And then there were two…..
I cannot believe how different it is being a parent of a second child versus the first time. It is so easy and it is so difficult. It is easy because you’ve been there and done that and tend to be more relaxed and you know that your child will not be feeding around the clock for the rest of your life! It is difficult because juggling both children is so damn hard.
I remember a moment, while pregnant, lying next to my daughter one night before she went to sleep thinking “How am I ever going to find enough space in my heart for more of the same kind of love I feel for you?” Yet, I have found it and it is also a huge amount and makes me want to be the BEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD (LOL!) So now, I don’t just have one one load of guilt but double the guilt!
A huge benefit is that I can correct what I did wrong… I am so sorry for my Jocelyn. She was a real pilot study and I would dearly love to redo some of her childhood! I was anxious, uptight, controlling and often angry and resentful aka first-time parent cross Type-A personality! I didn’t have that much patience and easily lost my cool. She hardly slept in the first year. Part of it was reflux and part of it I am sure is that she picked up on my emotional tension and turmoil. I was also the oldest child and I am conscious of the fact that a lot of my guilt around her experience as the first child is linked to my own experiences. I also know that she has had exactly the childhood and experiences that she was meant to have and I hope that I have played my part as mommy-of-first-child as well as I was able under the circumstances. A little aside about how being first born can shape personality – in my Masters Psychology class of 9 all of us were the first born. If we had not been the first born children, having to take on responsibility at a young age and all else that comes with that, we may well have not been sitting in that class.
Secondly, I know that this too shall pass for real. Yes, I may have said it a million times a day with Jocelyn but did I ever really believe it….. I think I hoped that if I said it frequently and emphatically enough it would come true immediately! I now know it is true and have found greater patience. I won’t lie – there have still been many moments of overwhelm and frustration but they have been fewer and often don’t last very long.
Thirdly, I have the opportunity to see my loving and caring 2 and half year old hugging her brother and telling people about her baby brother with a fierce pride. This is the biggest gift any mother could ask for and to have a pigeon pair is a true blessing! The other upside of having an older girl child is that she is by nature nurturing (I have heard many stories of friends’ boys hitting their baby siblings or shaking their cots whereas Jocelyn displaces her anger onto the pets while continuing to love her brother!) With that nurturing comes a desire to help me with everything baby brother related, including putting cream on his bottom!
Finally, the gift in having two is that I know I can’t break him! This really helps me to be more relaxed in much of what I do. Poor Tyler has been given many dummies that fell on the floor and were put straight back into his mouth without so much as a thought about cleaning them. My motto – it will help build his immune system! All that energy I wasted on Jocelyn on cleaning dummies, wiping things down, etc is now used for other purposes with Tyler, like being able to have a sense of humour this time around!
There are of course the downsides to having two – The biggest is that I can’t spend much time with Jocelyn because EVERYTHING right now is about Tyler. Yes, a pouch/sling helps a great deal and he gets dragged from swimming lessons to the park and up slides but I am not there 100% with her as I was before. Often I can’t be there at all and I seem to constantly be saying “I have to feed Tyler” or “I have to put Tyler to sleep” So the guilt is BIG.
HOWEVER, somewhere along the line with this whole process and now having two I have finally also started to shift that guilt. I have always been conscious that it had to do with my own childhood experiences/perceptions related to receiving attention. My mother had to work – it was just how it had to be- but I hated it. It would normally have been fine but there was a lot of political violence and trouble in Umtata at that time and I was anxious and needy and she was not always able to be there for me. Along with that I felt I had to look after my sister. Now I am conscious of this and I am also conscious of how it shapes my tendency to believe that I am not giving Jocelyn enough. But SHE IS NOT ME.
Today I went for a BodyTalk session and what should come up but the consciousness of regret I hold in relation to my children and related guilt because “I should have spent more time….etc” What also came up was bitterness and resentment. We don’t like to know this about ourselves as caregivers but of course there is also some resentment at times when we have to be there for our children yet we can barely find enough time to pat the dog and chat to our partner for five minutes. Fortunately, the fact that this has come up in BodyTalk means I am really finally shifting and letting it go. I can now start to live in a way where I am not letting my past unconsciously define my present actions and perceptions. I can allow my daugther to have her own experience instead of my experience. Furthermore, her experience doesn’t have to be tainted by my guilt and compensation for my past if I hold these in my awareness.
Another amazing aspect to the session was the idea of presence being not that length of time spent with Jocelyn but the quality of the time. Two minutes spent commenting on the squiggles she has drawn with such pride and care and really noticing them and acknowledging her is worth bucket loads more than the twenty minutes spent doing puzzles while simultaneously checking my phone and rocking Tyler. So that is what I do and HAVE been doing (so I am redeemed after all!) because it is always possible to find those two minute moments in every day that I share with my two children where I just make sure that she is the very centre of my very busy and full life! As for Tyler – as long as he is in the pouch close to mommy he thinks everything is just peachy!