Friday, October 21, 2005

See how they grow

Just back from a much-needed break with husband and son, to a holiday place with lots of children. 'Family-friendly' they are called these days.

It was fascinating to see very tiny babies being taken on holiday. Some didn't look more than two or three weeks old. We didn't go any where when our son was that young. I think my first trip out of the HOUSE was going to the local sub-post office two minutes walk away. Son was about three weeks old. Even then it took me a long time to pluck up enough courage to do that.

I was so nervous. Never used that pushchair before. Not sure how things click and unclick in and out of place. What if I failed to secure the seat and baby falls out?

After 30-plus hours of labour and an emergency Caesarean-section I was still feeling a bit sore where they had cut me open, and I wasn't sure I could lift the pushchair (just one end of it) across the threshold to get out, and then to come back in again. It was like I had to will myself to complete that little task for a long, long time before I finally dared to take son out.

So I marvel at the young (NB. young) brave new mothers who seem to cart their babies about with no fear at all, often with one or two older ones in tow. Ah, that's the point: practice makes perfect. After the first baby, number two and number three would be a doddle, I imagine.

Sadly, I will never know.

But this time away brought back many memories: especially of that time when I was completely at the mercy of my young son.

He slept well at night. We trained him to do that and he was fine. It was the days that I found difficult. When he had regular sleep times I could easily switch to academic mode to write my conference and journal papers.

Did I say 'easily'? Actually it required what I called elsewhere 'cerebral calisthenics'. It took a lot of discipline to switch between nursing a baby and singing nursery rhymes (in English and Mandarin) and writing serious, contemplative, academic papers (eg) on why some old people behave the way they do, and why they need the kind of support they need, and how best to prevent the same problems recurring with other immigrant groups, etc.

However, it was this academic outlet that kept me going as a 'full-time mother'. I couldn't cope with the idea of my mind turning to mush, or of watching day-time TV -- I did watch quite a few episodes of 'Diagnosis Murder' starring the incredibly talented Dick Van Dyke, but only because son would only sleep in the TV room -- or of incessant baking just so that a tiny tot could decorate some cupcakes, ad infinitum.

But then there came a time when son dropped his last day-time nap. For a period of some nine months he didn't sleep a wink in the day at all. He was still too young to start nursery (play) school. So, yes, Mummy was on call every minute of the day.

What kept me going was the thought that come September, son would be off to school and I would have three (THREE!) glorious child-free hours of my own, not just on Monday and Tuesday, but EVERY week day.

You see, children grow up.

It was funny how people used to say, 'You won't know what to do with yourself.'

What utter rubbish! I dropped him at school on that first day, rushed home, and promptly 'set up shop' in the warmest room of the house, reading a book. Having not done any empirical research for a long time, I had no material to write up papers with and had taken to reviewing books for academic journals.

On this holiday we could not help but notice how much son has grown. Physically he's bigger than most boys his age. I guess it helps that even his Chinese grandfather was above-average tall. Emotionally he's much less clingy (which I believe comes with being an only child). Whereas he used to be afraid to attempt new challenges, he now was eager to give most things a try.

Socially too it was heartening to see that he was beginning to relax and make friends with 'strangers' in play contexts. He befriended children in the play areas of the various restaurants and enjoyed playing together. He didn't cry when pushed but learned to cope with that all on his own.

It is wonderful to see how our children grow. At the same time I have to remind myself (and husband) that we must also soon learn to let go. Thankfully, both of us know that we can 'let go, and let God'.

Back to Organic-Ally.

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