Lately, I’ve been more self-conscious of how different my interactions with both children are; how I automatically give grace and room for mistakes with Atticus, and yet how much tougher I seem to be on Arddun because she is older “and therefore should know better”. And yes sometimes, she ought to know better.
But sometimes, she’s not even 5 yet. She’s not. She’s very tall for her age, her dresses are for six-year-olds, and she definitely knows her own mind on many things. But she’s not even 5 yet.
And I wonder if I’m inadvertently rushing her growing-up. I grew older before my time, because family circumstances aged me prematurely. I don’t think I was poorer for it, except that part of my innocence about marriage and relationships got lost too young.
I pray that my daughter grows up wise beyond her years. But I don’t want her to age beyond her years. Turning into Big Sister has changed the dynamics between her and me. I find I rely on her more as a help, and she is a wonderful helper. There are glimpses of my mother and I in the way I expect more from Arddun. It’s almost primal. It’s not just mother to child. It’s older woman to younger woman, female to female. It’s setting a bar and saying, “This is what it means to be a woman of substance. Reach for it. I want you to. I want this for you.” It’s not quite Tiger Mother, but it can be exacting and prescriptive if I don’t watch myself.
I expect I’ll have expectations for Atticus as well, along with wishes and hopes and prayers and daydreams. But somehow, I suspect it will be different in the way it plays out.
It’s been school holidays for the past 2 weeks, and I’ve deliberately left Atticus at playschool so I could spend six precious weekdays alone with Arddun to soak her in. Arddun the individual, not in context of Atticus. Not older sister. Not firstborn. Arddun, the little woman child growing up before my eyes.
She talks a lot more now. We can have long conversations. She asks Why a lot, and yearns for the answers. She has figured out which words can wound and heal, and she’s working out that kindness is always a choice, but one we don’t remember to employ when we are tired and hungry and hurt and angry. These are life skills that I’m still so clumsy at, but here I am trying to teach her to be better than me.
She sings all the time. I can’t wait for her to hold a tune consistently enough so we can harmonise.
She wants to read everything. Signs, mostly. She recognises words, or else makes intelligent guesses. She’s still learning how to sound letters out. She’s so satisfied with life when she finishes reading Up on Top by Dr Seuss out loud.
She’s permanently in dresses. Even when she’s wearing full flannel pajamas, she’ll stuff a princess dress over it. She’s starting to colour-coordinate her clothes and accessories. She isn’t half bad at it either.
She adores making her brother laugh. She’s great at it, too. And she has never, ever shown an iota of jealousy. Her love for her brother far outshines anything even remotely close to ugly self interest and envy. I love her deeply for that, and admire her greatly because I struggle with envy, insecurity and jealousy.
And I’ll be honest. I know every mother thinks their children are beautiful. But in the busyness of life, I find I run out of time to really, REALLY look at my daughter. These holidays have been wonderful because I’ve had ample time to look at my Arddun, and I am a little blown away by her gorgeousness.
This girl! I am so proud of her, truly.