When you’re pregnant with your first, everyone tells you how much your life will change with a baby — and of course they’re right; it most certainly does. In ways we can expect (sleepless nights; your time isn’t your own until bedtime and then you just want to sleep anyway; you’ll never shower in peace again) — and ways we can’t truly grasp til your baby arrives (discovering love like you’ve never known; feeling like you’d throw yourself in front of a bus if it meant saving this little life).
For nearly three awesome years, our world had been centered around our sweet Maya and the little family we had built. Then I got pregnant with Ben and — as I’d expressed here — I knew another baby would shake things up and worried how I’d be able to not only love someone else as much as I loved Maya … but also give as much love and attention to her as I wanted.
All my friends with more than one child would tell me how two kids is really a game changer. I listened to them, but it really didn’t compute; I was still in one-child-mode. And then Ben was born and it was survival mode for those first few months. It didn’t really hit me until recently, when Ben got into a bit more of a predictable routine — and especially when I went back to work — just how much of a game-changer two kids is.
All of a sudden it was like two worlds were colliding. Ben and Maya have totally different needs and Luis and I have been tag-teaming as best we can … but I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy. Sometimes she will want me and ONLY me for something, and I just can’t deliver. Like yesterday, sweetly telling me, “Mommy I want you to come in my princess tent with me and we will listen to music together, OK?” right when Ben needed to nurse. Which means Daddy isn’t a viable option for her in that moment … which means I have redirect her/put her needs aside and focus on Ben, explaining that as soon as he eats, we can play.
Sometimes she’s a good sport about it but other times she looks completely crestfallen and mommy guilty goes into overdrive. The truth is I can’t always meet both their needs at the same time. Of course, she’s only three, so it’s understandable if she has a negative reaction to being second fiddle for a little bit right now.
Since Ben came into our lives, she hasn’t acted out a ton, aside from being sassier than usual and wanting to be carried sometimes, for example. And she hasn’t regressed with sleep or potty-training or anything, which I’d been warned about. I think what worked in our favor was Ben’s birth came at the time when she was getting fiercely independent and self-sufficient, taking deep pride in all her little accomplishments.
OK … let’s call a spade a spade: she thinks she’s hot stuff now. 😉 While she’s been mostly dressing herself for like two years, she even buttons and zips her own clothes now–a huge development (though sometimes it takes her foreeeever!). So I give her two outfit options in the morning and she gets herself ready for the most part. In addition loves to help me change, bathe and feed Ben — taking her role of Big Sister very seriously. She understands he can’t do things by himself, but she can. Which means she can afford to wait for me if she needs me for something, whereas Ben simply cannot. At four months old, he needs me when he needs me and that’s that. It’s forcing patience on Maya — not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make me feel bad when I can’t give her what she wants when she is used to having all of my attention.
And while we do plenty of things as a family, that isn’t the same as getting one-on-one time with each of us. So to compensate, we try to carve out special time for her. I took her to see Frozen last week, for example — her first movie. She loved it (as did I) and I think what she most loved was that it was just us. Today I took her for some errands, just girl-time. She brought her purse (of course) and felt all grown up. We had chat time in the car (without a crying baby) and it was really sweet. And Luis has taken her for ice cream and since she loves some of Daddy’s favorite stores, she has become his little shopping buddy at places like Sam’s Club and Menard’s (a midwestern Home Depot/Lowe’s). As Ben gets older, we’ll need to do this with him, too — just to give each child a little one-on-one time with each parent separate from our (very-valued) family time.
That’s honestly been the hardest part of this transition to a family of four: giving Maya that special time she so very much needs. For nearly three years, she had our undivided attention. We’re just happy she hasn’t lashed out at him or exhibited any real jealousy towards Ben – because that very well could have happened; even the most mild-mannered child can have his/her buttons pushed.
And so we have a “new normal” now. It surely isn’t perfect and it’s far from a well-oiled machine. It’s messy and some days I feel like a total failure — like last Thursday, when Maya was being a little miss sassafras and ended up in two time outs that evening and Ben was fussy so I barely got to see her and the time I did get with her wasn’t the best … But we do the best we can and try to make the next day smoother, better. There really is a learning curve to this parenting business but when I see the mutual love and adoration in my children’s eyes, it makes it all worth it. Ben stares at her in complete awe and Maya looks at him like he’s her baby doll … and I melt.
Having a second child is a game changer, to be sure … but it’s a game I would play for eternity; I couldn’t love him more.