About six weeks ago, I was chatting over dinner with two of my very best friends about…can you guess? Of course, our kids. As we talked about our toddlers, I mentioned that I was not expecting for Jane to be so independent at just two and a half. She is frustrated if I help her put on her shoes, she’d prefer to read herself to sleep now rather than have me sing to her, and she has absolutely no interest in my hugs and kisses. In fact, she will look me in the eye and say very sternly, “I not like your kisses anymore, ever again.” And then she will take her protest a step further and wipe off the kiss with the same disgust you might if it came from a really drunk marcher in the Irish Channel Parade.
Just relaying that to them had my eyes filling with tears and my heart sinking. I asked aloud, but in many ways to myself, “when had my precious, cuddly baby turned into a big girl who would rather throw a tantrum than snuggle with me.” I knew at some age, like most children, she would regard me as an annoyance and a pest when I requested a kiss goodbye, I just had no idea it would happen so soon.
There are days where I believe this to be true and days that I fear we’re doing something terribly wrong as parents. For the first two years of Jane’s life, I felt confident in my parenting choices. I may not have always been the world’s best employee, spouse, daughter, or friend, but I put every ounce of myself into the time I spent with Jane, and I felt like I could see the results.
Lately, though, I have felt lost. And I have felt like I have lost my buddy. I don’t know how best to respond to being told by my two and a half year old that she doesn’t like me. And I don’t know if it’s crazy or reasonable that I cried in the car when she screamed the following to me in response to having to leave her grandparents’ house before she was ready to go:
“I not like you Mommy. Anymore. Ever again. Swiper is going to swipe you. The lion is going to roar at you REALLY loud. And the snake is going to scare you!”
I cried because I know that those are the things (thanks Dora) that she is most afraid of.
And she was wishing them on me. She wanted swiper, her sworn enemy, to take me away. “And I never see you again,” she threatened. How does she even know to say that? And does she know that it breaks my heart? Does she know that I cried myself to sleep worrying about her most recent behavior? And that I spend hours wondering what is at the root of these outbursts?
Mark and I have talked at length about what it could be. Is it her age? Is it a stage? Or was it something else? Had something else changed?
In the past three weeks, my abdomen has gone from an oversized muffin top to a full on baby bump and the bedroom next to hers that once housed our guest bed is now home to the new baby’s crib and glider. She has begun introducing herself to strangers by saying, “I’m Jane. I’m two and a half. My mommy has a baby in her tummy. I’m a big sister today.” And just the other day, I sneezed, and she said, “bless you mommy, bless you baby.”
I know that there is no way that she fully understands what it means to welcome a new baby into our family. But, I feel like she must sense that her life will change. On the occasion that she tells me she needs me and clings to me, I find a lump in my throat as I wonder if she senses that our time together, just us, is coming to an end. Is this part of why she is lashing out at me? I so badly want to ensure her that no matter how busy life gets once her sibling comes, she will always be my very first baby. She will always be special. She will always be loved.