I thank you so much for the wisdom and help and support that you offer us parents of babies and toddlers. And I am never silly enough to assume that what you are doing is any less emotionally trying or difficult than those of us who are, to use an Erin Odom phrase I love, “still in the trenches” of baby and toddlerhood.
But sometimes we need you to offer us more than a knowing look or a kind word to “enjoy it because they’ll grow up quick”, or a half-joking sigh that we should just “wait until they can walk/talk/answer back/keep secrets/insert generic British cynicism here”.
Sometimes there are two things we need much more from you: to remember, and to give us hope.
I am sure that somewhere down the line I will look at my not-so-little-anymore girl and think nostalgically on when she used to need me more, when she used to babble and play and learn and stare at me with such love, when she couldn’t be anything other than honest and when she sought me out before anyone else. I will laugh at the memory of her attempts to put one foot steadily in front of the other, at her thin baby hair and her chubby cheeks and at being able to feed her whenever wherever while she was breastfeeding.
But right now, there are some days that I need you to remember the rest of the time. The times when you feel you constantly have to change yet.another.nappy. When you are sick and desperately need a day in bed, but the baby needs food and changes and constant attention because they cannot help themselves to breakfast and don’t understand the concept of movies and cuddles in bed. When the only communication is crying and whingeing and babbling and you struggle to tell what they actually need half the time. When you cannot go to the toilet without the door open, when you can’t have a shower if they won’t nap. When you are pregnant and dealing with nausea while a baby/toddler tugs at your clothes. When there is just.no.break.
I don’t expect it to get easier emotionally. In fact, I expect to probably worry more and struggle with letting go, with fostering independence, with not being quite so needed in the same way, for such basic human things.
But sometimes I need you to tell me that it does get easier. If not emotionally, then at least physically. I’m sure that whatever stage of parenting you are at, it feels like the most tiring and difficult and frustrating time you’ve ever had with your children. But think back. Really think back. To the newborn sleeplessness. To the baby’s constant constant need. To the toddler tantrums and whinges. Can you not tell me that, sometimes, it’s at least a little easier?
But on the tough days, the ones where I’m praying desperately to just make it through in one piece, I need hope. I need you to tell me that although different challenges will abound, it will not be as hard in this same way.
And I hope that when this fleeting time is past, I too will be able to bless parents of younger children with physical help, with memory that is not too overridden by nostalgia, and with hope.
I thank you, on behalf of all the mums and dads out there who are currently “in the trenches”.