When someone’s words can make you laugh deep from within the belly, cry tears you didn’t think you had, and thrill you when those words are directed at you – you know you’ve found a writer who speaks to you.
Julie C. Gardner of By Any Other Name is one such writer. I go to her blog, never leaving disappointed, only wanting more. I go back and read her reply to my comment (and she never fails to reply), and go away, wishing Julie would just move next door to me so we could sit down and talk.
Julie aptly wraps up my week of guest posts about dealing with the arrival of a second child. After all, she inspired it. Please sit back and soak up her words.
Thank you, Julie. For everything. xo
From across a messy table set for brunch, my husband and I watched our seventeen-month-old son pump his legs in a wooden highchair and suck on triangles of toast. He clattered a spoon against the cup of milk we’d brought “in case.”
As parents of a baby, Bill and I did not venture often into the land of cloth napkins and breakable dishes. I do not remember what we’d set out to celebrate that day. But over a three-egg omelet and seeded bagel I counted backward through the month. And then I knew.
Jack’s baby sister arrived three weeks after his second birthday.
I’m not generally a worrier but I’ll admit creating two kids within the span of two years unspooled anxious threads in my brain and – more immediately – my heart.
Here is what had me unraveled:
Overnight, Jack became my big boy. No longer the sole occupier of our undivided attention, he had to share my lap, our toys, his space. We told him gentle and be careful; he splashed less in the tub. Jack surrendered his crib and his high chair; observed from a booster seat as I fed the new baby. Instead of nursing in my arms, he put pieces of grilled cheese sandwich into his mouth to chew.
Did he think he was no longer a priority? Would he believe she was an interloper come between us? I feared the halving of attention wasn’t fair.
And she. My Karly, birdlike and fragile, withstood wet kisses – too rough on her forehead – from a brother who wondered openly when she’d go “away.” If she dared to cry when he did, I calmed him first to pass his test. I relied on Karly’s patience, her willingness to let her brother choose the books, songs, snacks. He spoke for them both and to please him – to please us – she acquiesced.
Did she learn her needs were secondary? That she would never have the all-of-me he’d had? I feared the dearth of one-on-one time wasn’t fair.
When she found her words, the first one she spoke was Jack.
When he awakened each morning, he asked for Karly.
These were the threads that stitched me up:
Our daughter, at her birth, was held by parents who were not panicked by the newly born; who’d already traded in just the two of us for our family. We’d survived the upheaval of a first child; had stretched and accommodated, baby-proofed and settled. Instead of being greeted by ticking clocks and insecurity, Karly came home to relaxed chaos; to walls smudged with crayon and peanut butter.
And he. My son. His world became a whirlwind where noise and laughter increased exponentially; a place augmented by a constant playmate, a willing partner in crime. The house began to echo with the calls of another who understood his life’s station far better than we ever could. His sister alone shared the same childhood experiences and perspective; Jack’s view, like magic, from three feet off the ground.
I see now they were each other’s first friends, teaching lessons (about hate and love, about take and give) they’ll carry with them for a lifetime. Yes, there’s been mother-guilt; and also tears, frustration, uncertainty. I’ve been often overwhelmed because parenting – if you care to do it well – is very hard.
From across a busy restaurant set for dinner, my husband and I watch Jack and Karly sitting at their own table with friends. Separate from us, they howl with laughter and trade cell phones, sharing texts and status updates and fresh pictures.
As parents of teenagers, we do not venture often into the land of cloth napkins and breakable dishes. So tonight we make a toast: To having the time, health and foresight to embrace such independence; to charting our children’s growth and celebrating their joys. And over minestrone soup and crunchy bread I count backward through their memories. And I know.
They wouldn’t want it any other way.