for the first 6-8 weeks of harriet’s life, ramona was not very pleased. she put on a happy face and did her best. but i knew something was wrong in the way her and i just kept missing each other. we were so disconnected. she was taking her anxiety about this new person out on me.
of course, this isn’t surprising. her whole world as she knew it had been rocked. there was no way to prepare her for that. no amount of telling her she’s going to have a sister and then her announcing that to every person she met would actually enable her to wrap her mind around the immensity of adding a new person to the family. a new person who only cries and poops and nurses and needs to be held an awful lot more than ramona is used to sharing me.
thank god she wasn’t taking out these growing pains on etta. but she was taking them out on me. she acted out. didn’t listen. cried a lot about little things. started waking up incredibly early. refused her usual bedtime rituals but demanded i never leave her room. stopped wanting to snuggle. i thought i had lost my spunky ramona. it was a rough beginning — learning to adjust and honor both girls with attention, nurture, snuggles, whatever it was each little girl needed. and ramona acted out in response to these changes. and thus i acted out in response to seeing a side of ramona i wasn’t used to and wasn’t completely comfortable with. that was my issue, i quickly learned. i had to adjust something in myself — not only being a mother of two girls (and dividing my time and energy as needed) but also being a mother to ramona who was, for the first time in her life, experiencing great mental and emotional discomfort that she didn’t know yet how to process.
obviously, something like this was to be expected after a second baby is introduced into a family. but it was really freaking hard to deal with a child so dissatisfied and, well, grumpy for so long. i felt lost. surely. i felt something had been irrevocably changed in ramona. i wasn’t satisfied with people’s explanations that this was just what two year olds do. no. i knew it was deeper.
in hindsight i’m extremely glad there was a little voice in my head –my heart, maybe– that told me not to dismiss her. not to chalk up these “antics” to just her being a toddler. i worked more on myself during this time: how can i be more patient? how can i show i am here to listen? or that my lap is safe if she just needs to be held? how do i enter into her madness, her inability to rationally sort out her emotions?
and then, seemingly overnight, things changed. ramona became a helper. her enthusiasm for her little sister grew. she got excited to do things with mama and papa. she stopped acting out for, at least what seemed to me, little tiny inconsequential things. things just got easier.
we came around to each other. we both started understanding our new normal. and ramona’s confidence and joy and eagerness was restored. phew. and now? this little girl, ramona marilyn, is so stinking excited to be a big sister. each day i am getting a glimpse of the friendship and sisterhood they are going to cultivate together; the companionship and camaraderie they will build — especially when they don’t feel understood by others, by their parents.
i pray i remember this first emotional toll ramona took. i pray i take a bit of that with me as my girls grow and that i remind myself to be patient, to create a safe and warm space, to lend my listening and swallow my unsolicited advice, to curb my anger and share freely my joy and pride for them. even if they’re acting crazy. no: especially if they’re acting crazy.
my sweet harriet,
every day you are visibly bigger. every day we seem to know you more. my love for you, like your scrumptious thigh rolls, is growing and growing each day.
you drool. a lot. (see photo above for proof). it’s mostly adorable. certainly a good excuse to put you in new cute outfits multiple times a day. i find drool spots and spit up down the back of my shirt bc you are just so quiet and sneaky and persistent with it!
you are wildly entertained by your sister. or at least you are good going along with her antics. yesterday, after i finished hanging up clothes on the line, i walked over to you two to find she had carefully placed a pile of sand on top of your head. i was not amused. until ramona explained it was “just like lion king.” i couldn’t stay mad especially bc you were just sitting there cool as a cucumber, nonplussed, handling all the attention incredibly well.
you sleep like a champ if the environment is perfect: car seat covered with a dark blanket. or in our air-conditioned bedroom, swaddled, pacified and snug in the snuggleme co-sleeping pillow. this is different from your sister who preferred to sleep either attached to mama’s boob or worn in a sling. neither way is particularly better — i’m just constantly amazed at the differences between the two of you. of course, i didn’t think my two babies would be the same but i didn’t suppose the differences would be so apparent right off the bat (if i’ve written this before it’s bc it is constantly on my mind!).
you are grabbing toys in your play gym. you love the black and white drawings above the couch. you stare at things happening with an intentionality that cannot be denied. watching you grow and learn to move your body and observe the world around you is mind blowing.
my favorite thing about you is your smile. electric. and you have these accompanying coos that are ridiculously wonderful and addicting.
we are not jumping to any conclusions but we are so so curious about the little personality you are slowly but surely developing and revealing. you seem to have your papa’s calm demeanor. but there’s bound to be bits of me and lots of just you!
harriet, you are loved. so very much.
i love you. love, mama.
Ramona got her first tooth when she was between six and seven months old. Up until then she had just been a drooly, gummy baby. The only thing I had to worry about is wiping her saliva-soaked chin and making sure her onesies were dry!
When that first tooth popped there was now a whole other act of care we were responsible for as parents. Brushing her teeth. Maybe it was because I was a first time parent but I had a little bit of anxiety about making sure I was doing it right. I mean, it was just a teeny little tooth! Did it really require toothpaste and a toothbrush? But then I learned that compared to my tooth enamel, my baby’s is 50% thinner. That’s why I need expert protection. A good toothpaste and toothbrush are necessary — as well as good follow-through with teaching her to get in the habit of brushing her teeth as she grew older.
She now has a full set of teeth and much more independent capabilities than she did when she was an infant. And brushing teeth is a given. We wanted to make sure that the daily habit of brushing teeth is not to be dreaded but that Ramona got used to it as a part of everyday life.
So to do this, first we started her young. As soon as there were teeth in her mouth we started with a soft small brush and made sure to get her teeth and lightly rub her gums. As she got older and more opinionated we had to become more creative. We’d often brush our teeth with her at the same time so she could mimic us. We made funny faces, stuck our tongue way out (brushing it of course!), and even made silly noises to make the event enjoyable for her and to demonstrate that her parents have to do it too.
Becoming more and more coordinated and independent, Ramona didn’t always want to follow our lead. So we moved her step stool to in front of our full-length mirror and let her watch herself brush. She had learned the basic “moves” from watching us, but now got a chance to see herself be successful in taking matters into her own hand (anyone with a willful toddler knows exactly what I’m talking about).
Voila! Now we have a little one who can brush on her own and even, dare I say it, enjoys it!
Other ways to encourage brushing?
- Let your child pick out their very special toothbrush and toothpaste set. Ramona has two Aquafresh toothbrushes and it’s up to her each night to pick what color toothbrush she wants to use. It may seem silly to have two toothbrushes out for a little one but this one likes green one day and blue the next and I’ll do whatever to get her to brush her teeth!
- Make sure they like the toothpaste they’re using. Taste matters! The Aquafresh Training Toothpaste we were sent to try is apple-banana flavored and Ramona loves it! It’s also fluoride-free so I don’t have to worry about her swallowing it.
- Relax. Your child will learn to brush their teeth and understand the importance of it. It needs to be done but if they don’t get the hang of enjoying it right away, don’t force it too hard. Hand them the brush and see what they do on their own. You want to make this as positive as an experience as you can!
- Aquafresh.com has more ideas with their app, including a learning-to-brush video and making-brushing-fun page. Aquafresh, The little mouth experts™!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Aquafresh through their partnership with POPSUGAR. While I was compensated by POPSUGAR to write a post about Aquafresh, all opinions are my own.
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sweet sweet harriet.
you are two months old. a fog has lifted and we’ve [fingers crossed] reached the end of the newborn-crazies tunnel.
your smile is the most beautiful thing. when you smile, your bright blue eyes get bigger [who knew that was even possible?!] and your mouth, wide and gummy, turns up just at the edges like little cartoon lines. you are incredibly happy and emit this gurgly giggle that just kills me every time. you coo and squawk and have a special little noise you seem to use just to say hello.
ramona and you spend a lot of time making each other smile — you in your bouncy chair and her bouncing you, tickling your neck, making smiley silly faces. she adores you.
you, right now, do a great job of going with the flow. you are along for the ride. and it’s been a fun one so far! you speak up if you need something but usually you are just really stinking content. patient. calm & collected. i have not ever met a baby who is just so cool as a cucumber. and we though we had it easy with your sister..
i love you, etta z. each day you become more familiar than the last. you fit right in from the beginning. and though so much of newborns is a mystery — who you are, what you like, what you need, who you are going to become — but we delight in figuring this all out.
your chubby cheeks, your bald head, your bright eyes, your gummy smile, the adorable quivering frown when you are sad or upset, your constantly stuffy nose, your rapidly growing finger nails, your delicious milk breath, your fervent suck. you are you. wholly you, known and loved before you were knit in my womb.
what an honor it is to be your mother.
i love you. love, mama.