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Two + New

All is quiet in the Wilde house. Dad is at work; Amelia is at daycare; Jordan is snoozing peacefully; Mum is sitting down to write a post that has been on her to-do list for the last 3.5 months. Ah yes, this tranquility is indeed a rare and special gem!

Expectations vs Reality

During my second pregnancy, I heard a variety of parents describe what it was like going from one child to two. One parent said she expected it to be hard, but found that her workload more than doubled with her second child – and plenty of others seemed to agree! In fact, the general consensus was that it was much harder going from one to two, than from two to three. I must admit, I was a bit nervous. My womb-baby seemed pretty chilled out but what if he was just setting me up with a false sense of security? I’d considered Amelia a pretty cruisy baby; anecdotal evidence suggested that the second baby is often the polar opposite to the first. Would Number 2 be hard work?

When Jordan was born he didn’t cry. After a few heart-stopping moments he let out one squawk, then quietly got on with trying to breathe with fluid still in his lungs. He was whisked away to special care for extra oxygen and that was that. Only… as his breathing improved, he remained mysteriously quiet! The doctors and nurses even tried giving him all his shots and blood tests in rapid succession to upset him enough (poor baby!) to cry, but he just quietly bore it all. In the first week after he was born I barely heard him utter more than a half-hearted whimper; in the following weeks he proved that he could cry, but was simply choosing not to.

Mr Jordan is the most easy-going, happy, sociable baby I have ever met. He is now 4.5 months and I have established that there are a select few things that will cause him to cry:

  • Wind pains (which happened every morning around 5-6am for a number of weeks but has since stopped)
  • Being overtired and having his sleep interrupted
  • If I don’t attend to his need for food in a timely manner – he starts by fidgeting, then grumbling, then whinging, before finally beginning to cry, and will work up to a scream if I still haven’t got to him (usually because I’m sound asleep and too exhausted to wake immediately)

He calmly tolerates his sister’s over-enthusiastic attentions, he can keep himself amused quite easily, he enjoys smiling and chatting to anyone and everyone, and he loves sleep so much that the only time he complains about going to bed is when he’s overtired or a bit hungry.

The real challenge

Sleep deprivation is not something I missed from Amelia’s newborn days, but I have to admit that Jordan is a pretty good sleeper. He has been feeding a bit more again lately – 2-3 times a night – but he’s skinny and his reflux prevents him having big meals so it’s alright and a bit necessary. It certainly adds to the challenge, but it’s not the sleep thing that’s got me feeling frazzled. In fact, it’s nothing to do with Jordan at all – he’s easy!

It’s the toddler sending me around the twist. If you have one of these creatures, or have raised one at some point in your life, then you probably know what I mean already. This little firecracker of a daughter of mine is HARD WORK! She is very bright and speaks well. Too well. Too often. All day, every day, she is chatting away or making some sort of noise with her voice. If I were to divide up her vocalisations by category I think it would look something like this:

  • 30% – “I’m hungry!”
  • 20% – “NOOOOOOOO!! I don’t want [insert offered item/activity here]”
  • 20% – Humming, singing or making noises to go with her actions, including playing with Jordan
  • 20% – A mix of “What are you doing, Mum?” and “Where’s Daddy? Daddy’s at work?” and “Jordan’s got sore tummy. Mummy, you feed Jordan!”
  • 10% – Miscellaneous

She is a strong-willed child who is slowly learning not to screech when offered something she doesn’t want; who will definitely test the boundaries and make sure you mean what you say; who will smirk at you until you prove that you mean business, then suddenly comply so she doesn’t actually get in trouble (I’ve just put my foot down on this). If you ask her to do something she will often do so quite happily; if you TELL her to do something, she will dig her heels in and become angry, growling and whining like some wild beast instead of talking to you, ready to throw a tantrum at the drop of a hat.

It’s exhausting!

I’m so glad that Jordan is such an easy-going chap because Miss Milly has me on my toes all day. She can be so sweet and lovely and funny, then without notice she’s a writhing, screaming ball of fury lashing out with arms and legs. Apparently this is normal for two-year-olds. Most frighteningly, I’ve been told it gets worse at three, with is now just around the corner.

God help us!

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Unconditional love – currently under testing

It’s 1:40 am. The girl is sick, and she’s just woken up, crying for Daddy. He’s fast asleep so I leap out of bed to go and comfort her. Only… she doesn’t want me. She wants Daddy. She won’t let me cuddle her, she doesn’t want to hear anything I have to say until I offer to let her jump into our bed. She runs to our bed and snuggles in… next to Daddy. A minute or two later she’s out like a light.

Truth be told, when I ran in there I had to wipe the tears from my eyes first. I’d worked myself into a sad, sentimental state, first cuddling Jordan, then thinking back to when Milly was a baby – back before tantrums and back-chatting and telling me no, she doesn’t want a cuddle. Swiping through photos on Facebook, I tried to make sense of how much she’s changed in just two-and-a-half years. Sure, it wasn’t all roses – when she stopped sleeping during the day we had some very trying times. But it didn’t matter. Mummy cuddles always made it better.

I know that they don’t stay babies forever, and I know that every child declares at some point that they hate their parents – angry words said in the heat of the moment. But I guess I didn’t expect it at such a young age. It’s one thing to be throwing a tantrum and lash out – it’s quite another to coolly tell me to bugger off (I’m paraphrasing of course). I still see her as my little girl, barely past babyhood, and she thinks she’s all grown up, with an adult-sized attitude to match. After eighteen months or so of being closer than close, in sync with each other, suddenly I’m feeling on the outside, subject to her moods and whims. It’s a big adjustment and it’s caught me off kilter.

For the whole of Monday she cries through the pain of her illness (hand, foot and mouth disease may be ‘mild’ but it brings a very great degree of misery). She asks for Daddy. She rarely accepts a cuddle. I feel a little defeated, and even more sad: now I can’t even comfort my baby girl! Just as I’m about to resign myself to the fact that she’d rather have Daddy at home and pick up a full-time job so Sean can be the stay-at-home parent, the man himself walks in the door. He scoops up Milly and heads upstairs for some cuddles and quit time (with the hope of getting her to sleep and depositing her in her bed). A few minutes later I hear what is suddenly like music to my ears –

“Muuuuuummmmmmyyyyyy!!! I want my mummy!!”

Ahh, so she does need me, after all! I head upstairs to take over from Sean. As she snuggles in close, with her head against my chest and her little arms wrapping around my neck, my heart soars. My love for her is permanent, unchanging even with her snottiest moods, but it sure is gratifying to have the sentiment returned!

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When it’s hard to be Mum…

This week has dealt me a couple of challenging situations – and I’ve had to make a conscious effort to push my feelings to the side and put my kids first. It hasn’t been easy.

I was sitting in the waiting room before Jordan’s Maternal and Child Health Nurse appointment when I spotted a beastie up on the ceiling. A big, hairy, eight-legged beastie. I am so phobic that I can’t even stand to think the word, let alone speak or write it. Amelia was playing with the toys in the room, completely oblivious to the horror lurking above her. And that’s how I wanted it to stay. While I sat there feeling sick to my stomach and fighting the urge to cry, I thought about my sweet, innocent toddler who has yet to form opinions on whether spiders are harmless or scary, and the responsibility I hold in shaping those opinions. Inasmuch as I could help it, I couldn’t let her know how much I was freaking out or why. My voice was coming out weird and I was distracted as anything, but I forced myself to smile and respond to her as she showed me different toys.

It was only the next day when something awful happened at home. We forgot to lock up the chicken coop. Foxes got in and we lost four chickens – including my favourite hen, a gal I called Plucky due to her forthright nature. She was a friendly chook who followed me around the yard, always looking for treats. I was quite devastated. Sitting on the couch that morning, feeding Jordan, hearing the subdued chirps from the remaining chooks outside, I felt miserable. But as with the previous day, I had to work to try not to let Milly know. I certainly couldn’t tell her what had happened, and she was in such a good mood that morning that I didn’t want to throw a wet towel on that with my own misery.

Life is full of challenges, but as parents we have a duty to think of our children first and choose our responses accordingly. My instincts told me to run from that spider, to cry, maybe scream – but as a parent, I couldn’t let fear get the better of me, and affect my child. Likewise, I chose to shield her from my sorrow, rather than let it weigh on her when she could remain happily oblivious.

One thing these experiences does is show you just what you’re made of. Every parent has stories like these, of finding the strength to overcome challenges for the sake of their child. You do things you never thought you could do. You grow as a person, developing character and fortitude. So while it’s hard at the time, it’s also wonderful – these little people bring out the best in you, just by being there.

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How Time Flies

It can feel like time is dragging on when you’re stuck on the couch feeding your baby for the millionth time that day, but then you blink and a whole day, year or decade has gone by. For example, I meant to sit and write a post yesterday; now there’s barely anything left of today, and I’m pumping out this post while I wait for Sean to come back from the bathroom.

Kids keep you busy. From the moment I woke up today, I was busy being Mum. Feed Jordan. Get Amelia’s breakfast. Change Jordan’s bum – and his outfit, because he’s leaked wee onto his clothes. Give Amelia a bath. Feed Jordan. Get Milly a snack. Wash and sterilise bottles. Get Milly a drink. Feed Jordan. Play with Amelia. Try to get Milly down for a nap (no cigar with this one, even after an earnest 1.5 hour attempt). Feed Jordan. Take the kids down to the park to burn off the last dregs of Milly’s energy so she’ll nap.

Regardless of all the things I might have on my to-do list – from housework to simply sitting and reading a book – my first and foremost responsibility and privilege is to look after the kids. That takes time. If I’m always thinking about the things I’m waiting to do “when they sleep” or “when I get a chance”, that’s when I find the end of the day sneaks up on me and I look back with a sense of disappointment on a day where I didn’t get to tick things off my list.

I guess the important thing, then, and something which I’ve been learning lately, is that looking after my children is not only a full-time job, it’s a valuable one, something I should cherish and take pride in – not wish away for want of more time to clean my house or reread A Series Of Unfortunate Events. I’ll never get back a blessed minute of these early childhood days with my kids, and I don’t want to end up an old person looking back with disappointment that I didn’t put my heart and soul into treasuring each day.

So this blog might end up a little irregular, but don’t worry – if you don’t hear from me for a few days, it’s probably because I’m busy cuddling my babies.

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Day one without the hubster

Sean went back to work today, his two weeks of paternity leave being done and dusted. Amelia woke at 6:30am, an hour earlier than usual, having soaked through her nappy and pyjamas (note to self: remind Sean that he needs to listen to his wife, especially when she says things like “that is the wrong nappy size”). Jordan woke up and wanted a feed – possibly for the millionth time in the last 24 hours. I tended to the kids and drifted in and out of sleep while Milly watched TV and intermittently came to pester me.

My plan had been to drop her off at daycare, since I’d decided to start her on a second day. I got the three of us dressed and ready (and felt well chuffed to have done it in record time), bundled us all out to the car, and then tuned in to the little voice in my head (I suspect it was Sean’s voice) saying I ought to call ahead and see if there was room for her today. There was not.

I sat in the car feeling at an absolute loss as to what to do next. Milly was wailing in the back seat for no particular reason. Jordan was sleeping in his capsule. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back inside, so I fired up the engine and hit the road, hoping to formulate a plan along the way. In the end I decided on an unexciting trip to the petrol station, followed by Woolworths. The whole outing read like Amelia’s favourite story, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt…

We’re going to the supermarket
We’re going to get some groceries
What a beautiful day!
I’m not scared…

Uh-oh — a toddler!
A tired, cranky toddler!
We can’t cajole it; we can’t sternly order it;
We’ll have to bribe it!

*chocolate, bickies, chocolate, bickies*

She spied the basket of fruit they leave out for the kids and asked for a “bana.” She took a bite and didn’t like it. She asked for an apple. Two aisles later she was over that. I was collecting nibbled fruits along with the shopping but at least she was reasonably content. Jordan lay peacefully in his trolley seat. I felt calm, cool and collected – look at me, out shopping with two kids like an old hat! I only panicked for a second when I realised that I had forgotten the one item I specifically set out to buy – nappies in the correct size for the gal – as I finished loading the conveyor belt; I figured I had enough items to stall the checkout lady while I wheeled the trolley down to the babycare aisle, even with Amelia insisting that she wanted to walk. I even maintained my composure as she snatched up a Kinder Surprise egg from a display and proceeded to peel and consume it: indeed, I barely batted an eyelid as I handed over the empty tin foil to be scanned.

Of course, things couldn’t go this smoothly forever. I paid for the groceries and Jordan woke up, ready for food. Milly dawdled behind me as I sallied out of the store, busy eating her chocolate egg. We got to the escalator and she handed me her slobbery chocolate to mind while she stuck her sticky hand in mine to get on the escalator. I hustled Milly into the car, shoved the groceries in the boot (crap, I stole the blueberries accidentally!), grabbed Jordan and jumped into the front seat to give him a quick feed before we headed home. Milly demanded food, then rejected my offering of an oat slice bar and took to wailing and screeching at top volume in the back seat. I tuned out and daydreamed about the nice nap I would have when I got home and put the kids down for a sleep.

Get home, park the car, grab the sleeping toddler and put it in its bed, back to the car, get the crying baby and bundle it into the baby carrier, bring in the cold shopping, put the shopping in the fridge, go back outside, shut the gate, let the chickens out, come inside, feed the baby, tidy up, vacuum the floor, feed the baby, put it in its cot, get ready for a nap only to have the toddler wake up after a mere catnap….

WE’RE NOT GOING SHOPPING AGAIN!

That was just the morning. The afternoon has been a blur of tantrums, telly, spilled drinks, food smeared across the table rather than consumed, and a sad attempt to make banana pancakes, which became a sad attempt to make banana bread, and resulted in a frightful loaf of banana-flavoured something. Amelia has not eaten anything I have prepared or suggested in the last two days (with a handful of exceptions), but of course she did heartily enjoy my monstrous creation. I guess I can be grateful for that. But most of all, I was grateful when Sean came home and suggested Thai for dinner – with the implied perk of it being a half hour round trip, which Milly would accompany him on. Yes, dear readers, I am at this present moment home alone (well, Jordan is here too, but he’s so quiet and peaceful that he doesn’t really impinge much on my sense of freedom – I mean, aloneness).

Only four more days with the kids until Sean has a day off work! I’ve kept my cool so far, but I wonder how long that will last?…