In which I reflect on life as a parent-to-be.
There are some things, I can say with certainty, that you cannot know until you are a parent. This is a certainty that I don’t share very often, because a) it can come off as arrogant, and b) since you can’t know them until you become a parent, telling people is useless at best. These are not things like the overwhelming enormity of loving my children. This is the only place that I have felt that emotion, but I would never claim that others could not have that experience in other ways. No. The experiences I’m getting at are the basis of the destruction of all the little assumptions we make about how we will parent our children. The premise is that we are the only side of the equation. This (and I’ve only ever seen it learned through parenting) is a false premise. The truth is, our kid’s temperament, personality, and health shape how we parent as much as our own temperaments, personalities, health and baggage.
Many parents-to-be get that this is true, at least on a basic level, but I’ve never seen anyone who really understood it until they had a kid. I remember thinking it’ll be fine, I’ll be flexible! I had no idea how flexible I would be, how hard it would be, and how effortlessly I would be able to reexamine the essentials and adapt. I didn’t know how essential it would be to have a community of new parents to share those experiences with, both to give me permission to let the baby cry for five minutes while I ate a tub of ice cream, and to support in their need to drink a glass of wine on the kitchen floor.
I recently read a social media post from a friend about bedtimes. She’s pregnant with her first and has provided significant help raising a child. The take-home was that the way the older child was raised resulted in a child who has never fought bedtime. I mulled a response for a long time. Some kids are just easier with sleep, don’t expect yours to be! Or some variant thereof. Then I started thinking about it. She’s got a good heart. She’s got a good brain. She will figure out what works for her and her baby and what doesn’t. And if she comes looking for support and commiseration that her baby just won’t sleep unless she’s on my chest with one hand under her butt and the other on her ear while I’m standing in the bathroom under the fan? I’ll be here to listen and nod. And maybe take her a chocolate cake.
Recently, Darwin has been using a lot of all our nothing language. Things like:
“I’m going to eat it all up! The whole bowl!”
Meaning the entire meal – not just what is on her plate. This does not come to pass, fortunately for the rest of the family, who would also like to eat. But this is all to say that Darwin is exploring limits of possibility rather than just limits of mamas.
She has also been effusive in her descriptions about love. Several times per day we’ll hear:
“I love both my mamas sooooo much! And Linnea and the kitties and Scouty dog…”
It can go on and on. Leah got it for the entire car ride home today.
Inevitably, tonight, it happened.
“I love the whole world. I just love everybody.”
That’s what I call a successful day’s work.
She really is as cute and charming as these photos indicate.
Our church set up a summer toddler play group this year for a couple of weeks. Attendance for the second week was too low, so it’s just going ahead this week, which is great since Leah has this class she’s reworking and really needs some time this week. Darwin is proving that she is both a) ready to start preschool, and b) almost three.
Ready for preschool: Yesterday we were talking about it and she said “You’re going to take me and drop me off, right Mama? Then you’re going to go to work?” I told her yes, and she was very excited about the prospect of her own space. For a kid who has clung to me like a limpet, panicked at the thought of me being out of the house for more than a moment, this feels like this huge development, and gives me a clear view to a day when I can see Darwin having fun and living her own life, in which I am no longer the leading role. I feel terribly proud.
Three came later: When I picked her up, she had the most intense, loud, extended tantrum she’s had to date about getting into her car seat. It took me ten minutes to wrestle her into the seat (the first 5 were gently trying to work through, the last five were the actually wrestling while trying to keep my cool and validate her feelings…), and she proceeded to scream the entire way to my mother’s house where I had to pick up Linnea, then the entire way home. The problem? “I don’t WANT to be in my car seat!” The bigger problem? She’s getting too strong for me to successfully wrestle her into the seat. It took quite a bit of doing. I keep telling myself that persistence is hard now, but will serve her when the great climate apocalypse is upon us.
The playgroup itself was lovely. Darwin got to spend the morning with our swap family friends (swap is currently on hiatus/done? based on need/schedules/energy) and she was quite pleased with the day. They played outside, they did a craft where they made paper birds with their hand prints, and they played with toys. Darwin even ate a good snack! She was also worn out, but did not nap, and thankfully was asleep by 8 this evening. I was really resistant to dropping naps, but if current trends hold, it may be my favorite decision this year.
Hard as it is to believe, our little Bee is 12 months old. It is fascinating to watch her shifting farther from babyhood and into wobbler/toddlerhood. We’re all amazed that she’s not committed to walking yet, but she crawls so fast and furious in all directions at once, it seems she finds the idea of walking to be slowing her down too much. But now she speaks and engages in the world around her in increasingly autonomous ways. Here’s what 12 months looks like with this funny kid.
1) Tickles. She tickles her feet, saying “ticku-ticku”. She tickles us. She makes us tickle her. And when she really gets tickled, she shrieks and laughs almost to the point of tears. She loves to be tickled.
2) Shoes. Linnea will spend significant amounts of time pulling every shoe off of our shoe rack and piling them meticulously on the floor in front of the entry door. It is one of her very favorite quiet games.
3) Baths. Thankfully, she likes baths as much as, if not more than, her sister. If Darwin asks for an alone bath, Linnea will stand at the gate and shriek in angry howls while rattling the bolts with all her might. W try to find other fun things when this happens.
4) Food. Linnea is not a picky eater, but is instead voracious. She is less forgiving than her sister has been about missed our late meals. Favorites include strawberries, yogurt, pasta, and blueberries. There is very little she just won’t eat.5) Lovies. In the last week or two, Linnea has discovered lovies. She sees a stuffed toy and reaches for it, arms wide, pulls it to her chest and sways in delight. She was doing this worth a bath towel tonight. It was adorable.
6) Words. Suddenly, out of the blue, she has a legitimate vocabulary. The most recent addition is “chicken,” complete with bok bok. She also rattles off ‘go out’ constantly. Outside is the preferred location nearly all the time now.
7) Climbing. She does. I can see the future and it includes being grateful for good insurance.
8) Books. Current favorites include all books with silly finger puppets in the middle. She grins the most and biggest at Itsy Bitsy Spider.
9) Hugs. She gets them. Now she gives them. Hugs may be my favorite milestone after smiles. Linnea clings and holds on like a little monkey baby. I love it.
10) Bubbles. There is nothing in the world this kid loves more than bubbles. Except food. And Leah. I am pretty sure she currently loves bubbles more than me and in ok with that because who doesn’t want to see their kid that happy?
11) Playground. Swings, slide, teeter-toter. Darwin is becoming more adventurous because of Linnea. Linnea already goes down the slide on her own, and now so does big sister!
12) Clothes. 18-24 month clothes. The girls will be sharing a wardrobe soon. This little one is solid and active and ready to take on the world.
The turning over of a year always brings with it retrospection for me. Today, we turn over a year as a family of four, a first year of siblings, a full year of parenting two. Which, in case you were wondering, is increasingly different from parenting one. When the little sibling realizes that she actually wants the toy that big sibling is in the act of boggarting, for example.
Being a square feels easier to me than being a triangle did, in most ways. Both being gestational parents now, we’ve shared an experience of growing and birthing and nursing babies. Both being non gestational parents, we each understand the difference of how we relate to a baby we didn’t carry. For us, at this point, it is definitely different, without value judgement. Linnea wants Leah at bedtime. Darwin wants me. My methods for calming and connecting with Linnea are very different from those I used with Darwin at the same age. Part of that is that I don’t nurse Linnea, and part is simply their personalities.
These kids are night and day about a lot of things. Darwin wasn’t a small baby, but Linnea has at least two pounds on her sister at the same age. Darwin has always been a picky eater, where Linnea eats more than her sister now. I think part of that is because Linnea is incredibly active and needs fuel. Darwin would sit for 30 or so minutes at this age and work through a pile of books. Linnea laughs more. Darwin talked more. They have both been wide eyed, taking in the world from the very beginning.
This year of two has been amazing and wonderful. I find myself hoping we can do it again, but there is no direction on that front currently. For now, I’m going to sit back and soak up these kids.