I knew it would be a struggle, if not down right impossible, to write a post in the first week back to work. Readjusting to a new timetable, a reduction in the all important me time and the general malaise of February, it was bound to impact my ability to include any creative time. I also thought that after a week immersed in curriculum, professional development goals and new students, that my first post would be a reflection on career and aspirations. But no, even as I throw myself into this new academic year, full of hope and drive, I find that my deliberations are on my role as mum. Maybe I’m finally grasping that being a parent, is always going to be my number one, my first and foremost, even when I attempt to bring my job to the forefront.
In this past week, when I have needed to put first, the educational achievements of kids who deserve the absolute best, I have been distracted by an equally needy toddler. I have lately become aware that the developmental leaps and accompanying challenging behaviours, go well beyond the first 20 months as described by Dr Frans Plooj and Dr Hetty van de Rijt in their studies leading to ‘the wonder weeks’. In this comprehensive guide to the first ten brain and nervous system stages, the study explains the growth without being a parental instruction manual, a ‘how to’ book. It is often so important to be told that something new or out of character with your little one is normal and expected and will pass, without having to know how to fix it or deal with it. Anyway, I am certain that just because the study stops at 20 months, the developmental leaps don’t. Between the ages of 2 and 3, synapses, the connectors between the neurons, are being formed at a faster rate then at any other time in our lives. Approximately 700 synapses are created every single second in a baby’s brain. As they reach 3 years of age, their brain has formed 1,000 trillion synapses. This never fails to astound me. It is about twice as many as we have as adults. We then spend our adolescent lives ‘pruning’ those synapses, hence the dramatic changes we see in our teenagers when they morph from eloquent, engaging and curious pre-teens to knuckle dragging grunters. It’s all that pruning.
During this time, between 27 and 36 months, so much cognitive and emotional growth is occurring. And quite frankly it’s a bit overwhelming for everyone involved. I sure wish there was an idiots guide to it, to let me know it’s all OK, or that the status quo will be resumed, with the addition of some cool new skills, in two weeks. That nagging worry that there must be something wrong has risen its head at the worst time. The sleeplessness, along with starting the day at 4am and the refusal to nap has returned with a vengeance. The emotional swings from absolute and complete distress to incredible exuburence have me and hubby on a 24-hour emotional roller coaster. The dogged determination, the lashing out, the clinginess and the need to be treated like a baby, seems all too familiar. We are definitely in a leap. Someone really needs to track these next 18 months with the same dedication Plooj and Van de Rijt did with the first 18 months.
As I was starting to admit to myself that all was ‘ normal’ and that it was just another passing but necessary phase, a new development occurred. My once fluent and articulate little chatterbox developed a stammer. She is really struggling to get her words out. It is painful to watch as she sometimes takes a good 20 seconds to get a simple sentence out. She seems unperturbed by this new nuance, which I am thankful for, and just continues to chatter on all the time with this delay prominent in every utterance. What with the return to work stress, lack of sleep and my anxiety about her health, this has really caused me some grief. I have spent a lot of time Goggling, which I know is unhealthy in itself. I have read so many message boards about toddlers and stuttering in the vain hope that they will say, “this happens all the time at this stage and everything will be fine.” The thought that this could be something more than just an explosion of synapses versus speed and dexterity of tongue, really concerns me. And after a few ‘good’ months, I feel like I’m back to the beginning, working on my anxiety and panic for her health and wellbeing. The thought of what might be is all encompassing at times and I need to get back to feeling confident that I am doing enough for her and she will be alright.
It’s appears to be universal. That feeling that we mums are not enough. Even though we bring these precious souls into being, grow them as we continue to go about our lives, deliver them to this earth, and nurture them with our bodies and souls, we still feel inadequate. They cry, and we comfort. They fall, and we catch. They seek out attention, and we answer. Yet we still question our ability to meet these needs. Even when we do, time and time again, we still doubt it. The love we feel for our children is often so much bigger than anything we could have imagined before having them, that we are overwhelmed by it. We seem unable to accept that we are strong enough for the enormity of the task of being mum. But we are enough. You are enough. You are truly all your little one wants and needs. And everyday we go head to head with our self doubt and do the best for our children. I think we owe it to our village to pat each other on the back and say with a genuineness of heart and recognition of strength, “Well done mumma. You got this. You are more than enough”.
Little M. whilst being carried, like a baby, all 15 kilos of her, through a shopping centre this afternoon, pats me on the chest. “I…I….I…I…I love you so much mumma. My..my..my best friend” and just like that, I know I’m enough. I know that we will have episodes of sickness and worry and I will feel anxious and scared, but I also know we can tackle anything that comes our way. I am enough for her just as I am.