Two years I had alone with the Toddler. Two years in which I watched his every move, waited on him with snacks and drinks, read him stories, sat by his bedside in the night stroking his hair.
The Baby has had a three hour train journey – and now a weekend.
It was lovely to be able to spend so much time alone with her these past few days. Together we attended BritMums Live, a blogging conference, bringing together hundreds of parents-who-blog for socialising, attending workshops, celebrating achievements and meeting companies that want to connect with bloggers. From the Baby’s point of view, we went to a large building crammed with (mainly) women eager to admire her, cuddle her and give her lots and lots of attention. She was loving it. During the awards ceremony in the evening I walked around with her on my arm, and after the first few people we encountered stopped me to chat to my daughter, the Baby started pre-emptively reaching out a chubby hand to everyone we passed, smiling winningly. She just loves people.
What struck me though, was that it didn’t feel unusual or strange to be alone with her so much. I treasured the time, but as I thought about it I realised that there are plenty of times in the day when it is just me and her:
* between 5.30 and 7am, when we snuggle up together before the Toddler wakes up;
* on Tuesday morning when the Toddler is in the creche for a few hours. I have tried leaving her there too, but she screams the place down. She wants to be with me and the other Mummies having tea and biscuits and sharing thoughts about parenting;
* in the early afternoon, when well-trained Toddler sleeps like the dead for hours, she usually wakes up early from what I keep hoping will one day become a two hour nap. We spend the time watching age inappropriate television mostly;
* At bedtime, when I try to feed her quietly in her room as the Toddler watches his regulation pre-sleep episode of Numberjacks. This one doesn’t always work out. About half the time the quiet feed in a dark room is accompanied by wild jumping around or ear-splitting screaming from my son;
* In the middle of the night. Not my favourite one-to-one time but hey.
So even though the Baby is my second child, we do get quite a few moments to ourselves. Probably more than I get alone with my son.
My second thought, as I watched her little face beam at all the lovely bloggers cooing over her, was that she doesn’t seem all that desperate to be alone with me. She wants me around. That much was clear when her joy turned to despair as soon as I disappeared out of sight for ten minutes, when suddenly the company of my lovely new, now Real Life friends was not good enough anymore. But she seems to love having plenty of people around. It is, of course, the only thing she has ever known. Her brother has always been there, and she can’t imagine life without him. She clearly adores him – her face was a picture when they were reunited after our weekend away.
Perhaps this guilt we feel, sometimes, towards our second or subsequent children is unnecessary. They don’t know what they’re missing – they have no concept of what these years of time alone with Mummy and Daddy might have been like for the first child. And they have something of great value: built-in friends for life, who look out for them and dote on them, watching their every move, bringing them drinks and snacks and, occasionally, lying beside them in the dark to make the night less lonely.