One of My Children is Extra Precious To Me: It’s Time to Let Go

Recently, my two-year-old son was separated from my mother-in-law whilst at the shopping mall. It took thirty minutes for him to be found: he was happily wandering around, quite a large distance away from where they first became separated. Apparently he very happily took the hand of the security guard who located him and guided him back to my mother-in-law, but of course she was distressed.

Later that day, when she told me what happened, I was shocked at my own internal reaction – first that adrenaline surge of shock, following by a vehement wish that this had happened to any other of my children but this one.

Robin2

I am hesitant to name it, but my youngest child is extra precious to me. I have never experienced this before: though each birth is different, and each early postpartum experience is different, I have come to love all of my five children with a deeply felt, primal, sometimes painful love. For my first and third and fifth child it hit me like a truck the second I laid eyes on their newborn faces. For the other two it was a slow burn kind of love as we found our way to each other in the hazy days after birth.

Ever since that day when my youngest got lost, I have wondered why my protective feelings are so wild, why he is so precious. Is it simply because he is the youngest and the baby of the family? He does have a small elfin featured face, finely drawn and often vulnerable looking. He is small for his age, and although nearly three, not talking much, so he often seems younger than he is. And there is another reason for this: this child was seriously ill as a baby, spending 6 weeks on and off in hospital, and needing extensive care at home for many months afterwards.

As a result of his illness, his milestones were delayed and he literally was a ‘baby’ in need and skill level for months longer than usual. But what happened to me during his illness was a semi-permanent state of hyper awareness and vigilance – needed at that time – the warrior mother was called forth and the protective muscle was well exercised.

It is well known that whatever endeavour in which we invest the most effort is one that means the most to us. I sometimes think of my son this way- the child that I literally invested the most effort into- round the clock holding, caring, nurturing, and supporting on a long road back to health. No other child of mine enjoyed such extensive and focused one-on-one time, so long breastfeeding, so long sleeping in our bed.

Robin in car

My youngest is now a perfectly healthy three year old. There is really no need to overprotect him anymore. After weeks of pondering my reactions and actions around him, I can give thanks for that time he was lost. It has prompted me to realise that it is time to let go of my little one. The time for danger has passed and my inner warrior can now retreat. He may be my last baby, and that makes it all the more bittersweet. But I often think of motherhood as mostly an exercise in letting go, and the past few weeks have reminded me to take that little leap of faith again.


10 thoughts on “One of My Children is Extra Precious To Me: It’s Time to Let Go”

  1. Thank you for writing this! My first born, who will be 7 soon, has a chronic illness which requires constant care, special diet, and regular trips to the hospital, scheduled and unscheduled. I have 3 other children. My second born, who is 21 months younger, gets very jealous and hostile sometimes because of the attention I give to her older sister. I tell her I love her multiple times a day. I don’t want her thinking I have a favorite child. Honestly I don’t have a favorite child, but I’ve always had an insanely strong bond with my first. We just ‘get’ eachother. Anyway, I realized with reading your blog about your son getting lost, that I do treat my oldest much more different than my other kids. For you, your son is healthy again. But my daughter will be forever sick. And i just have to find my own way just like you did.
    This really made me think.
    Thanx again! Bon

  2. My son, who is now 9, was sick as an infant too (hospitalized at 6 months old) and though he’s only our favorite about half the time (he has a younger sister), he definitely makes me and my husband extra worried, extra protective, hyper vigilant even after all these years. While it’s good to have a gut-check like you are talking about, I think in some ways it’s indelible–that you’ve seen your child so sick, it marks you forever.

  3. I hate to be *that* person, but I can’t ignore what I’m seeing in the second picture. You say he’s smaller than average, so he should then definitely still be rear facing in his car seat. Second, the straps are not properly adjusted for his size. They should not go up to the next level until his shoulders are at least at or above where the straps insert. I’m not sure if you had already loosened the straps to get him out, but if not – they need to be significantly tighter. If you were in an accident with him in his car seat as he is in the picture, he could be very seriously injured.

    Other than that, thanks for a thought provoking article!

    1. Thanks Rhea for your concern. We live in Australia, where the guidelines for rear facing car seats are much different to the US – children can move to a forward facing seat from six months of age. My son was in a rear facing seat until he was one. But as to the shoulder straps -you are totally right that they were in the wrong shoulder slot.

      1. Even though the laws differ, the science behind the safety does not. Babies and toddlers have larger heads than older children and adults. During a crash, the heavier head pulls forward and does serious damage to the spine. Rear facing, they stay supported by the seat moving with them. It is recommended to rear face as long as possible. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. It is a decision of convenience and comfort that needs to be weighed against the ‘what ifs’.

        I certainly know that ‘favorite’ feeling. It’s odd, we love all our children, but it’s a comfort to know that others feel that certain something special for one in particular.

      2. Actually you’re not wrong on the straps if he’s forward facing. I got a confirmation from a U.S. car seat tech that for rear facing it can never be too low and for forward facing it can’t be too high as far as safety goes. (Though it can affect comfort and where on the shoulders the straps touch can affect fit.) Think about those seat belts in vans that suspend from the ceiling. When an adult uses a belt that goes well above their head it’s still safe because typical crashes thrust passengers forward, and as long as the belt is snug it doesn’t matter how high it is. It was important to me to get these facts verified by a tech because my three kids often share the same seats and it’s way easier to just adjust the tightness rather than uninstall rethread and reinstall between different kids and I don’t have a fancy no rethread kind. The statements about rear facing and tighten I totally get behind though 🙂 Sorry to hijack your comments with a topic you weren’t writing about

  4. This is very relevant to my situation. My daughter in the beginning had complications which resulted in all kinds of habits I never thought I would do…like sleeping with us for so long. She was in the nicu for 10 days and I didn’t see her the whole time bc of the hospital and country regulations. I couldn’t very well fly her to another country. She was too fragile. But it has changed who I am as a parent. I’m about to deliver #2 any day now and find myself being more concerned for how my daughter will adjust. Seeing your child sick and so helpless at such a young age just changes the dynamic of the relationship. I will probably always feel a little more concern towards her from that experience. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. I’m glad you mentioned that, Rhea. Those things jumped out at me, too, and that little guy is too precious not to say anything! I too, live in a country where the guidelines are different, allowing forward facing from 9 months or 9 kg. However, as the above poster says, the science is the same. A little research convinced me to keep my toddlers rear facing.

    Keeping this on topic, this article really resonated with me. I’ve felt these feelings over the years with my 5 kids. My feelings are always most intense with my youngest. I was appalled the first time I experienced it with the birth of my second child. Now I’ve come to see it as a natural instinct almost, to feel most protective of my most vulnerable child. We see this in the animal world, too, with animals where older sibs stay with their mums even after a new baby is born.

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