Sometimes we need reminded that our Little Ones are indeed only little.
When Princess was born a few weeks ago, Mini Me seemed to grow up overnight. She suddenly got taller and turned from a toddler into a little girl. I’ve been watching her in awe since I returned home from hospital. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but she is quite the little independent woman.
Having a newborn on my knee, I find myself wondering how it’s possible that the most advanced species on the planet can give birth to the most helpless offspring.
A baby calf gets up to walk within moments of being born, but our little pink and squishy babies remain completely dependent on us for years. It’s quite amazing. And still, the nicest feeling in the world is knowing that your baby needs nothing but you to survive. The frightening thing is that without you, she can’t.
We give our babies everything that they need. We help them to grow. We don’t get a handbook. We make it up as we go along and shockingly, we generally do a good job. As I look at Mini-me in all her “almost fourness”, I am proud of how she’s developing. She’s stroppy and strong-willed, but sweet and sensitive. She’s clever and funny and ever so dramatic. (Not sure where she gets the drama!) I have a little girl, who has a little curl etc. She’s so grown up, and then she isn’t.
Because she understands every word we say and because she’s able to articulate her thoughts well, we’ve made the mistake of assuming that she fully understands the world around her.
As tall and “grown up” as she suddenly seems, on Sunday past I was Suddenly Reminded that she is still only a baby. She doesn’t understand the things that we assume her to. She’s finding her way through a terrifying world (aren’t we all?) and she still needs Mammy and Daddy to guide her in every step.
And the dramatic and sudden reminder?
We went to see Santa Claus.
Mini-Me and her new sister were dressed in their pretty Christmas dresses and we were all suitably excited. It’s the first year that she is really enjoying the build up to Christmas and she was excited to bring the new baby to meet the Big Man. We stood in the queue. We met Santa. They got their picture taken and she got a present.
And then, we all went for coffee.
As we were relaxing, the Big brother took the little horse set out of the box for her to play with. We were chattering among ourselves, when suddenly she began to cry. Asking her what was possibly wrong, she announced through her sobs “Santa didn’t listen. I asked for baby Annabelle!” and the quiet sobs turned to a wail.
Well, we didn’t know what to do. We looked at each other with disbelief and the sudden realisation that our big grown-up girl was genuinely upset. And as I looked at her devastated little face, the baby returned in front of my eyes. She was suddenly three again. Not the “Big Sister” or the “Big girl” that we’ve been calling her since Baby arrived.
Just my Mini-me Threenager…and she was heartbroken.
She thought that that was it; that Santa had been and that Christmas was over. She didn’t understand that this was simply a pre-Christmas, traditional treat.
Because we never thought to explain it to her.
While we had been talking about going to see Santa, she thought that this was the Santa who comes in the night and leaves presents. She thought that this was it. And as we were obliviously sipping our coffees, she was experiencing a massive first… true disappointment.
Daddy swiftly lifted her onto his knee for a hug and wiped the big tears dripping down her chubby cheeks. We all leapt into action, laughing and calmly explaining that Santa had simply brought her a treat today and that it isn’t Christmas yet. We went back to basics, explaining the whole concept of Christmas: about Baby Jesus coming, about her aunties and uncles coming home, about hanging up the stockings and about waking up on Christmas morning; any possible benchmarks that will help her to recognise actual Christmas.
We threw all the cliched lines at her. “If you’re good, Santa will…” “It’s Christmas time, but it’s not Christmas Day yet.” “9 more sleeps…” etc. And happily, she calmed down and returned to playing with the horses.
Crisis averted, but lesson learned.
People had warned us that when the new baby arrived, she would suddenly seem so big and so grown-up. And they were right.
But what we had to learn for ourselves is that big and all as she seems, she’s still only a little child. We may have begun to expect too much from her. Yes, the baby is vulnerable and totally dependent on us, but just because Mini-Me can dress herself, it doesn’t mean that she isn’t also vulnerable and dependent.
And so, with both Mammy and Daddy feeling suitably guilty and slightly foolish, we finished our coffee and directed our wee family back through the craziness of the Christmas shoppers towards the car.
Mini-me had learned something, but the biggest lesson was learned by her Grown-ups.
I am Suddenly Reminded Mum.