The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

When a child is born

on January 6, 2014

I’m feeling unexpectedly emotional at the thought of #1 turning five years old tomorrow. I felt the same feeling when all three of my children turned a year old. Partly due to relief that we had survived the first year intact and partly due to waving goodbye to a stage of our lives that was bewildering, demanding, precious and oh so fleeting with hindsight.

Five years old. Five years of being a parent. A mum. Five years of having my son in my life that has changed irrevocably and beyond anything I ever expected. Not one person, not all your imaginings can prepare you for this when you first start thinking about having children.

Of course it’s not an instant change. You meet a couple excitedly expecting their first child; you see them as shell shocked new parents of a newborn and then revisit them a few months later and already you can see a big difference. To me, it felt very much like being snug and warm under a duvet on a cold winter’s morning before someone rudely yanks it away letting cold air waft around you before allowing the duvet to float back down again so you can get yourself resettled under the warmth.

In these five years we have experienced many changes in our role as parents. Nothing stays the same for long as we adapt to the growing needs of three children. In a very short space of time we’ve gone from being responsible for just ourselves, which required very little effort and thought, to looking after, nurturing and guiding three new people with no supervision or strategy plan.

When I was in gainful employment, I had a Manager who sat you down and asked you to devise a five year strategy plan with aims and objectives and outlining tasks to meet those objectives. You had monthly one to ones to see how you were advancing with your tasks and annual reviews giving you marks out of ten and a pat on the back hopefully.

Since no longer being in gainful employment but now responsible for the welfare of three tiny human beings, I seem to be perceived as being able to do this mammoth job without supervision or any form of strategy plan. It’s weird how parenting works. Natural instinct? Advice of other parents? Your own parents guiding you? Parenting books?

Do it whichever way you like and what feels right. Hence no need for supervision or strategy plan. Yes I understand that. We all have different values and what I insist is important could be of little consequence to someone else. I’m sure we all want our children to be caring, thoughtful, kind people with just the right amount of drive and ambition that will enable them to be successful in a career they choose and living a lifestyle that makes them happy, confident, self assured but empathetic towards others.

As #1 turns five tomorrow, I realise the responsibility that lies ahead in our journey together. Another friend once said that we have moved on from caring for our children’s basic needs and we are now teaching them values, boundaries and responsibility. This does not often make us popular. I seem to be hearing a lot more outbursts of ‘It’s not fair’ lately when I’ve imposed restrictions on things like television time, sugary treats and playing on the iPad. I’m often repeating myself with requests for good behaviour, good manners, kindness towards others and eat more vegetables. I’m quite the parody for all the cliches, ‘If you don’t eat your carrots then that’s it’. What will be ‘IT’? I’ve no idea.

I’ve seen big changes in #1 this past year. At last year’s Chinese New Year celebration at school, he stood in the line up picking imaginary bits of fluff off his top and not looking up at anyone let alone shaking his Kung fu moves. Then six months later at the annual big school concert with a stage and everything, he was happily taking part in his class performance. I have to say, I wasn’t really sure what he would do but I was so proud of him taking part. He’s become quite engaged with his school friends this past year. I’ve seen the free and easy way he larks about with them. He looks like he’s having fun. Yet ask him about what did he do at school today and the answer will nearly always be ‘Nothing’.

Ever since he was little, he has loved trains, planes and automobiles. He even tried to convince me that #3 would like a train station for Christmas. She may have done, they get on incredibly well. He loves her very much and she can pull his hair and scream at him but he won’t react. He’ll even share his snacks with her unprompted.

The same can’t be said for #2 though. He likes to tease her which can result in a lot of yelling and commotion. Yet when she’s genuinely upset or he feels she’ll get into trouble, he becomes very protective. Sometimes I’ve wondered whether they’ll ever get along but little by little they are starting to play well together. Not so good for us is they are also beginning to collude against us too.

I’m enjoying #1’s ability to reason and question things, even to come up with conclusions himself. I like how he entertains us with funny faces and silly dances. I find it funny (sometimes frustrating) how a good or bad day can be gauged by the contents of his stomach. I especially like the spontaneous declarations of love he makes because I know he really feels it. Sometimes I’ve heard myself talk to him like he’s much older but I guess that’s because he’s been a big brother for so long. I know it’s quite unfair of me to heap so much on him when he is so little still but he does need to set an example as both #2 and 3 do as he does.

Everyday I feel grateful I have him. At the moment he’s going through that ‘boy phase’. He can get frustrated, emotional, shouts out stuff for no good reason and has already developed selective hearing. All this is apparently quite normal behaviour as advised by a neighbour I met in the lift this morning who has it on good information from her sister, a Child Psychologist. She then cheerfully added they’ll outgrow it by the time they’re seven. SEVEN!

Tomorrow is #1’s special day. He’ll be five years old. I heard him say to #2 at bedtime that he has some growing to do in the night as he’ll be five tomorrow. #2 in turn said she didn’t want him to lose his teeth when he’s five. That would be my fault as I was trying to explain the difference between losing your teeth from eating too many sweets and losing your milk teeth which is normal. Clearly I was very unsuccessful.

#1 will celebrate with cupcakes and treats at school before an afternoon outing of his choosing. I thought five was a big number but of course it isn’t. He’s still my little boy. He always will be. As my Dad Mr Li says, no matter how old you are, I will still love you, worry about you, care for you like the small child you once were.

Happy Birthday #1. With all our love.

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One response to “When a child is born

  1. […] is special but Turning 5 is something else which I’ve already talked about for #1 in When a child is born and recently for #2 in You’ll always be my […]

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