A Diary of Motherhood: Year One, Week Three

This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travelwritingfreelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.

Dear Baby Bird,

I've often thought how you would have made a brilliant second or third child.

You get so much from watching other people, especially other children and it's been this way for a long time. We've been going to playgrounds for a lot longer than you've been old enough to enjoy them yourself, and all because watching other little people play has calmed and quietened you, given you something to focus your young eyes on, given you noise to fill the void that you otherwise see fit to fill yourself. Sometimes, even now, you prefer to sit on my lap and watch the running kids or wobbling toddlers, rather than getting down on your hands and knees to join them. Perhaps I should do more to encourage you to get on the floor or in the sandpit, but truth be told I lazily soak up the minutes you sit still on my lap. When I think back on those endless evenings of witching hours when you were a newborn, I would actively wish there was another kid in the house who you could get distracted by. I thought having you first was yet another mistake I'd made, like that was something I could control! Or perhaps more amusing (and shocking at the time), like I was ever going to have more children!

So when your cousin came to Amsterdam this week, I was excited for you. I couldn't wait to watch you watch him, and then play with him. For my brother, it was an exciting trip because he was flying solo, leaving my heavily pregnant sister-in-law back at home, hopefully putting her feet up. And for us, it was another chance to get a glimpse of what the future holds. At three-and-a-half my nephew hardly ever stops talking, craves new activities all the time, has strong opinions (which can change like the wind, of course) and a lot of energy to burn. He's also incredibly sweet, surprisingly smart and wickedly funny in his own unique way. As the first of my parents' grandchildren, he is very special to our family, and I love being his auntie.

They arrived one evening, just before you went to bed, and the following day you were at daycare so after we all gave your cousin some undivided attention for a day, I took him with me to go and pick you up in the afternoon. While he was quick to rush up to you, tickle your tummy and try to plant kisses on your cheeks, you took a very obvious if not literal step back. You studied him for a while, turned your head away from him on occasion and looked at me for reassurance. This was also how you were when we put you in the bath together. At first you looked at him as if to say "What are you doing in my bath?", and then you sat still and held on to a few toys without letting go, whereas normal bath times see you yo-yoing up and down, throwing toys round with complete abandon.

With both my brother and your dad already in the bathroom keeping an eye on things, I ducked out of the room and carried on cooking dinner. Gradually more and more noise filtered its way down the corridor to me and your giggles and squeals were almost holding their own against your cousin's. Ten minutes or so later I was beckoned to get your towel and I saw you standing up next to your cousin, smiling, a more relaxed look on your face.

I now see that your love of watching bigger children doesn't always mean you want to join them. You just like watching them. 

There are so many things I see and I think "I wish I could do that" or "I wish I was like that". It can be as simple as watching someone running down the street and me cursing myself for not going for a run in weeks, or it can be a lot more significant - like seeing a mum rounding up her three children in the park who are all running away in opposite directions - one towards water, another towards an open gate - but as she stands there watching and calling, she looks completely calm and content in a way that I never feel. And of course, she's impeccably dressed with a figure that doesn't even hint at a single pregnancy.

Why do I see these things and automatically hold my own life up to theirs? I don't have the first clue about what their lives are like. I don't have three children. I don't have all the time in the world to go running. I may not feel calm a lot of the time, but who knows? Maybe I look it. But does it matter? All I know, is this constant comparing is exhausting and damaging.

I should be more like you and just take pleasure in watching other people live their lives. I should then when I am faced with the opportunity to do what they're doing, or to do something that forces me out of my own comfort zone, I should take the time I need to get there. 

Not that I expect you to still stay as shy with your cousin as you were this week. I dare say he will one day stop trying to make you smile so much, especially when he has his own little brother and sister to entertain soon. And then, in time, you yourself will be a big cousin and a little baby will spend lots of time just watching you, possibly thinking "I wish I could run around like my big cousin Baby Bird", or maybe they won't. Maybe they'll just be happy watching.

Because there is absolutely nothing wrong with that,

Your ready-to-watch-not-compare, still-in-shock-at-how-funny-and-admittedly-noisy-a-three-year-old-can-be, stocking-up-on-earplugs-already, crazy-in-love mother x

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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