The first separation:
Portrait of Georgie
at 21 months

by Anne-marie Taplin

Your last taste from me was more like a bite.

It’s not how I wanted your weaning to be. I’d imagined it being a gentle, gradual lessening of desire, but instead you started biting me and laughing. Cheeky, mischievous little pixie face, “Bite Mummy!”

It was especially amusing when I yelped in pain, or yelled (involuntarily), “No biting!”

And then, about a fortnight later – with every feed in between ending in a bite – you didn’t seem to care when I removed the opportunity and denied you milk. The next night I experimented in putting you to bed for the first time without a feed, and you didn’t object. In fact, you didn’t even ask.

So this is the first letting go, the first separation from you.

Soon, all too soon, I won’t quite remember what it feels like to have you suckle from me, won’t quite be able to picture your sweet, smooth face upturned and still.

Worse, I won’t have that option to placate if you wake early in the morning, when we both need to go back to sleep but you need a little help.

Your first separation means you are beginning to see yourself as an individual, exerting your will and running on your own chubby legs.

You are a strong-willed toddler, most definite in your preferences and desires. You love to play outside – on the swings, bikes, bouncer, bridge, or smacking the water and soaking your clothes! You love to imitate your big brother and to play with him, but mostly you insist on Mummy being close by.

Your language skills have excelled beyond all expectation, perhaps because you are a second child. Already you are saying three-or-more word sentences and your vocabulary range is enormous. Unlike your brother at this age, you insist on feeding yourself and can even partly dress yourself.

Although I feel pride and pleasure in your sense of satisfaction, sometimes I fear you will grow up too fast. I’m not ready to lose my baby!

In your life so far, most of the time we’ve been able to rely on your sound sleeping habits. Now, we are thrilled with your 12-hour nights and seven-thirty awakenings! Almost every day you will add to this regime a 2-hour day sleep – a welcome break for me, and often a chance to have some ‘special time’ with Harry.

Your loving and affectionate nature is now very apparent. “Nuggle Harry”, you say when you wake up and want to snuggle in bed with your brother. “Kiss Mummy,” you say, sometimes out of the blue but mostly when you feel I am hurt. When I was cutting onions and trying not to cry, you ran on wobbly legs to clutch my legs and say “Kiss!” You hug both your parents firmly and with total awareness.

Our bedtime routine now involves goodnights on the stairs with Daddy and Harry, then some book time with Mummy in your bedroom – you know every word of Thomas the tank engine and adore books with babies and animals. Your attention span will even stretch to stories I read to Harry (at 4). By 7.30 you’re ready for the cot. You climb in and we arrange the blanket and your cloth ‘baby’, plus the beloved Thomas book in your hand. You insist I hold your hand or pat you for a few minutes while we recap on the day, while I lovingly hold your gaze. When it’s time for me to go, you drift into a gentle sleep.

Together we fill every day with fresh air, fun in the garden or the park, lots of books, drawing, building blocks and craft – and as many cuddles and kisses as I can sneak in!

 

© Anne-marie Taplin

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem