About ten times a day I remind myself that billions of women throughout the history of childbearing have had more than one child at a time. Most were like my great-grandmother Mama-Mac, raising seven kids at once. On a farm. In a tiny house on the high plains with no heating or air conditioning. Scrubbing clothes by hand in tubs outside. So, I’m lame for holding any complaints in my heart…because I have a very easy, happy life. And I have only two children.
What I wish I had is more patience. So far, there’s the stuff I can handle: a crying baby while I make lunch for August and me? Answer: wear him in my sister-in-law made “Moby Wrap” (or as August calls it: my kangaroo pouch) and bounce. Getting out of the house an hour later than I’d hoped? Chock it up to newborn craziness. It turns out people have a lot of compassion for people with newborns.
But here’s what I can’t handle: Baby Brooks crying inconsolably while I’m trying to get August to take his nap. August and I have a ritual for bedtime. It takes a while. And It’s sort of our special snuggle time. I read a book, make up a story, sing a song, and pray. None of those things are easy to do while your other child is screaming his head off, requiring that you bounce him sideways while swaddled (Brooksie is a little demanding). So, unfortunately, I’m finding myself short tempered with August where I used to be patient.
Today while bouncing his brother while I made up a story about the secret dinosaur button on the playground that transported August from the slide onto a dinosaur’s tail, I was leaning on one of August’s pillows against the wall. However, August had some sort of pillow game in mind. He decided that we should not use the pillows until we prayed. He moved his to the middle of the bed and determined to move mine.
“No, August, please don’t touch my pillow. I don’t want you to move it.”
He pulled on it more.
“August, don’t take my pillow! I need it.”
He grunted and heaved. “It’s needs to go over there!” he said.
“I don’t want it to go over there!” I said.
We went back and forth like this until I screamed: “I said ‘No!’”
In a different world, one that existed a little over three weeks ago, I would have explained my reasoning, why it’s unkind to take someone’s pillow away, why I like to lean against it when I’m telling him a story. I would have helped August see that he could play with one of the pillows in the middle of the bed, but not both. Instead, I shouted and felt sorry for my sore baby bouncing arms.
This is why it’s difficult for firstborns to adjust to a sibling in their lives. It’s because their parents turn from gentle and compassionate into crazy-heads. What I don’t want to be is the kind of mother I find myself being: short tempered, lacking compassion, quick to send August to time-out because it’s the easiest thing to do.
And this is where I ask all you mothers of two or more to pour out your wisdom into my comment box…