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.
I have three children and I can safely say that I have never felt I am ‘letting go’ of my babies but the ways in which I love them, the ways in which I care for them on a day-to-day basis are changing.
"The ways in which I care for them on a day to day basis are changing." Images: supplied.
For me, a huge shift in parenting happened when my eldest started preschool. All of a sudden my love needed to cover feelings, hurt by other children leaving him out of games. My parenting needed to show him that learning to play with others was important but that I was here for him when he got home. I needed to give him boundaries, all of which enforced out of love and erected to set him up for the future.
Asking around, I realised that other mothers felt the same when it came to how they felt their love changed as their children grew:
“For me I really noticed changes when my second son was born. All of a sudden my eldest child wasn’t a baby any more. I saw him in a new light. I saw how him wanted to be involved with caring for the baby and how he was trying to work out how they fit into the new family dynamic. I needed to love him in a different way than before. While change time was more regular for my baby than my eldest, the dwindling change times we had remaining became the time for me to focus solely on him, and notice how different he was to my newborn. It became precious time together.”
“Toilet training was hard for us. No matter what I did he just didn’t get it. It was one of the first times I remember feeling frustrated. I was wrong. I had a good look at myself and thought, you know what, he’s just not ready. I told him it was okay, that we would learn together and we did. I tried again a few months later and it was smooth sailing. I guess I had to pull myself back in line and realise that my frustration didn't mean anything. I was frustrated because he wasn’t doing what my friends kids were doing. So what.”
“I admit that I was a helicopter mum from the get go. I was always the one right there, not wanting my daughter to fall or get hurt by the older kids. Looking back I laugh at myself. That was me loving her as a baby in many ways and not wanting her to get hurt by anything out there in the big wide world but now I know you need to let them have their tumbles, you just make sure you’re there to make them feel better. That’s what loving a preschooler is all about I think.”
What are your favourite memories of your baby?
Change times can be special. And because Huggies Nappy Pants are super absorbent and are designed with Motionflex to move with your baby, they feel like a comforting hug.