When Emma was young, we went to a few baby groups a week. Looking back, it was more for me than it was for her – I needed a bit of structure to my day. Even though I didn’t admit it to myself, I found the transition into motherhood hard – like the rug had been pulled under me and those little snippets of adult company saved me. Except sometimes what made it harder, was that Emma found it all so overwhelming.
There’s always one baby in the class that finds it a bit much, gets upset and you have to step outside for a few moments. When she was younger, I used to find it really hard that it was always my baby who would cry. I know that sounds incredibly selfish but I would analyse every look and stare as she cried and I didn’t know what to do with my own child. I would come away from the class thinking, was that really worth it? But back then I always put it down to age, it will pass over time. This week when we tried Tumble Tots, a toddler gymnastics group. She loves climbing on everything, so I thought it would be perfect.
It turns out I’m not sure it is an age thing. As a girl who loves routine, I guess doing something new just upsets the apple cart ever so slightly. Going to this group has thrown me right back to where I was when she was a few months old – feeling guilty again. Am I pushing her too hard? Does she just not enjoy it, or am I supposed to wait to let her get in the swing of things? How do I work out where the line is, when I finally decide that it’s not for her? I should know my daughter inside out by now, I should know precisely what to do. Except I don’t, and I find myself teetering on the edge of indecisiveness yet again.
I know deep down that ‘those looks’ aren’t always out of judgement. After two years, I’ve realised from personal experience that most of the time, those looks can be a range of things from sympathy to just noticing the loudest cry they’ve ever heard. I always remember at nursery when she cried at the drop-off, the nursery leader said to me “wow she’s very loud” – and she’s absolutely right. We’ve never had any baby monitors in our house because if Emma cries, you know about it. But even if there is no judgement whatsoever, it doesn’t make it easy, does it? Every cry of ‘no no no’ makes my heart sink a little more and wonder if I should just walk straight out and call it a day.
Maybe what it comes down to is it’s me judging myself again – making little criticisms on how I parent Emma. I worry, all the time and I can’t help it. People tell you “oh don’t worry, toddlers have tantrums all the time” but it’s hard to manage those situations when it’s your child lying on the floor, sobbing. But I have to keep reminding myself, it’s not a failing if she cries. It doesn’t make me a bad mother – it’s just her expressing herself and that’s absolutely okay.
At the end of every class, they give out stickers and Emma was jumping around in glee shouting ‘sticker time, sticker time!’. All those cries were forgotten. We put the sticker on her jumper and then sang “5 monkeys jumping on the bed” and she was smiling from ear to ear. So maybe, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself after all.
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