Now that you have gotten much older, you both likely reflect on many events from your past and woven through those memories are your interpretations of my behaviour as a mother, so I want to clear this all up for you here and now.
I know you have always thought I treat your brother differently.
You are absolutely right!
You two were not born the same, you both possess different genetic matter (albeit from the same gene pool) and with that comes entirely different preferences, opinions, and needs. While you will never understand this until you are a parent of your own, I did treat you differently, but not by accident and not by any favouring of one of you over the other – but simply because it was my absolute intention to fulfil your emotional, physical and mental needs to the best of my ability. Maybe not in your day, but in ours there is this misconception that parenthood is simply the ‘forming’ of children in our image, but this isn’t true, our mission is to honour the form that you brought into the world and teach you how use it, refine it, and build upon it. Parenthood isn’t about spreading myself amongst you in fairness and equality but about learning and adapting to each of you independently, and each of your needs as they present themselves.
Just the other morning, for example, Elliott, you cried as the bus reached our stop and it was time for us to part ways. I was shocked and annoyed by the situation because up until that very moment you were perfectly prepared to return to school after the Christmas break, but as the bus pulled away and you stared out the window at me with your tear stained face, I realized something monumental in our relationship. You hide your emotions, you bury them deep inside you and avoid its release until it is inevitable and you need me. Earlier that morning, while I busied myself in the kitchen preparing your lunch and organizing your school bag, you were reeling with the conflict of leaving the house and I had no idea. You needed me – differently than your younger brother, who gathers his things and runs out the door at every opportunity – you needed a whisper of hope, you needed assurance, you needed reminders of all the wonderful experiences that school holds for you, you needed me to prepare you; that nothing is different that this school day is still the same as all those you had prior to the break because change is something that intimidates you.
I only hope in all the days we have spent together as mother and son, you understand how much I love and appreciate you for who you are. While, I sometimes seem annoyed that your nervous intimidation inconveniences me, I am more honoured and humbled by it than anything. It keeps you safe and it keeps you needing me and wanting me, it keeps you seeking answers and assurances that you deserve. My only condolence to you for this day, is that I vow to move forward holding your hand as we respect your sense of nervousness, while recognizing when it could be holding you back from living and breathing new experiences. I am forever thankful to you for this lesson.
I have learned by now, in the four years of motherhood you have gifted to me, that you are never comforted with showings of affection. While sometimes a brief hug can settle your anxiety it isn’t the long-term answer. You need your personal space, and a quiet moment to process your feelings. You need to meet with me alone and sit in silence for a moment, before I canvas you about your fears. Sometimes I have to pry the information from you, before we can brainstorm a plan and solution together. I cherish this new way of seeing life unfold.
Oliver, you have entirely different strategies for handling change. You embrace the unknown and jump in feet first with very little hesitation. You pride yourself on being brave and adventurous and socialize easily. You expend so much energy in a day with all your activity, that when you return to me you need to be refreshed. You will never turn down a cuddle and want to be smothered with kisses. I am happy to oblige. I also know – much to your dismay – that you need your sleep so I often invoke your nap times to keep you grounded and feeling in control. I know at 3 that seems counterproductive to you, but I promise I have had your best interests at heart. You challenge me in ways that your older brother never did, and so everything we share together as mother and child is also a new exploration into the realm of parenthood. You have an intense conviction to your beliefs and choices and I commend you for that, but it certainly isn’t an easy trait to parent, especially because I know we share this conviction and we are often not on the same page. Still, I know you are filled with amazing potential and it will truly shine in your adulthood, I know this with certainty, because that is where I am at now.
My frustrations are never about you two, they are birthed from an inner conflict with myself because I know in these moments I have failed you. Motherhood isn’t perfect, in fact, perfection in parenting is probably the least achievable thing we will ever attempt in our lives, it is a variable education that we can never be prepared for.
So, Yes! I do treat you both differently, with reason and intent for the betterment of your well-being, and while you may not always see your childhood though my eyes, and you may never understand my intentions, I vow to preserve your organic self – because that is what parenthood truly means.