Today is Top Monkey’s sixth birthday. At 10.50pm this evening, six years ago, he was finally removed, via sunroof delivery after a two day fight. Now that I know his personality better, it is probably not surprising that, after the midwife insisted we be induced 36 hours after my waters broke, that he dug in his heels and refused to be born sooner than he was ready. You see, my Top Monkey is a fighter. Not always in a good way. He is stubborn and determined and overall he is complicated. There is no label for him and there is no explaination for how he is. He just is, and despite it all, I love him for just that.
Love isn’t just a bolt of lightening
Top monkey and I didn’t get an easy ride. He was born by emergency c section. So, despite meeting immediately after his birth, I was so exhausted, that I slept for over 12 hours. We met again the following morning. As I took on board the fact that I’d just had major abdominal surgery, that I didn’t want and, I had consented to whilst off my face on drugs I didn’t really want either. Had I already let him down?
As I looked down at him in his plastic box on wheels, I did not get the bolt of lightening everyone convinced me I would get. Instead I felt numb. I knew that I should love him and I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. But I did not feel love as I had expected. I felt like I had been conned. The days, weeks, months and years that followed were full of difficulties. I expected parenting to be hard but this was excruciating at time. Despite everything, I hung on to my need to love my baby, to understand him and for him to love me back. I once read a chapter in a book called “the difficult to love child” and I am sorry to say it made me weep with relief, as I realised I was not alone.
A heart full of fire
Top Monkey never slept. I spent almost all of the nights of his first two years slumped in the big red chair in his nursery. We had feeding problems that weren’t his fault, but meant he never stopped crying. At first he would go to no one and be comforted by noone but me. I took him to groups but he didn’t want to join in. The other babies clapping and doing the actions, Top just sat there or when he started to walk stood by the door ready to leave. At times, I felt so alone.
Top progressed into an angry two year old, challenging everything. Rendering me powerless with his tantrums. His brother now here, placid and easy going. We fought our way around our village, while I insisted he learn to ride his scooter instead of ride the pushchair. Often having to carry him home in a fireman’s lift whilst pushing his brother. At home I insisted he eat better food and try new things, he wouldn’t. We fought most days. I knew however, that he is a child and even though some days it felt like he was out to get me, I knew that it was my job to guide him and his heart full of fire through a complicated journey.
“with great power comes great responsibility”
My Top Monkey was complicated. There was no label for him as I did not want to say he was difficult or bad. It was so negative. So I settled on complicated. Complicated because he showed me that not every child is the same. You don’t get given a piece of clay to mould, the day that they arrive. Some parts of them are already formed. Nature has already set part of their course. Our job is to take the parts given by nature and help them to understand and control them. Harness them and use them for good.
Take my Top Monkey. He is stubborn and determined. Nothing and nobody is going to tell him what to do. He can carry on an arguement for as long as it takes for him to win. Once upon a time, he was reluctant to try things in case he failed. However, when it comes to riding his bike, he never gave up. Every time he fell off, he determinedly returned and tried again. No matter how many times he crashed. I am confident that one day this determination will be set to great things. My job is to keep him confident.
For a long time, he was rude and angry. However, with the arrival of his brother we found a softer side, a kind touch for this new and fragile baby. We saw in him a huge capacity for love. Suprisingly, he loved his brother unconditionally and without jealousy. It was around this time that for the first time he murmured “I love you mummy” from under his blanket, after I had sung “there was an old lady who swallowed a fly” for the millionth time at bedtime. In that moment, I knew that my bolt of lightening had arrived.
Happy birthday my little pioneer
So in his six short years what have I learned? Well every child is different. Some more so than others. Some are difficult to love but it doesn’t mean you don’t or that one day you won’t discover a love stronger than any other. Because it was forged in the heat of battle. My Top Monkey taught me that my patience threshold can be stretched, and that lessons learnt in hindsight are sometimes more effective than those taught pre-emptively.
Top Monkey is our pioneer, our first born. He rides in the front seat of the Monkey Mobile, helping map out the journey that his siblings will follow. That is a big responsibility. As I look at him today I see a bright, clever, complicated, sensitive and determined child. He has a love and kindness towards his brother and sister that is sometimes staggering in it’s honesty. We all still fight but, we understand each other better. School has helped us help him to manage his strong will. I can navigate his temper when it arises. Which is less often these days. We always make up properly and he always comes to me at the end of the day, wraps his arms around my neck, gives me a kiss and says “mummy, I love you.” It is all I ever wanted.