The joke is that we have one each. Two babies born at the same time, and Andrew and I raising one of them each. It’s not quite the truth, (we are a team of four). But it is true enough that certain bonds have been formed through the way things panned out in those early weeks and months. One of our daughters calls out more often for her dada, and one more often for her mama.

What’s really more interesting to me is the want that (feck it) Andrew’s daughter apparently experiences. This is something very foreign to me. It probably says a lot about me as a person, but I never experienced a great want for anything or for anyone that I can really recall. While Andrew’s girl forms attachments filled with such earnest desire, that it’s really something.

She found a bottle of vanilla essence once and my goodness did she love that bottle. She held on to it in her little tight fist from first thing that morning right through to bringing it to bed that night. She LOVED it. More recently, she has formed attachments with passing dogs, who’s owners have been kind enough to stop to let the kids admire them. “Dog-geeee” she has wailed, when the time has come to split ways, full blown tears coursing from her eyes.

I think about this a lot at the moment. How is this desire for things and animals and people going to develop as she grows, becomes a bigger kid, and a teenager. I have no idea, but I want to continue to work on how I can best help her to deal with the strength of these feelings she has. I imagine it will be a life’s work.

Our other daughter – my girl, if you like – doesn’t exhibit the same sorts of feelings. She often grabs things from her sister’s hands, seemingly mainly because her sister has been so intent on them more than out of a want of her own, and soon tosses them aside forgotten. (Oh look, the fun never stops round our house.)

Over the last three weeks we have been staying at my in-laws with the girls sleeping in a strange room, they’ve had hand foot & mouth disease, been growing canine teeth, and discovering the power of the word “no!”. Which is all just to say that they haven’t been settling as well as they usually do at night. Even my one, normally such an independent sleeper, has been insistent on some company while she drifts off.

She does ask for mama often, but when it comes to it I think I’m pretty interchangeable with dad for the purpose. It’s not quite the same for our other girl. When she is just about asleep she sometimes gets the notion that she needs to be with her dada, and I simply will not do. “Da-daaaa”, she wails, and there’s those tears again.

“Ah, she wants her mama”. People say it all the time. When baby makes strange or fusses we like to believe that they need to be with mum. It’s a damaging assumption, not just in the moment itself, where mum can’t catch a break before baby is lumped back into her arms. But also in the broader context and the standard of a state of being that this sets.

Mothers would be lead to believe that they’re completely abnormal if their baby doesn’t yearn for them. And so, they see what they want to see. They believe it to be the case, even when it might not be. Or, worse again, they make it be the case when it needn’t have been. When these societal pressures are created and reinforced so frequently, the cycle continues to perpetuate accordingly.

From what I see, not every baby yearns. Some can be quite content in themselves for the most part. Of course they need their parents, but it might not transpire as a longing for them. And those that do yearn, might be just as likely to yearn for dad as for mum.


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