“I wish Everett was four years old already,” Sophie says, and I don’t know what to tell her other than, “Me, too.”
Strangers at the playground have been telling me that it’s harder going from 1 to 2 kids than it was going from 0 to 1. I have been telling them, “I hope not, because zero to one was hard for us.” We’ve only had 6 days to practice this two thing now, but, so far, I think the strangers were wrong.
I have gotten to take a shower every day this week. And, this time through, I know enough to be grateful for that simple fact. The first time through, I was shocked that nursing and changing diapers and laundering and taking out the diaper-trash and making sure the baby’s still breathing and then nursing some more and also not forgetting to eat and drink would, collectively, somehow take up so much of my time that I might not get five minutes a day to shower. The first time through, I was shocked by how painful it was to sit anywhere but a rocking chair. Now, the pain is much less, and this time through I know enough to be grateful. I know enough to stock lanolin in the house. Now I am also thankful to get any sleep, especially when I get it in a chunk of 3 hours, which is what I need to enter deep dreaming sleep. This time through, I’ve gotten a 3-hour-stretch of sleep almost every night so far, knock on wood, thank Gods & Goddesses and anything else.
This time through, I am not shocked at losing so much independence.
This time, my parent-friends know to bring by useful food, not useless stuffed animals. I know to accept all offers of help. My mother was just here for an incredibly-helpful week when she cooked & cleaned & laundered & held the baby for hours on end. This time through, too, I am not afraid to put the baby down.
That part is all easier, because now I know somewhat what I’m doing.
What I don’t know, yet, is how to help Sophie through this transition. Of course, we’ve been reading her big-sibling books for months, now, and talking with her about how much she can teach the baby, and how much more fun he’ll become in a few months, too, after he grows beyond the pooping-sleeping-and-nursing-only stage. We encourage her to hold the baby’s hand, sing the baby songs, show the baby her dances. We even got her a few birthday presents for the baby’s birthday, to keep her occupied while we neglect her.
But she feels this neglect. “You’re always nursing or changing a diaper,” she told me. “Being a big sister means playing alone a lot.”
It turns out that I can give her her bath while nursing Everett. I can read her bedtime stories while nursing Everett. I can even give her her night-time massage while nursing Everett. (And, yes, Ev engages in marathon-nursing every evening, just before entering into a chunk of sleep-time that I am doing my best to encourage.) But I can’t truly play, and I can’t give her my full undivided attention.
It’s probably good for her, in the long run. In the short run, what I can do is arrange play-dates. We already went out on our first Mommy-daughter date, too (we got cupcakes, then made up a dance in the bakery courtyard) — but every afternoon used to be Mommy-daughter time, and now it needs special scheduling, once a week.
Now, instead of playing only with me, Sophie gets to pick out Everett’s socks each morning. It’s not the same. It may, eventually, be better. I hope so.