Babies are Boring!
I have never really been an overly maternal, baby-person. I like children, I’ve spent large chunks of my life as a face-painter and a children’s party host, I adore my young cousins and I have loved babysitting duties. But not so much babies – shock horror but I find them pretty… boring! The psychological and physical development fascinates me, there’s something pretty awesome about watching a tiny person fascinated by their own hand or twinkle toes… but this is generally pretty short lived. Until small humans start walking and more importantly talking and developing their personality, I’m not really interested.
I’ve spoken to many Mums and Dads about how wonderful, clever, funny and amazing their babies are… that hilarious face they pull when they’re filling their nappy… the adorable noise they make before they throw-up… the way they open their eyes so slowly after their 7th nap of the day… I’m being crass but you get the drift. Needless to say, I’ve never really got it – I understand it’s very special to you but to me babies are sort of efficient excrement machines with loads of potential for the future!
I’m painting a bad picture here, I don’t hate babies, I wouldn’t refuse to be around them, I just don’t love them. I remember several years ago when a colleague returned for a Keep in Touch day while on maternity leave, her little boy (around 6 months) was placed on my lap for safe-keeping so she could meet with our manager. Honestly, I had no idea what to do – fortunately he was the perfect baby and didn’t seem to mind my random chatter and improvised puppet show with my desk teddies (everyone has these right?!). There was a lot of “ohhing” and “ahhing” from every passer-by… my only “ahh” was with the release of pressure to entertain on Mums return!
Falling in Love
With biological parents, and indeed in my relationship with my partner, I fell in love. That expression is extremely common and probably over-used but it is so accurate.. one minute you’re happily going about your day and suddenly your smile gets bigger, the butterflies start playing tag across all your internal organs… before you’ve even had a chance to make a decision or form a rational opinion you have fallen in love. This, I imagine, is very similar to falling in love with your offspring, but it might even happen before you can see, hear, smell or touch them. The complete sensory deprivation (especially for a man) is not enough to stop your heart beating slightly differently and your life to be overtaken by the need to care for and protect this beautiful little person.
This is all a very long way of saying my bond and attachment to monster was not immediate. He was 9 months when we first met, he didn’t talk, he didn’t crawl much, he giggled and smiled and grabbed – he was entertaining but I didn’t feel the rush of love and adoration shared by everyone else in the room. I would blow bubbles and play with his toys, we interacted and we accepted each other but we didn’t really love each other.
A growing affection
My love for monster grew over time and with some concerted intentional effort on my part. As I grew more comfortable in my relationship with my partner, I started reflecting more on my relationship with his son. As our time together increased, I inevitably spent more time playing with and getting to know the little one, at the same time his personality and basic skills were developing and he became “a real person” who I could have two-way interactions with. We got on very well throughout all of this and we genuinely liked each other.
Once OH and I had officially moved in, my bond with monster deepened quite quickly and I realised I had become very attached and affectionate with him. I still thought (and think) a lot about what my role was / should be / I wanted it to be / my OH wanted it to be and how I could develop our relationship towards this. Frankly all that thinking was probably a total waste – bonds and emotions can’t be planned or decided upon… they just are.
He loves me
Monsters love for me has been at the opposite end of many spectra – it’s innocent, natural, easy and utterly beautiful. It’s also inspirational for me – like his dad before him, monster told me he loved me before I had really questioned if I loved him but of course for him love is purely a feeling, it doesn’t have any consequences or politics behind it. It shouldn’t for anybody really.
I love my stepson – it was once a choice to try but now it is as natural to me as I imagine his own fathers love for him is, and I certainly couldn’t decide to stop. As with most great things, it sneaked up on me when I’d forgotten to expect it and now bubbles up on me in moments of pride, joy and happiness (not to mention sometimes in moments of frustration and exasperation too!).