When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves...
When the world of your small child fractures, and then becomes… different, from what you had thought it would be, you become a little more aware of their network of first responders. Of people who love them as their immediate family love them. Without any detachment; their immediate buffer, the kind of love that provides complete safety.
This is not referring to broken homes by the by; I think we can agree that that term is long past its retirement date. Homes can fracture, but then they will heal. Still though, when this happens, you become that bit more aware of your child’s links to others. More conscious of providing them with people to whom they have a bond as deep as family. If you can. If you are lucky enough to find such people.
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When I hear parents-to-be confidently declaring their future intentions – the child will fit in with their existing life, will not watch TV until well into the teenage years, will sleep in their own bed, through the night, even if they have to cry it out – my heart breaks for them slightly.
And, if we’re being completely honest, hard-earned battle stripes allow one to feel a little patronisingly smug. Because they have no clue.
The reality of parenting
Your child comes along, and wakes at 5.30 am every morning no matter what you do; needs to be fed just as you are finally ready to get out the door; cries before vomiting on themselves when you attempt cry it out, and sometimes you just need that cup of coffee and Peppa is the only way to get it.
A child will do their own thing. Show their own preferences. You can nurture them as much as you like, but you will always be up against nature as well.
My daughter's people
My child has never been the kind to go quietly into the night when it comes to doing things she doesn’t want to do. This is not to imply boldness; she’s not. More in matters of taste. Only today, I have finally convinced her to wear denim dungarees, just four years in the trying. And so, it wasn’t a surprise that when it came to picking her own little tribe of loved ones she's not actually blood-related to, she chose her own. Friends who became family.
"The sight of such love from my little one for this person, who has been of such support, was too much and I had to leave the room."
Both my daughters’ people, she chose herself. As it happens, both look like Disney princesses come to life (perhaps unsurprising, given it is Herself’s favourite genre). One Brazilian, one Chinese, as a small baby she found them out at gatherings and crawled off into their arms. Love at first sight.
They have minded her, loved her, sung endless renditions of Let it Go with her. Taken her on Girls Days out, for “secret” walks, and Milano outings. They play Baby to her Big Girl without hesitation (mute, no talking allowed from Baby); do make-up, play whatever the latest game is.
Learning from them
One is feisty, and the strongest of people; she taught my daughter to climb up the slides in our local park; to not hate the bath; bought her her first scooter, and matched her in the utter unselfconsciousness that small children show in play.
"For someone to love your child like that, especially when you have been through a difficulty, is the most comforting of things."
When she arrived for dinner on Christmas Day, Herself launched onto her with all four limbs, clinging to her shouting her name, overcome with excitement. The sight of such love from my little one for this person, who has been of such support, was too much and I had to leave the room. For someone to love your child like that, especially when you have been through a difficulty, is the most comforting of things.
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Herself’s other person is soft and gentle, the kindest of people; whose quiet, sweet manner I am daily grateful my child gets to experience. The first time Herself said she was missing something, it was this person, her Chinese aunt, temporarily visiting home. She is quite simply, one of her two favourite people; everyone else brushed aside at gatherings to see if Song Yue is there.
They are a gift
With separation, your child will be your weak spot. The place rationalisation is harder than others to apply. You know you’ll be ok, but is any parent smug enough to ever feel, whatever their circumstances, complete equanimity around their child’s wellbeing?
And so people who love them, love them like family even though they are not, strictly speaking, related, are a gift. The biggest of comforts, and of support.