Friday, 31 May 2013

The Problem with Having Two

We're all sitting on the bed in my three-year-old's room. She's sitting in my lap and I'm reading her a bedtime story. Meanwhile, the baby is grabbing my arm, pulling her sister's hair, trying to crawl in my lap...basically, doing whatever she can to get my attention. As I'm reading, I mentally calculate how many minutes it will take to finish the book versus how long it will be before the baby totally loses it. This is how it usually goes at bedtime.

As soon as my firstborn turned one, I started thinking about No. 2. I felt the nostalgia that many moms feel when their little ones begin to seem less like rosy-checked babies and more like headstrong toddlers—the "I-don't-have-a-baby-anymore!" syndrome.

Eventually, we started trying for another baby, and I was knocked up in about five minutes. Perfect! Everything was going according to plan. But when I was further down the pregnancy road, I started to feel anxious. 

I worried that I wouldn't love my second child as much as I love my first. I worried that the new baby would take up all of my cherished time with my older child. And I worried about the life change that going from one child to two would entail.

The love one—well, that was just silly. I loved my second baby instantly, the moment I laid eyes on her. But the last two were legitimate concerns.

The problem with having two kids is that there's never enough time. Being close in age, they're in constant competition for my attention. They're both still very needy, and those needs often collide. I worry sometimes that I'm shortchanging one of them; that I'm not showering equal love and attention on them both.

This is how women drive themselves crazy: thinking they have to be all things to all of their children, all of the time. Some women voluntarily walk the path to martyrdom—"You don't know how to hold her!" "He'll only go to sleep if I rock him!"—but it's not for me.

My husband is perfectly capable of putting the baby to bed while I finish reading the book to my eldest. It doesn't mean that I love one of my children more than the other; it just means that my husband and I both have a role to play in parenting.

And whether I'm singing silly songs with my eldest or stroking my little one's back as she drifts off to sleep, I know they can feel it: how very much I love them. Both of them.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Five Good Reasons to Have Kids

I make my husband read all of my blog posts—because that's part of his job, right? But after he read the last one, he commented, "You're always talking about how your kids drive you crazy."

"Well, that's because they DO!" I replied, a tad defensively. But it got me thinking that perhaps he has a point.

So today, I'm going to put aside the diapers and the daily frustrations, and focus instead on five positives of motherhood:

1.  The moment of birth - When you've gone through the hell of labour, your reward is the first instant that you get to see and hold your beautiful tiny newborn. If your experience is like mine, you'll feel an overwhelming rush of love and gratitude that's unlike anything you'll ever experience again. (At least, until the baby starts screaming and you have no idea how to stop it. Then the panic sets in.)

2. The best naps you'll ever have - When I think back on both of my maternity leaves, what I remember most clearly is the naps. Oh, the naps! Long cozy naps in the middle of the afternoon, feeling the baby's warm even breath on my neck as she snuggles up close, listening to my there anything more lovely? Sure, babies keep you up half the night, but those afternoon naps almost make it worth it. Almost.

3. Living their accomplishments - This one starts as soon as your baby learns something simple—maybe how to sit up or crawl or hold a toy—and continues throughout your child's life. My 10-month-old, who can now crawl and pull herself up and climb stairs, is very proud of herself, and so am I. And I can't believe that my eldest—so recently a baby herself—is now such a capable little human being. One day, I hope, they'll both be graduating university, getting married, maybe having children of their own.... Watching your children reach milestones and have life experiences is a wonderful feeling, because you know that you had a hand in it.

4. The adorable things they say - As soon as my eldest started to talk, she went from three words to about three hundred. And three is a lovely age for language: now that she's able to express more than simple needs, the stories and songs she comes up with are so creative and imaginative.

5. Experiencing simple joys - Having kids gives you a reason to be a kid again yourself: to run through a sprinkler, or make a sandcastle, or get dirty for no reason. And you should see how excited my eldest gets about going to Tim Horton's or getting frozen yoghurt. When was the last time you got that excited about something so mundane? Wouldn't life be just a little better if you did?

Of course, the No. 1 reason to have kids—the one so obvious that it doesn't even make the list—is that it's the greatest love you'll ever know. And that's what really makes it all worthwhile.


Monday, 27 May 2013

Going to Extremes

Of the many things I didn't really understand before I had kids, top of the list is the range of emotions that I would feel within a single day...even within a single hour. I love my kids, I really do, but they also drive me crazy on a near-constant basis.

Yesterday, my husband spent several hours putting together a shoe cabinet that we'd bought to try to de-clutter the front hallway. Then we decided to go out and do some errands in the small window between the baby's nap and the crabbiness that inevitably arises if we miss lunchtime.

My husband and I were upstairs getting the baby and ourselves dressed; my three-year-old was downstairs putting her shoes on. "Don't touch the shoe cabinet!" my husband yelled down the stairs. "I haven't anchored it to the wall yet; it's not safe!" But we all know that three-year-olds aren't particularly good at following directions...

There was a loud crash, followed by an even louder scream. 

All parents know that scream: the one pitched an octave higher, filled with genuine fear. The one that makes your blood run cold and the hair stand up on the back of your neck. The one that makes you drop whatever you're doing and RUN.

When we got downstairs, we saw that she had pulled the cabinet down on top of her and was pinned underneath it.

Fortunately, aside from a couple of bruises, she wasn't hurt. But we were all a little shaken. I found myself pulling her close to me, cuddling her, kissing the top of her head. Thinking, My god, what if she had been seriously hurt? What if something really bad happened to her...what would I do?

That lasted for a couple of hours.

But by the end of the day—after hearing "No!" and "I don't want to!" for the thousandth time; after she swatted me for telling her to sit and eat her dinner, and I gave her a timeout; after she screamed and cried so hard about it that she almost made herself sick—I was done again. Out of patience. I wanted nothing more than to get out of there; to leave my screaming, needy children behind for someone else to deal with.

My love for my children is simple but profound: I can't think of a single thing that I wouldn't do for them, and I can't imagine my life without them. But it's hard to reconcile the depth of my love with the depth of my frustration.

Does every parent feel this way? I hope so. At least if my kids do drive me off the deep end, I'll be in good company.