I didn’t know it would sometimes be so difficult to be needed so much….

Child 2 is currently engaged in one of her clingiest patches ever. Given that this is the chid that for roughly six months refused to move from my hip, this is a feat of some proportion. We are, therefore, mired in an ongoing battle between assuaging her (somewhat overwhelming) need, and saving my sanity.

There are many, many lessons I’ve learned since I became a parent, but this is one of the most profound. I used to watch little boys and girls climbing all over their mothers in the park, placing wet kisses all over their faces, clutching them with grubby hands, and be entirely charmed by it. How sweet, I thought, and fondly imagined the day when I’d have my own child who loved me more than life itself. Loved me so much, in fact, that they had to show it. All the time. I didn’t realise that with that love and adoration and sweetness also came a shameful – and endlessly complex and twisted in that way so often found in motherhood – desperation just to be left alone, just for a minute.

The day child 2 was born, she cried (or grizzled, or whinged, or whatever way you want to put it) for approximately ten hours. (I know, I didn’t believe it either. I thought newborns slept all the time too) Then she fell asleep (in a sling) for a bit, and then woke up and cried again. For approximately a year. Yes, yes, there were patches – that I came to remember as some kind of hallucinatory dream – when she was a good sleeper – a few weeks when she was really tiny- but mostly she cried. The only time she didn’t cry was when I (always I, although she’d grudgingly accept her father if I’d fled the house.) was carrying her, or holding her, or had her in the sling. My favourite friends were the ones who would come round, take her from me immediately, and never give her back, no matter how much she whinged. My least favourite were the ones who said ‘oh, she wants her mummy’ the second she cried, and handed her straight back. I had to stop myself hissing ‘she ALWAYS wants her mummy. Take her! Take her away!’

At the same time as often violently resenting (with the requisite hefty dose of maternal guilt) that only Mummy would do (especially at 2am), I was, naturally, charmed and tremendously beguiled by it. My love for her was all the more fierce because she was very far from a popular baby or toddler with family and friends. After all, it’s pretty difficult to love a child who in early life screams the house down when someone other than Mummy has picked her up and in slightly later life treated most other adults with some level of scorn. I understood – in her child brain, she didn’t need anyone other than me. I was all that was important. Her stand-offishness became a standing joke amongst my friends; she never offered smiles, cuddles, or even words. If asked for a kiss, she would deliberately turn to me and say ‘no, kiss Mummy.’ There has never been any shortage of kisses from my sweet daughter where I’m concerned.

Which means, of course, that I feel real guilt over sometimes finding it somewhere beyond exhausting. My love for her and her brother is the most intense and crushing and all consuming I have ever known – it borders on the obsessive. They interest me endlessly, their small, intricate thoughts, their complex, perfect little bodies, their sweet, innocent relationships. I could never know enough about them. I could never satisfy my need for information about the times I am not with them. I could never talk about them enough. But sometimes – just sometimes – I wish she could need me just a little less.

Every day, she doesn’t want to leave my side, and every night, we battle over where she will sleep. The evening ends one of two ways: she cries about how much she misses me until allowed to go to sleep in my bed, secure in the knowledge she will be with me all night (yes, I know it’s a slippery slope but right now we’re so far down that slope that we can’t even see it any more) or I find her in my bed anyway later. I then move her, and, without fail, she appears again a few hours later and creeps in beside me. Most nights, this doesn’t bother me or my husband. Some nights, I crave beyond all measure a moment in the day when someone does not need me.

And yet…. as she clings to me it’s difficult not to hold her fragile little body close, breathing her in, my beautiful, sweet, wonderful little girl, and think of a time when she won’t need me this way. And of all those people who aren’t lucky enough to have a child who loves them beyond all measure and control. And so, even in those moments that she drives me to distraction with the way she clings to me so tightly, as if she’ll never let me go, I hope in some ways she never will.

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6 thoughts on “I didn’t know it would sometimes be so difficult to be needed so much….

  1. This was circulating on FB – you may have seen it – it reminded me of this blog entry of yours! xx

    The Last Time
    From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
    you will never be the same.
    You might long for the person you were before,
    When you had freedom and time,
    And nothing in particular to worry about.
    You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
    And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
    Full of feeding and burping,
    Whining and fighting,
    Naps, or lack of naps. It might seem like a never-ending cycle.
    But don’t forget…
    There is a last time for everything.
    There will come a time when you will feed your baby
    for the very last time.
    They will fall asleep on you after a long day
    And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.
    One day you will carry them on your hip,
    then set them down,
    And never pick them up that way again.
    You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
    And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
    They will hold your hand to cross the road,
    The never reach for it again.
    They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
    And it will be the last night you ever wake for this.
    One afternoon you will sing ‘the wheels on the bus’
    and do all the actions,
    Then you’ll never sing that song again.
    They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
    the next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
    You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your
    last dirty face.
    They will one day run to you with arms raised,
    for the very last time.
    The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
    until there are no more times, and even then,
    it will take you a while to realise.
    So while you are living in these times,
    remember there are only so many of them and
    when they are gone,
    you will yearn for just one more day of them
    For one last time.

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  2. God it made me cry – it’s so true. I remember trying to imagine what each of my three boys would look and sound like once they were teenagers and could never imagine their voices being so deep and gruff, but here I am looking at three very handsome teenagers who still love me as much but don’t need me and sometimes I wish so hard for all the years with tiny hands in mine and cuddles on the sofa. It was so very exhausting back then but on a walk through your memories you never stumble over those thoughts, just all the fun we had together instead of watching them going off and having fun with their friends and girlfriends. Mind you, one bonus is that I actually can sit next to my one and only without being jumped upon or have my legs being used as a Matchbox cars racing ramp. But sometimes my heart aches for those exhausting years. Never wish away what you can never get back x

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  3. You have very eloquently expressed both your love and your exhaustion and I think this is the paradox of motherhood. My daughter was extremely clingy till the age of 12. Yes, 12. She cried every day at leaving me to go to school and was elated when I picked her up. She would hardly leave my side. While your story is not my story I think there is a lot of truth in the last 10 lines (especially) of the poem above. That is what happened to me and seems to happen to countless others. I come from a different racial background which does not think that little children sleeping with their parent/s is a problem. I let my daughter do that whenever she wanted to. One day there was a natural break (for her) to move away in many ways. Those clingy times have never come back. I miss it dearly but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find it tiresome now while it’s going on. Keep going and don’t feel guilty though.

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  4. Lovely post…. I can completely relate to it as my son was very clingy till age 4. He still keeps saying love you to me on trains and while walking all the time. And sometimes I wonder if he would still love me as much when he was elder. Its a very contradicting feeling where you want to be alone and free sometimes but want to be with your child as well.

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  5. Aw this is a lovely post. My 17 month old daughter, who normally is quite independent, can sometimes be very clingy and even though it can be exhausting I secretly love the excuse to stop what I’m doing and just hold her close #BabyBrainMonday

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  6. I know what you mean entirely – my girl is a cling bot. However lovely it is, and it’s a lot more relaxing than the other one who is harry houdini reborn, sometimes her clambering all over me is just too much. Rarely, but it does happen!
    x Alice
    #babybrainmonday

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