My Family

Not even a week yet…

And I’m already worrying about what the psychological effect Julia’s birth and the necessary splitting of my attention between my almost-two-year-old son and my infant daughter will be on Alex…I figure – why wait?

I remember when my sister’s daughter (Natalie) was born, and at some point I asked how Calvin, who was 2 years and 8 months at the time, was dealing with it. Even though I visited every weekend, that didn’t really give a clear picture of normal home life…and Meredith said Calvin was wonderful to Natalie and mad at his parents.

And I think Alex is kind of doing the same thing, though I could be reading too much into it. He’s very sweet to Julia – wants to give her hugs, etc, and likes to point out her hair, eyes, nose, etc. But he knows how to (as my mother would say) push my buttons, so – usually in the hour or so before his bedtime – he will start out gentle and then push the envelope…either by being less gentle (like trying to lean his full weight on Julia if she’s in my lap when he hugs her) or by doing things that he knows he’s not supposed to do – like standing on the arm of the oversized chair I sit in downstairs when I’m nursing Julia. And he grins. And when I ask or tell him to get down, the answer is a loud, defiant NO!

And I know this is NORMAL. Not just as a response to the baby but also for his age.

But it still works me.

I handed Julia off to Bill last night so I could put Alex to bed – figuring this would be a nice mommy/son part of the day (now that he was not on the arm of the chair, ready to fall backward and crack his skull open on the cedar chest – which is a good 8 feet away, but my brain likes to anticipate ALL situations, especially the scary and highly unlikely ones).

So up we went, and sat on the bed in his room and looked at pictures in a book that’s a bit too wordy for him at the moment but has line drawings of a donkey on two facing pages – he is calling them horses, and I don’t feel like dealing with specifics on that right now – and I got him in his jammies…but he didn’t want to be in his crib, and then he wanted ALL his stuffed animals, including this giant pink bunny that a couple of Bill’s middle school students gave him before Alex was born and I figured now that Julia’s here, she could have it, but no, Alex likes it. Probably because it’s about the same size he is.

He calls bunnies “Honey,” by the way. With an almost loving emphasis on the first syllable.

Anyway, bedtime went from serene to sobs once I got Alex into the crib. So I caved and added all the stuffed animals to his crib. He was happy then – “bye bye Mama – you are dismissed now” but I couldn’t leave them there because I had a vision of him climbing onto Honey the big pink bunny and escaping from his crib. He has not made any attempt to do this before, but I figured now is the time.

So somehow – and I don’t even remember how – I got big pink bunny and some of the larger teddy bears out and assembled in a family-portrait-grouping on the bed – and this was acceptable.

And then I tried to say goodnight and leave – OH NO YOU DON’T MAMA – I’M NOT DONE MESSING WITH YOUR HORMONALLY IMBALANCED MENTAL STATE JUST YET!!!!!!

So he cried and called me back and I weakly obeyed – all I wanted was a happy son at that moment, so I was prepared to be a spineless sucker about everything.

But in hindsight, I think the problem really was that we skipped his normal routine – or at least the routine I have with him. Bill’s is slightly different. But anyway – I think that was more the problem than him feeling abandoned by me. So he actually started it – “Uncle Bob – ni-night?” “Yes, Uncle Bob is going ni-nights.” And on through all the family members as usual. Then each of his in-the-crib stuffed animals kissed him goodnight, and I did, and everything was fine.

Except Mama, Goddess of Guilt. She went downstairs and had a little sobfest for herself, and then stared at the Boston/Oakland game for a while until she returned to her normal (or what passes for normal) mental state and actually paid attention to the game.

So here I am this morning. Up with Julia a few times through the night. I was trying to just nurse her in bed, but she is both noisy and sloppy, so that wasn’t working. Now I go to the basement, so Bill can sleep and I can watch sitcom reruns or bits of movies or whatever else I can find on TV while Julia has her third dinner and remains wide awake for a good half hour and poops at least twice: once while she’s nursing and then once again immediately after I change the first diaper and get her little clothes and socks back on.

She is funny. She keeps her hands up near her face when I’m trying to nurse her or give her a bottle (she will take her meals any way she can get them, though she’s sloppier with the bottle for some reason). I try to slide a little burp cloth or something under her many chins (her head is sort of like a petite butternut squash – little top half of the head and then a big round part where her cheeks and chin are. Sounds horrible but no, she’s actually cute. And not orange like the squash – it was just the only thing I could think of right now to compare her to. Oh shut up Jayne.) – anyway – I try to get the cloth under there so when she sloshes milk down her chin her clothes won’t be soaked. And she won’t let me do this!! I swear she is intentionally trying to prevent me from getting the cloth tucked in. And she’s strong, too…strong of will and strong of arm.

And so tiny. Wow. Alex was this small too. And now he’s big enough to stand on furniture and torture Mommy. And smart enough to wrap a tired, mentally and emotionally weak Mommy around his little finger. At least at bedtime. He doesn’t try this on Bill too much – Bill is neither tired nor weak, and Alex knows this.

Oh well. We will work this out. I will get some sleep again in a few years and I’ll be all set.

And I know that no matter what I do there will be bumps in the road and I will never stop feeling Mommy guilt for one thing or another, and that my children will have their sweet and loving moments and their “you love him/her more than me” and “I hate you/him/her” moments…and there will never be completely smooth sailing in these waters – and that’s how it goes, and it’s okay. It’s all part of the deal you make when you choose to have kids. And it wasn’t even buried in the small print. It’s right there in my own past.

My mother reminds us (often. especially with each of her daughters’ second pregancies) that she consciously made every effort to treat us fairly. Not necessarily the same, of course, but fairly – so neither one would feel like she favored the other one. (Yes, Mom, we know, already!) But you know what – didn’t matter. There were still times one of us seemed to get more attention/praise/love/presents/food/nourishment/shelter (okay, not so much the last three) than the other. But it’s the child’s perception vs the parents’ intention – and they just don’t match up all the time, do they? No matter what. We joke about it all now, of course….

Plus we all know she likes my sister best.

Just kidding, Mom! 🙂

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