarkable little person I would ever meet. Indeed, my partner and I were enjoying our last days of the Christmas holidays, and then the early days of January, wondering just when – when??? – would our small person make his appearance? We took the opportunity to embrace these last days together as a unit of two (and a unit of four, with my two stepdaughters), knowing that soon our life would be entirely different.
For my partner, a baby seemed a remarkable thing. However, it was not entirely far removed from the life he was already living – father of two incredible, wise, and all-too-entertaining and humourous daughters. Adding another person into the mix was not an incredulous thing (and yet it was – as it always is). Even so, he was cognizant to take the time to remind his daughters that they were still the most important thing in the world to him, and spend time with them. And he and I, together, took the opportunity to simply enjoy quiet moments together – moments of snuggles in bed, watching movies late at night on the couch, going out to dinner, and simply holding hands. We knew that small person would soon become our focus, and these small moments together would still exist, but would become more rare.
For myself, a small person entering my life truly seemed incredible. I was having the most wonderful of pregnancies, and quite honestly, I could not imagine not being pregnant any longer. Pregnancy at that point felt so entirely normal that to not be pregnant seemed remarkably strange. And, of course, so did the idea of a small person. Of being a mother. Not just a stepmother, but a mother.
A year later, he has become quite an amazing one-year-old little person. The words roll off my tongue strangely: one year old. How did that happen? I hardly recognize the tiny baby in photos that I took endlessly in his early months; so different he looks from this small, walking, trying-to-talk person that now toddles around our home. This little person of today, I realize now, is no longer a baby, is no longer in between, but is truly a one-year-old toddler. He is full of emotions that he can hardly comprehend at times, and full of deep, honest love and happiness for the smallest things in life. I am enchanted to both watch him and partake in these moments of happiness that he is learning and experiencing. And at the same time, I am equally overwhelmed to experience his whirlwind of emotions and actions as he learns about the world.
Now I’m working at home, staying at home to help raise our small person and my two step-daughters. It is, in some ways, everything that I have ever wanted, and at the same time the most frightening thing in the world. I am being entrusted with these children and I have moments where I question whether I know anything at all about child-rearing. I question the amount of order in the house, and the lack of order, the attempts at getting out of the house to play, the attempts at playing in the house, all mixed in with keeping the home organized. I question the amount of disciplining and “parenting” I do, mixed with the simple task of just “being” with my children, of knowing them, of loving them, of experiencing them. All of it is the most delicate of balances and I question every day whether I’m doing it right.
But also doubts…
And then there are days where I’m absolutely convinced I’m not doing any of it right at all. My one-year-old has become a curious, exploring, not-listening toddler, my home is a state of chaos, my step-children are naturally experiencing their own life turmoils and happiness and are a whirlwind of energy when they are in our home. And in these moments of absolute chaos, I can feel all of the emotions of our three children bubble up inside my chest, ready to explode. I am convinced I am doing none of it right and get to the point where I simply need to step back, to close the bedroom door, to try to breathe, to run away, to escape, to be alone.
Naturally, after an hour of alone time I am craving the smell of my child’s skin, aching for him to nurse from my breasts, my fingers itching to tickle his skin and my senses desperate for the sound of his laughter and baby banter of words. I re-enter our home to the most wonderful little person, and also to the most wonderful of puns from our daughters, laughter and jokes and games and conversation to make me smile.
In these moments of fear and the desire to run away from it all, I force myself to remember that my child is only one year old. One. As in, I have only been a mother for one year. I have been a step-mother for perhaps less than two years. Thankfully my partner also reminds me of this, and that I should cut myself a bit of slack. No one is perfect, and no mother is perfect. We all need these moments of aloneness, of absolute peace and quiet, of exploring our own needs and desires and wants, of hobbies and interests and outside conversations, of petty talk about nothing at all related to our children and chores and driving to dance and choir and sleepovers. We need the time away. Because in addition to being my baby’s mother, and a step-mother, and a lover, I am also just me. Complete with faults and weaknesses, and ready to learn.
And really, I am still learning. I believe that I’ll be learning for the rest of my life. As my children grow and change, embracing the world, I will grow with them and embrace them and their worlds. And likewise, my own continued growth and endeavour to explore the world at large will help them as they grow into toddlers, children, teenagers, and some day adults: my family, my children, and (I hope for always) my friends.