Dear Eldest Child
I recently wrote a letter to your younger brother. I felt like he sometimes gets the rough end of the deal. He doesn’t have a nursery – just a cot shoved in the spare room amongst the washing drying on the airer. You have your own huge bedroom with your pictures of Lightning McQueen and furniture we bought specially for you, right down to the lightshades and the height chart.
But, as I said in my letter to your brother, these things are not important.
What is important is how Mummy treats you. And that’s why I’m writing to you now.
Because I’m sorry that you’ve had to grow up quicker than your brother will probably have to. You’ve had to take on responsibilities that, on reflection, might be too much for your two and half years (the age you were when your brother was born).
Sometimes you race around the house and I’m frustrated because you knock your brother over. I tell you to calm down and slow down and that you should be looking out for him and being aware of where you’re going. And then you apologise and I remember that you’re only three.
I realise that I should be immensely proud that you want to play with your brother. That you understand the need to say sorry to people. That you’ve never exhibited jealousy towards your brother. That yesterday, when I asked you to stop squashing him before bedtime, you explained that it was simply because “Mummy, I just love him so much.”
So next time I tell you to calm down, please tell me; “Mummy I am only three. I am playing. I am being a child.” Because, though it goes against everything I (as a mummy and a teacher) believe, I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I forget. You are three. And you deserve to bloody play.
I’m sorry that when we drop you off at nursery, we end up giving you a quick hug whilst we try and prise your brother from around our necks. I’m sorry we keep saying “look after your brother at nursery”, even though you still need looking after too.
I love it when you get to the door first when we pick you up and we can cuddle you and scoop you up like you deserve before your brother comes in and monopolises our attention by crying (because he’s missed us and he can’t tell us yet!) But I am crazy boastful about the fact that you help him put his shoes on and carry his bag to the car for him, showing him kindness and care, despite him taking all eyes and attention away from you. You understand why we have to put you down and scoop up your brother instead of you and I feel like high-fiving myself that my three year old not only gets it but supports it.
I’m sorry that sometimes you end up playing on your own whilst I chase your brother around the house, trying to stop him eating play dough, sucking Febreeze from the bottle and climbing up the stairs. But it makes me ridiculously proud that you understand. That you tell me “it’s ok Mummy. I know you have to stop him hurting himself.”
I almost burst with love when you tell me that we can play Playmobil when your brother is napping because it has tiny little bits and he might eat them. That, at three years old, you understand that we do things to keep you both safe, is extraordinary to me. It makes me feel like Daddy and I are actually doing a pretty shit hot job of raising you into a wonderful human being.
In a way you have had to take a back seat since your brother arrived. But in another way, you have had to leap in to the front and take hold of the dual controls. We have suddenly expected you to be ‘grown up’. You are not grown up. You are three. You say things like “I love you more than poo,” and have found huge shared amusement with Daddy in the whoopee cushion you won together at the arcades the other day.
I need to remember this. Because I don’t want to rush you in your growing up. There is so much time for that. I want you to continue to marvel at spider webs on rose bushes and get excited when a bus drives past.
I want you to continue to be you in all your three year old glory.
Because, darling, I love you more than poo.