I’ve often heard it said that parenting is the gradual process of letting go. To me that saying always made me feel a little sad, like from the beginning I had to start saying goodbye. After having three children of my own though I’ve realised that the process of letting go isn’t actually so, it’s just the way that we parent our children that changes and adapts to them getting bigger.
When our babies first arrive in our arms, be it through natural birth, C-section, adoption or surrogacy, they need us and that never stops. Sure, as newborns their needs are so very clear. They need to be clean and fed. They need to be warm. They need help with burping and winding and they need love.
As they grow and develop though, the ways in which we parent our children changes. All of a sudden your baby is no longer a newborn. They don’t need burping the way they once did. They might not need your help getting off to sleep. But they do start needing other things. Things they didn’t need before, a different kind of parenting and a different kind of love.
"All of a sudden your baby is no longer a newborn." Image: supplied.
As they find their feet and start exploring the world around them, they enter the world of bumps and falls. Now you’re no longer a mum of a newborn with newborn specific needs, but you’re a mum who’s needed to cuddle, to console. Your baby needs you to make it all okay, to fix up the grazes and bruises. They need you to walk with them, assisting with those first few steps. You need to be their eyes, looking out for dangers they are not yet aware of. Your love needs to be there when another child hurts their feelings, it needs to cover and protect them when something mean bursts their happy bubble.
Our love changes too. You’re along for the ride, seeing things you’ve seen a thousand times before but through their eyes. You see the colour, feel the excitement, your smile is genuine because theirs is too. Their want for laughter and interaction is greater than it was before.
"I’ve often heard it said that parenting is the gradual process of letting go." Image: supplied.
Where you once had a newborn content with laying still during change time, you now have an active wriggler whose attention needs holding. Change time becomes giggle time, song time, tickle time. It’s peek-a-boo while you’re reaching down to grab a new nappy, keeping them entertained while at the same time trying to stop a wriggling toddler from moving. It’s kisses all over the face to breathe in the lingering smell of baby, and hoping that the kisses keep them stationary for a few moments longer, so you can enjoy mum and bub time together.
It’s not just a task that needs doing but a few stolen minutes in the chaos of the day where they’re looking at you and you’re looking back at them.