This was my morning: My husband woke me at 5 a.m. to tell me that the baby needed comfort – he’d already eaten and burped but wouldn’t sleep. I got up. I took the baby to the living room and sat on the couch holding him until we both fell asleep.
I woke at 6:45 when Rose yelled “Mommy! Mommy? Mommy! Mommy?” from her room. I got her out of bed and she said “I want you to put Christian down!” Attempting distraction, I led her to the kitchen where she opened the fridge and pulled out the bowl of grapes I’d placed on her shelf. The bowl dropped, and grapes shot in all directions like billiard balls.
“Ro-ose!” I whined as I picked up the remaining bunches. Wait. What the hell was I doing? “Rose, pick up the grapes and put them in this bowl,” I said, handing it off.
“Can I eat them?” she asked.
“Sure, after you get them all in the bowl, you can eat them,” I said, rationalizing the germs as an immunity boost. We went in the living room where I fell asleep on the couch holding Christian as Rose ate grapes and dissected her brother’s diaper bag. Matt stumbled in and woke me.
“Are you ok?” he mumbled, peering through slit eyelids.
“I guess so,” I mumbled back. No, Of course I’m not ok. I can’t stay awake to take care of your offspring. “Ok,” he said, heading back to the bedroom.
Two kids! What was I thinking?
I know what I was thinking. I was thinking that I love Rose so much that I couldn’t let her be an only child. Oh, I know there are lots of arguments for only children these days. Hell, they made the cover of Time. But there are also arguments for refusing vaccinations, and I don’t give much credence to either.
I grew up an only child. Every child’s dream, right? It sucked. There’s only so much time for friends and when they leave, you’re alone again. Just me and my parents. Just me against my parents. This is how we rolled: Spilled milk? My fault; Rug stain? My fault; Hacksaw on the kitchen table? My fault. No one ever asked what a little girl would want with a hacksaw. I was the child, so I was to blame. To this day, I still feel like everything’s my fault. Seriously. Global warming? I used too much hairspray in the 80s. Infertility? Payback for promiscuity in the 80s. Recession? Didn’t spend enough money.
I was always by myself. I spent most of my time in my room, reading, writing or pretending I was Pinky Tuscadero. Even when we watched TV at night, family time for most people, I’d watch “Happy Days” in my room, my mom would watch “Carol Burnett” in the living room and my dad would watch “Bob Newhart” downstairs.
Not every family is like mine, I know. My current family is nothing like the one I grew up in. Nevertheless, speaking as an only child, I believe some things are universal. Loneliness is one. If you’re a kid living in an adult world, you’re bound to be lonely. No matter how playful your parents are, they can’t substitute for another kid.
Difficulty socializing is another universal only child issue. Even though your parents were once kids, they can’t teach you to fit in with the other kids. They just can’t. As Rose’s mom, I do my best to teach her to deal with other kids, but she needs practice with real kids and all the playdates in the world can’t compare to a live-in sparring partner.
So we had Christian for Rose mostly, but we had him for ourselves too. We were so in love with Rose that we wanted to fall in love again and get to know a new kid. And both of us wanted a whole family. We were a unit as a couple. We were a family as a threesome. But a Mommy, a Daddy, a sister and a brother made us the whole family we’d dreamed of. My husband’s family was missing the Daddy. Mine was missing the sibling. We both had empty spaces to fill.
But perhaps the biggest reason we had Christian is that we’d seen siblings play together and most importantly, keep each other occupied. This is not the case right now. With everyone in this house clamoring for my attention, I feel like one of those huge sows with 13 piglets hanging off of her teats, and I’m not even breast feeding. A sow gets to lie there, at least. I have to warm bottles and burp and change diapers.
Is it worth it? Until now, we had help with Christian. My girlfriend stayed with us for three weeks to help with him. Less than a week after she left, my birth mother spent a long weekend with us. In between us getting acquainted, she held Christian and played with Rose. Now we’re by ourselves for the first time. It’s different, that’s for sure. No matter how ornery Rose got with me before her brother was born, she was only one kid. Now if Christian cries too much, Rose starts crying. If I’m holding him, she climbs on my lap. As soon as she falls asleep, he wakes up. And vice-versa.
And that’s not all. As an only child, the logistical challenges of having two kids baffle me. Do I use two diaper bags or one? How should I get them both in and out of the car? How do I give them a bath? Together? One at a time? They’re not even fighting yet. I have no idea how I’ll handle that. And I can forget compulsive planning and keeping regular work hours for the next 15 years, at least.
But as Ol’ Blue Eyes said, “I know a thing.” Raising Rose for almost three years has taught me the Golden Rule of parenting: Everything is a phase. Christian won’t always need as much attention as he does right now. And although Rose will try to kill him once or twice, eventually she’ll get used to him. And when he gets old enough, they will play together, and they will keep each other occupied.
I’ve just got to get through this phase to get to the next. Things will change, and conditions may not be ideal, but they’ll be different. And I’ll adapt. Then I’ll adapt again. That’s what parents do. And in the end, our hearts will be fuller. And that’s what it’s all about.