Only the lonely?

It was at playgroup last week when I noticed. Someone said “Oh E, you’ve not spoken to many people today.” She’d spent most of the group sitting with me, playing with various toys and entertaining herself while I made a hand puppet for her scrapbook. Often at this group she interacts a little with the other babies (she’s started reaching for their hair, I live in terror of her grabbing and pulling one of them) or burbles to herself.

A lot of the parenting manuals and advice say that around this time babies do get a little clingy and develop attachment issues. She’s not clingy exactly but it did occur to me that perhaps this was why she was content on my knee. But I also worried that perhaps she doesn’t seen other children enough. We go to playgroups two or three times a week though sometimes I skip the Monday one. Last week we also skipped the Tuesday one and went to the cinema instead. So perhaps I should make more of an effort so that she meets other babies more often. This week we’ve already been to Monday and Tuesday group and are planning Thursday’s but next week is half term so only the group at the library will meet.

This is part of a bigger question I’m currently facing though. We haven’t yet made nursery arrangements. I’m back at work on 18 March but as yet, S is still unemployed (though lining up job interviews nicely so fingers crossed). If he doesn’t get a job immediately we won’t be able to afford a nursery but when he does, he’ll be able to start straight away. So we really ought to get E ready to go to nursery by sending her to settling in sessions. I’m nervous about the cost of this though. And I’m hopelessly sentimental about spending the last part of my maternity leave preparing her for being away from me.

A friend of mine who has four (lovely) children commented when I saw her at Christmas about the possibility that many women face a kind of baby blues situation not immediately after birth but when returning to work. Though I think I’m ready to return so that I can focus on other things apart from how much I hate singing “The Wheels on the Bus”, I will have to be there full time and therefore will only see her for an hour or so each day and at weekends. It’s a wonder I’m not clingy, never mind if she is.

The other thing that this comment at playgroup triggered was my concern about her being an only child. Now, when I was pregnant, I got a lot of knowing looks from other people who, after enquiring it she was my first, had me reply “yes, and last.” They said: “Yes, that’s what you say now but just wait” and looked smug as hell. Let’s be clear. We have no room or cash for another, I have no desire to be pregnant again and I don’t look at other small babies and think “yes I want another one of those.” So E will be an only child and therefore will have to be used to entertaining herself from time to time.

I worry about this. On one hand, I hope it will make her independent and strong and creative, with the imagination to try new things and entertain herself using whatever means. But on the other hand, she might be lonely once in a while and shy of making friends. Mind you, I’m shy of making friends though my sister isn’t. And this way I do get to avoid separating fighting siblings. “She started it!” is not a wail you’ll hear in my house which can only be a good thing.

My mother in law is an only child. At Christmas having drinks with her neighbours we all started chatting about what a pain siblings can be (note to my sister: I didn’t join in with this, honest!) and my mother in law said “At least you’ve got siblings.” My best friend is also an only child. I don’t really know how she feels about it. She’s clearly able to look after herself though, and E could do much worse than follow her example – she’s creative, she makes things, she reads a lot and she’s interested in all sorts of things.

I guess I’m a little sad though. A sibling relationship is a nice one to have. I wouldn’t have thought so when I was a teenager but I’m very close to my sister now and rely on her for all kinds of things.

So E will have to take her chances and grow up telling people that her mother abandoned her to nursery friends from an early age but that was how she got so good at meeting people.

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