What will I remember in the long run when I think back on my first year as a mother of two?
I wonder if I’ll remember the nap schedules I have meticulously planned life around (I doubt it), or the silky soft baby thighs that jiggle like under-set Jello (I hope so). Or the countless times I’ve joked that I need a black and white striped referee’s uniform and the word, “GENTLE” tattooed across my forehead, as I’ve all but ground down molars watching my older son eagerly explore big brother terrain.
I wonder if I’ll be able to vividly recall the frail, nauseating, mind-bending pain of rock bottom sleep deprivation. Or if I’ll just laugh and brush off those “sleepless nights” as something I vaguely remember, or even merely assume that we went through (because every parent does, right?), when I think back years from now.
Perhaps I’ll have trouble recalling what exactly it was we did with all the hours in the days we had together, me on my own with a baby and a toddler. The 80 pounds of double stroller and kids I pushed up and down hills, to parks and the library and Starbucks. The hundreds of times my older son made the younger one laugh…and cry…and everything in between.
Will I remember the precise strategy involved in a trip to the grocery store with two kids? The careful order in which I unbuckled each car seat and somehow maneuvered myself, two little humans and a shopping cart safely in and out of stores, elevators and parking lots with the nuance of navigating a corn maze? I’m sure I’ll never remember details like that. I’ll just lump it all together as a “busy time.”
Will I be too hard on myself and feel guilty for the missed opportunities to “be present” with my kids? Will I wish I ignored dirty dishes more often to slam little cars together on the floor with my preschooler when he asked me to? Probably. Will I wish I more fully embraced nursing the second time around, instead of counting the days until I never had to lug around a breast pump or be awoken from the discomfort of engorgement ever again? I’m sure hindsight perspective will be 20/20.
I wonder if I’ll close my eyes and be able to picture Jude’s wispy “clown hair,” as I call it, and the pink rough patches of eczema that persistently marked his little cheeks that first year. They’ve become endearing to me now.
Will I one day break into laughter when I remember, for the first time in years, how I once said that Jude’s crazy hair and sparsely gapped teeth as a baby caused him to somewhat resemble Sloth, the chained, monstrous-looking brother from The Goonies?
I hope I am never delusional enough to pretend this year was photo-worthy or pulled together all – or even much of – the time. Much of it was spent simply feeling spent. Tired. SO. TIRED. Unbalanced, frazzled with responsibilities and people and things to tend to and please. Used pumping parts sat unwashed on the bathroom counter sometimes for days, until I felt like I could catch my breath and stand still for the 90 seconds it took to wash them.
Emails and bills piled up by the dozens, my hair was rarely worn down or styled in between my bi-monthly hair appointments. I let Anderson watch way too much TV that first summer I had both kids at home, and eat far too few vegetables.
I was consistently imperfect, and I always had a constantly-growing list of goals and “growth opportunities” turning over and over in my mind. It was relentless – the striving for balance, the longing for acceptance of the present moment, the uncomfortable urge to propel time forward and move past whatever hard thing at the time felt like a weight holding me down.
I hope I remember that I was a good mom.
I hope I remember how some of the sweetest moments of my life were reading my kids bedtime stories when they were young. Or smelling their hair after a bath. Or bundling them up and strapping them in side-by-side in their orange double stroller on one of our many neighborhood walks.
I hope I remember how Anderson proudly ran to his brother waiting in his stroller in the hallway each day at preschool pick-up, and how, as the older brother, he embraced the nicknames “Judy” and “Jude Bug” more proudly and enthusiastically than any of us – practically singing them each time his brother re-entered his line of sight.
This past year I learned how to be a mom to two entirely different people. Edit that – I’m still learning and probably always will be. I’m reliving what it’s like to parent a baby, while continuing to celebrate – and survive- all the “firsts” my 3-year-old hurls my way. I would, hypothetically, find myself pausing to enjoy the confidence that comes with parenting a second time around, but I’m too busy to bask. I’m too tired. I give Google fewer anxiety-ridden questions at 2 a.m., but it’s a trade-off for having two mouths to feed, two schedules to juggle, two young minds to engage and entertain for all our waking hours.
This has been the year of potty-training, big boy beds, temper tantrums…sleep coaches, nursing issues and learning how to be the mother of siblings. I feel like I’m a more polished and prepared parent in some ways, a more spread thin and rundown one in others.
It’s a “new normal” I tell people, adding a second child to the family. The first six months I often felt like I was underwater – utterly floored by the disorienting, head-spinning busy-ness that comes with adding a new baby to the mix. The second half of the year I started to find my footing again. We got through the worst of the sleep stuff, our older son turned three and became more independent, we established a bedtime for the baby and got our evenings back as a couple. After months of what felt like holding our breath and keeping afloat, we finally began to exhale.
One of the truest things I’ve ever heard about parenting is that while the days can pass by so slowly, the years fly by fast.
Happy Birthday, Jude.
And happy one-year anniversary of “the new normal” to the rest of our family.
Remind me to toast to that.