The silence is almost palpable. My daughter is napping and my son is at kindergarten for his first full day.
In typical Murphy’s law predictability, my son stopped napping the month after his sister was born. If you’ve ever taken care of young ones, you know that naps are golden. When all the children in the house are napping there may be time for Momma to put her feet up, which is precious in the early months of four to five hours of sleep a night. When someone doesn’t nap, Momma is on duty from 5:30 a.m. (in my case) until 8:30 p.m. with no lunch, bathroom or sanity break. (Oh wait! I was on duty all night too!)
In those early, early months of being a mother of two, I would sometimes look ahead and count up the years and months until my son would head to kindergarten. Days that felt like weeks and hours that felt like days were often wrapped up in a big ball of guilt because I wasn’t enjoying every second of motherhood. It goes without saying that I love my children fiercely, but most days a break would have made stay-at-home motherhood a lot easier.
The finish line of having two young ones at home is here and I have mixed feelings. Part of my boy is still that tiny baby who I rocked for hours and sang a million verses of “You Are My Sunshine” to; the little boy who would burrow his tiny face into my chest and smile big cheeky grins as we played in the sunbeam on the carpet.
He was my initiation into parenthood. He put up with my mistakes, shrugged them off and loved me intensely anyways.
Since I’m a teacher, people have asked me if I will home school. My son is so blatantly, obviously ready for kindergarten that the thought of home schooling him just seems wrong. He’s got one foot out the door and to slam it would be to shut down this whole natural rhythm of letting go.
When his sister and I waited with him for his teacher to open the classroom door today, he was full of nervous excitement. His favourite stuffie was tucked into the new Superman lunch kit, the little doggie face peeking out to give my son the boost of courage he needed. There were no tears, from him or I. I felt a little choked up. The day was so BIG.
The bell rang and he ran into line with the other kids without looking back. I turned to strap my daughter into her stroller and suddenly felt a leg-crushing hug from behind. “I just needed one more hug, Momma.” So did I little bud. So did I.
I squeezed my hands into yellow rubber gloves and headed for the toilet. Glamorous.
After leaving this gruesome chore for far too many
weeks months, I shut myself in the basement bathroom and told the kids I wasn’t coming out until it was clean.
I avoid rubber gloves, raw meat and cleaning toilets. The minute my hands are inaccessible is the exact moment that my children need me. (You know, Murphy’s Law again.)
In the newborn years and especially in the newborn-AND-a-toddler years, time is of the essence.
In the newborn-AND-a-toddler years, Momma is always watching. Always on high alert. Ready to jump up and fly across the room to catch a falling child, grab an angry kid-hand before it strikes, catch a falling plate of spaghetti or grab a cup of milk before it splashes all over the kitchen.
Society scoffs at helicopter parents. We judge them and think, “Ha…they should be giving their kids more space.” and “How are their children ever going be independent?”
It’s a different story when the kids are tiny and you are the one responsible all day long, all night long and all week long.
The moment a new momma is handed her first baby she is responsible. The feeding, sleeping, safety, emotional well-being and intellectual development of a teeny tiny person are her responsibility. Hopefully Dad is there to help but Mom is usually the one bearing the emotional weight of it around the clock.
When my son was born the heaviness of the responsibility hit me full-on. I would tell myself “Women do this all the time all over the world. Suck it up. You’re the mother now. Relax.” When my daughter came along I revved up into an even higher gear, this time bouncing back and forth between the two like a ping-pong ball, trying (often failing) to meet their pressing needs simultaneously.
When my arms were elbow-deep in the toilet this morning, I realized something.
The kids called: “Momma, can you please get me a snack?” “Mommy, find my soother!” I kept saying, “You can do it! I’ll help you in a second!” After a few minutes of this, they stopped asking. It got very, very quiet. I peeked out of the bathroom.
My 2-year-old daughter was helping my 5-year-old son do up the zipper on his Superman costume.
My son found his own shiny red cape and velcro belt in the costume basket.
My daughter dug around under the blanket and popped her own soother in her mouth.
My son was at the sink, washing strawberries and cutting off the green parts with a kitchen knife for his little sister.
They were just fine. They were a little more independent than they had been the day before.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the day to day-ness of parenting that I don’t notice when things shift a little. Difficult behaviours or patterns that drive me crazy for weeks or months mysteriously disappear overnight and replace themselves with something new.
The changes come a bit at a time, maybe even when I’m just cleaning the bathroom.
*This story was first posted on The Purple Fig.
I still remember that hazy, summer Prairie smell that you don’t know unless you’ve lived it; a mix of gravel-road dust, ripening barley and canola, lush poplar leaves and the sun baking everything together.
Our farm was a kid’s paradise. My mom and dad planted each little stick of a tree before I was born. By the time I was a little girl there were row upon row of willows and spruce joined by vast expanses of soft grass.
The summer I was six we built a deck on the back of our house. The builder left a space open to crawl underneath, the best hiding spot ever for a couple of kids on summer break. The lush grass was our carpet and we shimmied ourselves under the fresh boards to play, our dog Rosie following us in to see what all the fuss was about. We’d look for dropped nails in the grass, triumphantly holding up the ones that could be saved for fixing our tree forts. Usually a cat would wander under the deck too, sliding up and cuddling in, grateful for the company down at her own level.
My Barbie pyjamas and my brother’s Star Wars ones had permanent grass stains melded into the knees that summer.
As the shadows got longer and bedtime approached we’d blend into the yard and not create too much of a fuss so my mom would “forget” we were still awake. Sneaking into the garden to crack open fresh pea pods and graze through the raspberry bushes was the perfect bedtime snack. That summer and the ones around it are the ones I remember as cementing my relationship with my brother. We fought like the wild kittens that hid in the wood pile but we were usually buddies when no one was watching.
My daughter is barely two but I can already see an us-against-the-world attitude forming between my children. “Come on, little baby sister! Let’s run in the sprinkler!” or “Where’d my big bruver go?” The sibling rivalry is here too…the fights, the screaming and yelling over the same toy. The pulling and pushing and hurting that are all a part of it; practice sessions for the school playground when I’m not there to jump in and rescue.
It’s a whole new perspective, being the parent and not the kid; the one enforcing the rules instead of the one pushing against them. The haziness of summer blurs the line a little between parent and child. The sprinklers are on and faces are sticky with ice cream as the warm sun drifts down and the clock ticks past bedtime.
I don’t know which summer moments will stick in my children’s memories. I’m blessed to watch their own stories unfold, as mine did years ago under the deck in the soft grass.
My blog has been quiet. My son finished preschool last week so I have two very constant, very busy companions with me all the time. Funny how just nine hours a week of preschool gave me a slight amount of sanity. 😉
The good news is that my kiddies are suddenly realizing that they have a constant companion and a built-in buddy who is always ready to play. I’ve found myself actually watching from the sidelines a few times, enjoying being the observer instead of the referee (for a few minutes, anyway).
I didn’t really get what a sibling would do for my son. It’s only now, that my daughter is two, that I am seeing the life-altering impact of siblings, the way they carve and shape each other’s personalities. Another post for another day.
“I love you, Mommy.”
Tiny, silky-smooth arms grasp my neck, pulling me closer so we are cheek to cheek.
The early morning sun splashing on our faces as the coffee gurgles and steams and milk pours into an orange plastic sippy cup.
This deepening, mother-daughter love that
overwhelms and calms
amazes and exhausts
This love is two years new.
I forgot my camera today.
I watched two sets of chubby little-kid hands thrust out to get stamped by the lady at the petting zoo admission desk.
I stretched back into the cool grass beside my daughter and marvelled at four nests full of squabbling herons.
I forgot my camera today.
I heard my son’s giggles as he flung broken fish crackers and Baby Mum-Mums into the beaks of greedy ducks because we forgot the duck food.
I played hide and seek behind majestic trees, laughing because my little boy had his bright red hat on the whole time and was so easy to find.
I forgot my camera today.
I saw my daughter’s delight as she brushed old goats, pet baby mice and laughed at squirming piglets.
I smiled as my son argued with another five-year old; both trying to be captain of the playground ship.
I forgot my camera today.
I laughed and laughed when my tiny daughter repeated “doggie poop! doggie poop!” over and over.
I watched my two babies crouch together beside a pond, my son reaching into the murky waters to pass his sister a feather.
My boy and my girl and their two little backs, little arms, side by side, best buds in this fleeting moment.
I forgot my camera today.
- A Murder Of Crows. (flyingonemptythoughts.wordpress.com)
- Weekly photo challenge : fleeting (timetobeinspired.ca)
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting (thepanamaadventure.com)
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting (momentsinyourlife.wordpress.com)
- Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Fleeting (woollymuses.wordpress.com)
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting (livonne.com.au)
My baby girl is approaching two. Her favourite stuffie is her “Dollo.” Dollo was a baby gift from a dear family friend. My daughter attached to Dollo quickly.
On Facebook the other day a friend of mine was lamenting the fact that her three-year-old son was still very attached to a special blanket. She was pleased that her son could sleep in his own bed and use the potty. I think she saw the removal of the blanket as the next box that needed checking off in her son’s life.
I slept with my special blanket until I was sixteen. I still know exactly where it is: in a bag, in a box in my parents’ basement. I can still smell it and feel its worn softness against my cheek. It was my constant companion and comforter against scary monsters and sleepless dark nights.
The fact that my daughter has her own special stuffie doesn’t surprise me. If you look closely at the right side of the picture you can see Dollo’s tag sticking out. My daughter strokes that tag over and over as she falls asleep. As I rock her I can tell she is nearing sleep when her tiny fingers slow, pause then finally stop, in their daily ritual.
It was a warm, rainy day. The children were restless in the house. They’d played with toys, watched a show on TV, played with Playdoh and eaten countless snacks. They started chasing each other around and around the circle on our main floor and I knew it was time to get outside. After little A’s nap we bundled up in heavy-duty rain coats and headed out.
My daughter loves worms, and calls them “nerms,” which is adorable. When she finds one, she picks it up in her bare hands, runs to me, holds it up and proudly announces “Nerm! Mommy! Nerm!”
Her big brother had the idea to put them in the back of a plastic truck, and a new game was born. Soon, they each had a truck and were racing around our cul-de-sac seeing who could find the biggest worm, the smallest worm, the wiggliest worm, and on and on.
I love giving children the space and time to come up with their own games. It’s tempting to sign them up for more classes to fill our (sometimes long and arduous) days but moments like this make me grateful that I am at home with them for these very short years.
I’m not giving anything up by staying home. I’m gaining so, so much.
My poor, poor daughter gets so many pitying looks from first-time mommas.
The way I parent her is a million times different from the way I parented my son when he was her age.
I haul her around in a hand-me-down, slightly stained blue umbrella stroller. Her brother glided around in a deluxe designer stroller. I, like many first-time moms, gave in and bought the fancy-schmancy ride for my son. Yes, it’s great, but nope, it’s not so great while also managing a preschooler who never stops moving. With two kids in the family, it is rare to have one free hand, let alone two. I need a stroller I can pick up with my pinkie and throw in the trunk, completely assembled.
I had my daughter in the fancy stroller the other day (while scrounging for cheap toys and funky sweaters at Value Village) and a young mom sidled up to me and asked casually, “So, how do you like the Peg?” It took me a few minutes to realize she was talking about the stroller. I guess my children are getting older because I no longer recognize new-mommy-stroller-lingo. 😉
My daughter is often completely neglected at the park. A few months ago I took the kiddies to the playground near our house. As we pulled up, I let them loose from the constraints of stroller (my daughter) and bike helmet (my son). I always feel like yelling, “Release the hounds!” as they run wildly to whatever catches their fancy at our new child-proof neighbourhood park.
Anyways, on this particular afternoon there was only one other child there, a little boy close in age to my daughter (about 18 months at the time). He was accompanied by both of his parents and was obviously their first and only child. The little guy couldn’t take a step without some sort of comment of encouragement from both parents. At every trip or stumble they both jumped to attention. It was sort of cute, for the first few minutes.*
I was busy helping my son strap into a safety swing for 5-10 year olds (?) way across the park and had half an eye on my daughter. I saw her move towards a ladder that led to a medium-sized slide. The look on the other parents’ faces as my daughter climbed up and went down that slide alone was total shock.** She survived. Now, a few months older, she proudly announces, “I did it!” when she lands at the bottom without falling.
My daughter is continually harassed by her five-year-old brother. The other day it was raining and he was bored. I gave him an old diaper box to do something with. He made a “toddler trap,” complete with bait (a soother and a cookie) and chased his poor sister around, trying to drop it on her head.
Interestingly enough, I’m noticing many, many benefits to her being (slightly) neglected. My daughter is fiercely independent. She can say “no!” in a loud, confident voice over and over; a trait that I hope will come in handy when she is a teenager.
She can entertain herself for ages “reading” stacks and stacks of books and magazines.
She finds and gets what she needs by hauling around a kitchen chair or old plastic stool.
But most important of all, she has a built-in hero, confidant and ally in her older brother. A bit of “neglect,” a lot of independence and a best buddy for life.
*I was totally this mom when I only had one child.
**Just so you know I’m not a total slacker…I was running at warp-speed-that-feels-like-slow-motion and got there just as she landed on the soft mulch on the ground. By the way, why on earth do they use mulch at children’s parks? It’s like inviting children to play in a lumberyard and then being surprised when they get slivers.
What is different about the way you parent your second (or third or fourth) child?
I’ve had two children for a while but we are just becoming a two-kid family.
My son is 5 years old. My daughter is 21 months old. Up until this point, we’ve been a one-kid-and-a-baby family.
I always wanted two children. I grew up with one older brother and was pleased to replicate my childhood “million dollar family” with my own kids. I envisioned all the things we could do that would be fun with two. When I was pregnant with my daughter I was told, “Don’t worry, two is easier than one because they play together.” HA! For me, one child and a baby wasn’t easier. It wasn’t two times harder. It was ten times harder.
But suddenly, now that child number two is approaching the age of two, things are changing in subtle ways. It’s easier now.
I notice it while making breakfast: 2 cups of milk, 2 bowls of oatmeal, 2 spoons. No mushy baby cereal, no breastfeeding or bottles. The only difference is the tiny spoons for my daughter’s little bites. It’s easier now.
I realize it while packing for a morning out: two bananas, two water bottles, two handfuls of crackers in little cups. No nursing cover, no bottle warmer. No pureed carrots, bib, spoon and wash cloth stuffed in a too-big, trendy diaper bag. Just a few snacks, one diaper and a couple of wipes jammed in my purse. It’s easier now.
It hits me when one of my children is upset about something. In the early days I would get so frustrated when my babies would cry and cry and I couldn’t figure out what they needed. Now they tell me and I can help fix what’s wrong. It’s easier now.
I notice it when the kids play. The ring stacker and foam blocks collect dust in a bin on the toy shelf. After hundreds of stroller rides and chewing sessions, Sophie the Giraffe is forgotten at the bottom of the toy box. I’m used to having my son’s playmobil and lego spread around our house. I’m used to watching carefully to make sure my daughter isn’t eating it. Suddenly, there are two children playing with it, fighting over it. It’s easier now.
I see it in the morning. A few times a week I wake up and there is a little bit of daylight peeking through the curtains. I realize that no one needed me all night long. It’s easier now.
It really hits me at the park. “Come on, little sis!” my son urges. “I’ll hold your hand! Don’t fall! I’ve got you!” Two kids, playing together. It’s easier now.
Oh, we’ve still got some hold-outs. The diapers, soothers, fleece sleepers, rocking chair and crib will be around for a little while yet. I’m glad they don’t all leave at once. As the baby things exit the house, I silently say a little goodbye to each one. I remember the precious baby breaths and the marathon rocking sessions with little faces nestled into my neck. I think of all the ups and downs of our years knee-deep in babies.
Last weekend my husband and I both sat down on the couch at the same time while the children played together. Nobody needed us for a full ten minutes.
We’re a two-kid family. It’s easier now. It’s wild. It’s wonderful.