Thora's last days of being an only child are somewhat bittersweet. As I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new baby, I try to involve her in becoming a big sister whenever I have the opportunity. However, I am having many moments that make me somewhat sad. Like bath time. Thora was in a tub full of bubblebath playing with the suds and both Johnny and I were in the bathroom too. He was blowing bubbles for her and I was singing our bubble blowing songs. She stood up and held out her arms and squealed with delight at the bubbles that filled the air like snowflakes in a blizzard. Every time I finished the song she shouted "Again!" with glee and I complied. I was weepy with love for this amazing and happy kid and she clearly reveled, as she does regularly, in having her Mama's and her Daddy's undivided attention.
After bath time, she ran around the house yelling like a banshee, butt naked and so, so happy. She ran from me to her daddy and back and giggled the whole time. I laughed with her because it was so darn cute. And then I was weepy because this is all about to change. Bath time will not ever be the same. Playtime will never be the same. Nothing will be the same.
I know siblings are wonderful and that most people have them. I know Thora will not remember being an only child. I know she will not be any less cute or less loved because we are a family of four instead of three. I know and believe all of these things, and on top of that I also believe that she will be better socialized and that having a sister will mean having yet another kind of love and family bond, one that I did not experience growing up. All good things. Yet I can't help but worry that the adjustment will be hard. Will it be harder for her, or for me?
What kind of parent of two will I become? Will I be less attentive with each one? Less focused? Will I celebrate their firsts with less enthusiasm? Will I care as much about Newbee's first words and her first steps as I did Thora's? Will my ability to focus on each child as an individual grow as my love for them grows? I hope that I will want to chase Newbee around with a video camera to capture every cute thing as I did and do for Thora. Will I have as much time to celebrate Thora's development with a baby in my arms? Now I notice everything: improvements in pronunciation, new words, new motor skills, developing awareness of self and the ability to express it (ie when she is pooping or when she is hungry, scared, tired, etc). Will I notice new things when I am sleep deprived and worried about a newborn? Will Thora be expected to help more and play less? Will Newbee suffer from "second child syndrome"? This is probably not always a bad thing, right? I worried far too much about how fast Thora got her teeth and when she started to crawl and walk and talk. This one will go at her own pace and I won't be comparing "grades" of head circumference or how fast she's gaining weight. But will she be left alone more and be held less? Will she cry more because I can't hold her, wear her, nurse her nonstop for the first six months of her life as I did Thora? Will she have to fend for herself more? Will we have to succumb to babysitters, nannies or daycare because we can't do it all ourselves anymore?
These days I think a lot about how much my life changed when Thora was born and I wonder what's in store for us this time. When I had Thora, I had no idea how drastically I would change. Having a newborn really isn't that hard. They sleep and eat nonstop for so many months that I sometimes look back and wonder what the fuss was all about. It's the way it totally resets your life that is the hard part. I've heard that having children is the most selfless thing you can do. For the past nineteen months I have thought about this over and over. My daughter does not make me feel selfless. My daughter validates me. While I have many wonderful things in my life, my daughter is what makes me spring out of bed even when I'm exhausted. It's her smiling face I see when I am angry, sad, stressed. I hear her voice calling "Mama!" and I am rejuvenated. I might be anxious to get her to bed some evenings because I am tired and need to do other things, but ten minutes after she's asleep I find myself watching our YouTube videos or rereading old blog entries again and again because I miss her. That's not selfless, that is totally self-indulgent.
But now I think I understand what they mean. In the short time I have been a parent, I have also become the sole financial supporter of my family, a homeowner, a car owner, a sister, and a vice president. My husband has taken on a great deal as well. I don't think either of us could have been asked to take on more responsibilities in the past two years than we have. Three years ago I saw friends every night after work. I had dinner parties. I went clubbing. I slept late. I spent hours IMing with my closest pals. I took long walks. Went to the gym. Went on dates, like, to restaurants and movies, with Johnny. I read fiction! Johnny was in a band, he went to shows and clubs, he spent hours playing video games. He hung out with friends until all hours, drank more than two beers without falling asleep, and had time to court me.
Now we have basically two things in our lives: family and work.
I know lots of people have done this before us and lots of people will do it after us, but you know what? This is a lot. I am a total overachiever who hates to say no to anything, but I freely admit it: I am in as deep as I've ever been. I just can't stretch myself any more thinly than I already have. And this is with giving up nearly everything I used to do. I used to be the friend who called or emailed or texted back right away, the one who was always awake and around and up for doing something. I always had friends at my apartment. I had five animals that got the very best care. I had time for everything I wanted to have time for, and I made time for a whole lot more.
Now Facebook is the extent of my social life. It's great to have an easy way to follow my friends' lives. I'm lucky if I can get emails out regularly. I've stopped apologizing for my horrible correspondence rate - that gets old after a while. I am so grateful to my friends both new and old who have stuck with me, and I totally understand why other friends have not. It's hard to be friends with someone who doesn't email back, can never accept invitations because they interfere with bedtime, who can't take days off from work or stay up past 11 pm. I'm boring and I can't be there for people the way I once could. I know I have hurt people inadvertently by not being the devoted friend I used to have time to be. Truthfully, I am not sure I'd want to be friends with me either. When I do manage to see my friends in person, which is extremely rare and has to be scheduled way in advance, I worry that I won't have anything to say that isn't about potty training or breastfeeding or pregnancy. And who was more surprised than I was that my decision regarding the animals was to rehome two of them? I still can't believe the person who found homes for the parrots was me, the dedicated bird-lover. I'd always been the type to scoff at new parents or new homeowners who "got rid" of their pets. But then I did it. And while I think about that decision often, I have no regrets because I know they are in places and with people who can offer better care and give them better lives than I can now. Around the same time, my perfect and loving and very geriatric dog had to be put to sleep. While I miss him every single day, I can tell you with a clear conscience that I am not interested in adopting another anytime soon. I just can't do it.
At the same time, we have made more time for family than ever before. We save our weekends for trips to Nana and Poppa, to G-Ma and Gramps, to Poppa and Aunt Hilary. We send pictures to aunts, uncles and cousins, we email and call our families more than we have in years. Becoming a parent and then losing a parent made me hyper-aware of the importance of family. I want Thora to know and love her extended family. But that too is a big change for us and means there is even less time for other things.
I'm not complaining. This is all a choice. I wanted to be a parent and I have a very high pressure and demanding job that I am dedicated to. In order to do both well, I have had to make a lot of sacrifices. It's not that I don't love my friends, animals, hobbies. I do. There are just not enough hours in the day so something had to give. A lot of somethings. But what will I have to give up when the new baby is born? What else is left?
Just yesterday at work some of my coworkers and I were chatting. They were marveling that I was still in the office. One of them said, "You know, some women like to take off before the baby is born to rest and prepare." I said "Tell that to my boss," somewhat stupidly, since I am working up to the very end by my own choice and the deadlines I feel pressure to meet are largely self-imposed. My boss, while very demanding, is probably the most empathetic of all my colleagues when it comes to balancing children and a heavy workload, so it's not fair to throw him under the bus because I am an anal-retentive control freak in the workplace. Anyway, another person winked at me and said quietly, "Your baby is more important than any of this." And he's right. She is. They both are.
Aimee, I love the history of your posts, and I am sure that many other moms, of earlier generations, wish they had had the time to document these things in the way you have. I think, once Newbee comes along, and you have a chance to see how it is working out, you should take these blogs and make them into a book, because so many people would benefit from your insights. I think they might also have their consciousness raised so that they look at their own children, spouses, and life decisions in a whole new light. It can't help but be a good thing.ReplyDelete
One thought about how Thora might cope with no longer being an "only" Brenda was 3 1/2 when Nancy was born and very used to be the "only". She was also a very needy young lady..some kids are just born that way. For awhile, after her sister was born, Brenda no longer thought of her dad as part of the family. To her, the family was still three, her, me and the new baby. It was a rough go for a bit. Then someone taught me the candle ritual.
You take one candle, that's the Mom, and light it. You take another candle, that's the Dad and light it too. The flame is the love that each person has in their heart. But when you put the flames together, the size of the flame is exponentially larger and brighter. You take a third candle for your first child and light it. That child has its own flame and love to share, When you combine it with the love of the mom and dad, it is brighter still. When a new baby comes in to the family, you show the first child that another candle added to the family flame means there will always be lots of love for everyone in the family.
We did this ritual weekly, at first, then less often, before finally stopping when Nancy was coming up on two years old. Then I got pregnant with David. We were very busy with our family business and frankly, I forgot about the ritual. After the baby was born, when Nancy was almost three, Nancy had some issues typical of a "middle" child. Then her sister, now almost 7 years old, resurrected the candle ritual with a box of birthday cake candles we had on hand. How amazing it was to see the impact it had on Nancy, but also to understand the impact it had on Brenda, enough that she empathized with her sister, and was able to remember the exact same thing that had helped her when she struggled with the same issue.
I love your posts, Aimee. Can't wait til the next one!!
I am very grateful to have a sister in my life. Of course we fought sometimes growing up, but we knew we could count on one another too. We especially leaned on one another through my parents' divorce. As the younger one, she always lead the way, so I had a better idea what was coming up- in high school, college, with her wedding, and now with her two kids. With my mom in really poor health now, it's really comforting to know that neither one of us has to deal with our parents' inevitable decline alone.ReplyDelete
I think the big thing about having a sibling is what Jenni said, having someone who understands where you come from and the crazy that is your family. Even if my kids don't get along later in life (though I hope they do) they will always understand each other like no one else can.ReplyDelete
Also, " succumb to babysitters"? I though one succumbed to cholera or the Dark Hordes of Mordor. I didn't realize having someone watch your kid(s) for a little while was so dastardly ;)
Just finished reading your most recent post and I am "weepy" myself! I am not pregnant with my 2nd, but I have thought all of the things you wrote while sifting through your emotions about the impending birth of your second child. Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts. I look forward to reading more.Lots of people say to me "the fact that you are even thinking/worrying about all these things means you are a wonderful parent". I am thinking of you and wishing you and your family all the best.ReplyDelete
Kristi Templeton Clark
Thank you all for your wonderful comments. And Julie, you know I have nothing against babysitters in theory. We can't really afford them and we choose to do this as much on our own as we can. But no judgements on anyone else's choices! We may do things totally differently and have a babysitter every day when #2 is here, we'll see, I am totally not ruling it out.ReplyDelete
For what it's worth, now that newbie is here, I just want to tell you that I cannot imagine what it would have been like growing up without my older sister Elena. They're going to be best friends for life :)ReplyDelete