When baby makes four

Dana Byrd lives in Charlotte, NC where she practices her supermom skills raising her two sons, working from home and running insane distances before 7 am. Her calm mothering and boundless sense of humor inspire me. Guess what: she’s also a terrific writer! – kjw

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Warning: guest blogger has a propensity toward overusing parenthetical asides and is self-indulgent with the dash.  Be prepared to get lost in the morass that is her mind on two small children.

I love being a mama: love it, love it, love it.  I’ll be candid, I never really liked kids all that much until I had my own; babies especially just sort of seemed weird and oh-fine-I’ll-admit-it: gross (they poop on themselves!).  But now that I know just how cool they are, and how deeply satisfying and challenging parenthood is, part of me wishes I had started procreating earlier so I could have had a passel of them.  However, I also had no idea how much work they would be.  Between us, most of the time, being a mother means being part packhorse, part human napkin, part sanitation worker, part logistics engineer.  It’s not pretty (unless you think sweet potato smeared in your hair going unnoticed for the better part of a day is attractive).  It can be sheer drudgery (unless you happen to enjoy preparing food, cleaning it up, and wiping butts several times a day for years on end).  I believe children were the impetus for humankind’s greatest invention: alcohol (specifically, wine).  Kids are also the perfect example of the power of random reinforcement schedules (that one’s for any psych nerds out there): most of the time, they are sort of dirty and damp and whiny, but every once in a while they bust out with some ridiculous level of awesomeness that you are positively certain that you have the best kids on the planet and that further you must really have it going on parenting-wise to produce such gifted progeny.  Then they are back to being sticky leg shackles until the next unexpected burst of adorable precociousness.  That’s how they get you.

So there I was, riding the Ferris Wheel of bliss and boredom, sort of barely juggling kid, work, house, husband (not in that order), when we decided to see what was behind door number two.  The line was faintly forming on the pregnancy test when it hit me: what have we done?  The global Internet village of moms assured me that my anxieties were at least common – would I really love this little stranger as much as my firstborn?  How would big brother respond to a little intruder?  How on earth would I get anything aside from mothering accomplished if I feel maxed with just one?  My misery was short-lived, because caring for and potty training Kid the First distracted me to such lengths that nine months passed in a blur.

And when my second son was born, it was like the moment I touched him, a whole new bucket of love was just there, waiting for him to come and fill it with me.  I could immediately check that concern off my worry list.  He also got bonus points for having a smaller noggin.

As for how Kid the First reacted to Kid the Second?  It’s a mixed bag.  There is much love, and the moments when I catch my older son giving his little brother an unsolicited kiss on the head or offering one of his treats when the baby’s hits the floor make my heart swell with happiness and pride.  I’m not fooling, it’s a beautiful thing.  Less Norman Rockwell-esque is the little green-eyed monster who apparently hitched a ride home from the hospital.  There are now resources to be distributed – like mama’s lap – and to my surprise, it wasn’t just my oldest who thinks I belong solely to him.  It will be an ongoing challenge to help them learn to work it out.  Remarkably, I already see them do that – a three year old and one year old, figuring out how to share without my intervention – and I am amazed at the things they are learning together about getting along.  Even if they aren’t the best of friends all their lives, I have hopes that they will at least be able to work together well enough to figure out how to afford the very best nursing home for me one day.  In the meantime, I try to encourage only sibling rivalry that benefits me, like “whoever sleeps latest WINS!”

Having two kids is absolutely much harder work than when I had just the one little darling.  Getting them and their accoutrements in and out of the car alone would have been enough to cause my single self to consider taking a nap.  At the same time, they are also starting to entertain each other more, which frees me up to do important things, like make money and waste time on Pinterest and Facebook.

All jokes aside, I feel like when we had our second son, we really became a family.  All of the schlepping and squabbling pale in comparison to the feeling of cohesiveness that permeates our little tribe.  I love each of the people in my family immeasurably, but I also have a separate love for the gestalt that is our family.

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