Thursday, March 18, 2010

State of the Household: Part 3

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but it’s already been six months since my newest bundle of joy landed in my arms. As expected, our lives today barely resemble the lives we led just six short months ago. With that in mind, here’s the status of us.

The Baby: At 6 months old, Kasia has discovered the allure of the forbidden. Now that she’s realized she can get herself around by rolling and pushing herself forward with her tiny little toes, she’s on the prowl for that which she is not allowed to have. Seriously, the girl can be surrounded by bright, entertaining, novel baby toys and she will roll right past them and scoot herself toward James’ matchbox cars, his bowl of cereal, or any visible cords. I’m delighted to see my little girl moving around and I adore her obvious curiosity, but I’m not quite sure I’m prepared for 6 month old who is already breaking the rules.

The Body: Most of my body has returned to pre-baby status. I’ve got a few extra pounds left to lose, but I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really mind. There’s something beautiful about the soft curvature of motherhood. The only exception is this: I happened to sneak a peek at the, ahem, “twins” in the mirror the other day after I had taken a shower. When they are filled with milk, these two make a rather robust and perky duo. Kasia had just nursed, however, and so I got a glimpse of their future state. And girls, it ain’t pretty.

The 5 Year Old: Ah, 5 year old boys. They are tricky beings. When I found out I was pregnant with Kasia, my first reaction was to be concerned about how this tiny little being was going to rock James’ world. After all, James had had us entirely to himself for nearly four and a half years by the time Kasia was born. I fully expected tantrums, sad feelings, a tough transition as he let go of his standing as an only child. Then Kasia was born and… everything was fine. So fine. In retrospect, probably too fine. James was over the moon in love with his sister and oh-so-patient whenever I couldn’t attend to his needs immediately. He was a model big brother. I was stunned. Happy and relieved, but stunned.

Fast forward three months. Behaviors started to emerge. James still doted on his sister, but he began acting out with impatience at the smallest things. Tantrums became more frequent and more extreme. My little love wasn’t as loving toward me anymore; in fact, he was downright rude to me a lot of the time. It took me a while to recognize all of this anger was not anger at all… but sadness… grief as he lost his status as the center of our world. A heavy dose of Love and Logic (Cline and Fey, 2006) did wonders for helping curb some of the tantrums (see my Milkjuice post for some of the Love and Logic strategies we put in place; more on my *favorite parenting book ever* in another post). But as great as Love and Logic was, I recognized that James probably needed an outlet for his feelings as well. We started a “feelings” book and drew pictures of things that made us sad, mad, happy, scared. It was during one of our drawing sessions that James told me that it made him sad when I loved Kasia more than him. And there it was. Despite the fact that I had told him, many, many, many times that I loved him every bit as much as his baby sister, he clearly didn’t see this in my actions. Rather than try, again, to explain that his assertion was false, I gave him a hug and asked him why he thought this to be true. He told me that it was because I rocked and sang to Kasia all the time. I paused… and then offered to rock him at night, too. You should have seen the look of joy on his face. You would think I had offered him the moon. So now I bend and fold his long body into mine as we rock and sing each night before bed. It turns out our rocking sessions are good for me, too. They help me to see past the five year old behavior, around the stubbornness, straight back to the tiny baby boy who I rocked to sleep a thousand times with his curls tucked so sweetly beneath my chin. I do think it’s helping James to feel more loved again, too. As of today, we’ve gone 15 days with no major tantrums (not that I’m counting) and I’ve noticed a substantial shift in his overall attitude toward life and toward me. And last night as he crawled up into my lap to rock, he whispered to me that it was his favorite thing in the whole world. Me too, James. Me too.

The House: I’ve got a dirty little secret. My house isn ‘t as dirty anymore because I’ve hired someone to keep it clean. Actually, that’s a bit of an overstatement. I still do all the laundry, pick up and put away the daily messes my family creates, vacuum our floors a few times a week, and endlessly load and unload the dishwasher. But once a month a cleaning service comes in to do the cleaning that really requires getting down and dirty. They scrub our showers, dust, and scour the floors clean. It’s just enough to keep the house from sinking into the dirty house abyss. Our budget is tight, so hiring a cleaning service means buying virtually no new clothes for myself. But it’s still worth every penny.

The Emotions: Well, it’s March. As a good friend of mine said, March seems to come in like a lion and go out like a lion for me. Or at least that’s been true in the past. In March 2004, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. We lost her four agonizingly short months later. Anyone who has lost a parent understands the magnitude of such as loss; it took me years to move past the fear of suddenly losing someone else I loved so deeply. In March of 2005, my son was waiting for us in Ethiopia and we received word that he could be sick. I’ll never forget the feelings of helplessness that came from having a sick baby half way across the world. March of 2007 brought with it an ectopic pregnancy that was both emotionally and physically grueling. Nothing major happened in March of 2008 or 2009, but the previous March happenings had left their scars. For the past couple years, I’ve spent March guarded, like when you tighten your coat around your body and curl into yourself just before you step out into the cold.

No more. This March, I’m no longer looking behind me. Instead, I’m looking at what’s right in front of me: my beautiful baby girl who smiles at me like I am the sun to her Earth, my charismatic 5 year old who has taught me to look at the world in a whole new way, my husband who is on this crazy rollercoaster of a journey through life with me. And I’m looking forward. March is spring. And spring is sun, and warmth, and hope, and joy. So bring it on, March. Bring it on.

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