“Go away, mommy”, my son would tell me. “Mommy, no!” I know he didn’t mean it. I know he said it with the innocence of a 2 year old. Still. His words were clear. Clear and cruel. “Mommy, no!”
When my son was 22 months, his sister was born. Before that moment, my life pretty much revolved around him. Only him. I don’t say that in a positive or in a negative way. I don’t blame me nor am I proud of it. That’s just how it was. We moved to a foreign country when my son was about three months old. With me temporarily losing my points of reference, I wanted to be his.
When my son was 22 months, his little life was turned upside down. And as much as he loves his sister, with her arrival, he lost a little bit of me. Not of my love. Not of my heart. But a little bit of my time. Of my undivided attention.
Suddenly, I couldn’t hold him like I did before. Suddenly, mommy had to turn away sometimes. For minutes only. Sometimes for longer. But never for too long. To nurse the baby. To put her to sleep. To calm her cries. To hold her close.
“Go away, mommy!” It broke my heart. Had I let him down? A 22 months old cannot express his feelings. Cannot ask for the Why. “Mommy, do you still love me? Mommy, will you still be there for me? Will you still hold me tight?”
“Go away”, he would say instead. “Mommy, no.” As the only way to make me understand.
I didn’t talk to anyone about this in the early weeks after the birth of my second baby. I felt ashamed. I failed. As a mom. I failed. I let my baby down. Despite the fact that my whole day turned around him, that I was never too far. Despite the fact that I decided to stay home from work a little longer, to be there for him 100%, I failed. “Go away!”
“Why are you doing this to me?”, I wondered a thousand times. I would watch him in silence. And so would he. “I love you both, you see”, I told him over and over again. “Loving the baby does not take my love away from you.”
And still. “Mommy, no!”
Discussing these kind of things with a 2 year old is hard. It takes time. And perseverance. I takes patience. And a lot of love. It is hard not to feel hurt. Betrayed. Let down as a mom. Don’t you see that I do everything for you? That I quit my job? That I stay home every night? Don’t you see that you are my world? How can you be so cruel?
I did, of course. I did feel hurt. I did feel betrayed. But most of all, I felt ashamed. For not getting it right. For doing it all wrong. For having a child that tells me to go away. To let him alone with daddy.
“You just go”, he seemed to say. “You just go and take care of the baby.”
He didn’t mean it. Of course, he did not. It was just the time he needed to adapt to this new situation. To digest the change. To deal with it.
Five months later and we are good again. Most of the days. Five months of earning his confidence back. Of endless hugs and undivided attention (as far as I could). Five months of showing him that I was still there for him. That he could tell me to go away but that I would still be there. Today. Tomorrow. And every day.
When daddy is here, daddy still wins. And that’s ok. Daddy is cool. I get the snuggles, daddy gets to play. We do the drawing, you do the crazy running around and the water battles.
Being a mum of a toddler is hard sometimes. It is about getting slapped some days (literally and figuratively) and answering with hugs. It is about being shouted at and to ask for more explanations. And it is about being told to go away and to be there instead. To stay. To be closer than ever.