Mothering is obviously different for each mother and differenter (is that even a word??) for each child of each specific mother. My experiences mothering is different for each child. And while my love for each child is quantitatively the same for each one, the level of intensity seems different. The level of need of each child has been different.
It's a hard topic to write about, because I'm very conscious of the kids, years from now, reading my blog and hollering something to the effect "holy moly, Mom really did love you best" and it's not that at all. It's not that Sam loves me more than the girls do, and absolutely not that I love him more than the girls. In fact, I can make compelling arguments that each one of them is my favorite child.
Simply that Sam, from the moment he was born, had a very intense attachment to me. It was inconceivable that I return to work after he was born, not because I couldn't leave him, but because he was so miserable without me that it would have been awful for him. He was a colicy mess, with reflux and non-stop nursing. I remember counting the number of times I nursed him one day, and hit 24 before mid-afternoon. He spent months nursing, crying and sleeping. That was his whole world. Without me, it would have been just straight crying.
I've always been aware of his need for me. Sam was a fragile child. Not physically, but emotionally. Socially. He was not comfortable when he wasn't with me. And I was always aware of that. Always wanted to make things easier for him - so I nursed him way longer than I wanted to, and didn't force him to go to preschool or parties without me. I took him everywhere with me, and was always conscious of his needs. Which isn't to say that I didn't do that with Jessica or with Julie. But for example, Jessica stopped nursing before she was a year old, and I worked off and on until after Sam was born. She was okay. She missed me, but was capable of detaching enough to play and have fun. Sam wasn't. Julianna is still nursing at seventeen months, with no sign of stopping, but she's also a complete Daddy's girl. Sam has never been able to be comforted by anyone other than me.
And now he's a big boy. I've seen him really grow, in the past two weeks. He was ready to break out of his shell, literally. He's thriving. He's opening up to the world, in a way that's amazing to me. He's talking to people, interacting with other adults. I'm so, so proud of him. I'm so happy that he's learning that he's safe and secure without me there.
I feel... free-er. I feel... lighter. I feel like I could go back to work, take up a new hobby. I could do... all sorts of things. It's not that I'm not still a mom, it's not that I'm not still a mom of a toddler (stubbornly refusing to toddle, but that's another post...). It's not that Sam still doesn't need and want me, but his needs are more managable now. His whole world is bigger than me, and I feel... liberated.