I remember listening to other peoples’ kids whining and thinking to myself, that will never happen with my kids. Of course, this was before having kids, as I’m sure you guessed. It is always the uninitiated couples who have all the parenting answers.
Even so, I was determined not to hear that sound in my house. I dreaded it above most every other bad habit that kids pick up along the way. And once I have an idea in my head it’s hard to remove it, just ask my husband.
So, with determination on my side, I entered motherhood prepared. Well, as prepared as a childless person can be. Armed with parenting magazines, books, and mom websites at the ready, I was equipped for anything.
Okay, the first child was fairly uneventful. There was no whining because there was not very much that was denied this child. If he wanted to go to the park, we went to the park. If he wanted a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, his wish was my command.
To tell you the truth, I was a little disappointed. Not that there weren’t other battles, but I had counted on using my prepared speeches about sharing and being kind to others. Actually, I still used these speeches but they tended to be in response to the naughty children that littered the playground. I felt like passing on my learning to the other mother’s helplessly and, sometimes, obliviously letting their children run wild and whine incessantly.
No, I wanted to pass on my knowledge to my own child, prove that I could solve the age old problem singlehandedly. I was delusional and a bit self obsessed. I will admit this now because I did learn a few things along the way. It’s just that most of it happened when my second child was born.
I mean I had heard about sibling jealousy and second child syndrome, but until the second child arrives, you just don’t know how much of life really has to be shared once there are two or more children in the house. From the moment you go to the hospital, you are putting your first, and only, child on hold. You are telling them that for once they actually have to wait for something, for you.
I walked away from him, towards the car, knowing that I was going to come home not only with a little baby girl, but with a knife that would divide my time from this sweet little boy. He had been my whole world for two years and now the world would be split in two.
I was fortunate in that my little boy was a patient and gentle soul. He rarely begrudged the feeding sessions that kept me locked to my daughter. He didn’t even complain much when I had to carry her around the house just to keep her from crying, preventing me from joining him in puzzle building or train pushing, as we used to do almost constantly.
Instead, he would just follow me around the house as I paced and rocked. He would sit by my side and look at his sister as she suckled and then fell asleep. And when she was finally and thoroughly asleep, he would nudge me towards his toys or ask for a story.
Yes, I was lucky, and I used his sweet nature to my advantage. When my daughter was around seven or eight months, and lunchtime rolled around, I would make a plate of finger foods they could share. She would sit in her seat and pick nibbles off his plate. He would watch her and laugh when the food didn’t quite make it to her mouth. Then, when she was a little older and ready to play alongside her brother, we would put out toys that both of them could handle with ease. His two year old hands would run the cars back and forth while she grabbed at each one zooming past her. To them, there has never been a distinction between what is his and what is hers.
It even extended to bedroom arrangements. My daughter never would sleep in her crib and I half-slept my way through a year with her snuggled by my side. I felt like I always had one eye open and my body sensed her presence. I was tired. I needed a full night of sleep. So, when my husband suggested we put her in her brother’s room, I jumped at the idea. And just as with everything else we had done with them, they quickly developed a comfortable sleep ritual. He in his bed and she in hers, I would sit between the two beds, read stories and say prayers, then hugs and kisses all around before heading to the living room to relax. My husband and I would laugh to hear them mumbling and giggling together.
To my son, there has never been a day without his sister there by his side. He is her protector and her friend. And my daughter, she loves and looks up to her brother. She adores him and listens raptly to whatever he has to say. Every now and then I do hear a squeal from upstairs, an angry cry or a full yell of outrage. These moments do happen, but I love that more often the squeals are delight and the yells are joy. Because there is nothing in life that can’t be shared and enjoyed together.