I remember the early days of parenthood, where everything around me was being reinvented. All of my routines were now flipped over and done backwards, with one hand. As soon as I knew what I was doing with a newborn, he wouldn’t be a newborn anymore. He was a colicky infant, needing to be bounced and wrapped and shushed repeatedly all day long. As soon as I got used to that schedule (or house arrest) he was a cheerful little cherub who just wanted his next meal and something to chew on. So on and so forth it went, with me getting comfortable in this new world and then getting booted into the next universe.
Finally there was a long stretch around nine months, and I was pretty settled until baby girl was born. Now it’s been two years and there is just no settlement in sight. It’s like the first year over and over again every few months.
A few months ago I stood the kids next to the measuring board, pressing their wiggling little shoulders back and nudging their soft pudgy chins. They had both grown over an inch since their last mark. My breath sucked into my lungs with an audible whistle. I knew they were growing, because they scramble around like puppies, running into corners, galloping and stumbling through the straightaways. They slip and their little heads look one way while their feet are stomping off the other way. One kid will eat and eat and eat. The other one will sleep twice as long at naptime and refuse all food. Then they switch. One is waking up at least once a night and at six every morning. Then that one starts sleeping in and the other one takes over.
Baby Sis started slipping out of the straps of her highchair and trying to perch on the high back. She popped her foot up on the side of her crib and started pulling herself up. So now she sits in a dining chair and sleeps on her mattress on the floor the way Ben does. We got rid of all the baby bottles long ago. We flipped her car seat around when her legs got too long. We took down the baby swing. Ben is working on incentive behavior charts and learning to read and write. He is practicing counting to 200 but still has trouble keeping his pants dry, although that’s getting better. He would prefer to wear a diaper and can’t you just help him get dressed?
His tantrums are shorter, hers are longer. They fight less often. They eat legions of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole wheat. He still wants his milk in a sippy cup, she wants hers in a real cup. She hates having her hair put up, and doesn’t want to get dressed or be changed. They both long for the outdoors. We are gathering up our gear for another camping trip this year, yes in a tent. Pray for us, hahaha!
These days are filled with little feet slapping on wood floors, manic giggling, warm sandwiches in baggies, armies of fire trucks in all sizes. I drive on field trips and collect construction paper boots covered in fake jewels and crayon. I drink lots of pretend tea. Alina is obsessed with all dogs and thinks the neighbors dogs are hers. She calls them all “puppy”. Ben tells us that his Cheerio power is running out and he needs more. He reminds me that “we all make mistakes!” in a cheerful, chipper voice no matter what destruction lies behind him. Alina says she loves us too, closes her eyes during hugs and also sways happily when someone is singing. Afternoons are a sweet combination of highs and lows. Answering sweet questions, offering encouragement without question, quelling screaming fits and cleaning floors.
I can’t catch up. Each day works new muscles. Each day I am tired in a different way. I bleach the shower because I haven’t cleaned it in months and then I turn around and realize we still have the baby bath in there next to the tub. If the kids are awake, then they are asking me something. Or yelling. Or disappearing into a back room. Or screaming. But there are new victories, and they both walk everywhere, eat the same snacks, play with the same toys, and go to bed at the same times. It’s easier to survive. It doesn’t feel impossible to even shower, like it used to. It does feel impossible to write this post. I am currently being interrogated as to why I am not standing next to him watching him color with his markers. It feels impossible to talk on the phone, because my kids instantly descend on me like a pack of ravenous dogs. It’s impossible to do my job and take care of my kids, so I hire sitters.
But we do make it all work and these phases flash by like seasons- almost overstaying their welcome and then leaving too soon.
What is your season like? What sights and sounds would you guess might stick with you from these last few months?