these are ramona’s best friends. there is something so amazing about watching her form relationships and memories with other little ones and people beyond me. i watch how she plays and communicates and asserts herself and accommodates others. she has fun, she gets confused, she loves hard, she tackles, she giggles and chases and watches and learns. the thought of her “leaving the nest” to go to preschool, even if just for half days, is becoming less and less foreign and scary to me. she will thrive fantastically.
this week’s contributor is from courtney, of parent tango, a she says/he says blog about marriage, family, and parenting. in this post she writes about the transition of being a mother of one to multiples, and the beauty of it.
I know several women who are pregnant with their second child. All of them have expressed trepidation over how they will ever be able to love the second child as much as they love the first. I can relate. The mother of four and an only child myself, I am here to tell you, you can love all of your children hugely. And you’re doing a good thing by given them another person to share their young life with.
As an only child, I went along obliviously happy as a lark, not realizing how fortunate I was to benefit from the perks of having my parents’ full attention and the opportunities that went along with that. But when I was 10, my parents told me they had had another baby, born prematurely, two years after I was born. He lived only an hour. Besides the heartache of my parents which I couldn’t even wrap my young brain around, I was suddenly so sad for myself. I went from being contentedly solo in the world to feeling the absence of a sibling I had never known to miss.
From then on, whenever my parents were particularly annoying (they grew increasingly annoying as I entered my teen years, naturally), I wished my brother had been there to commiserate with. I felt lonely for the first time ever and wished he had been there to hang around with. I was changed. And it changed what I thought about having my own children someday.
I married a man who had wanted to have four children since he was a young child. I wasn’t so sure about that number, since four people sounded like a crowd to me! As life and my husband’s fear of a vasectomy would have it, we did indeed have four. For the most part, our kids are friends and certainly devote a lot of time to talking about how incredibly annoying their parents are. It must be great for them.
Sometimes I look at them and remember when I was like my pregnant friend, unable to imagine how I could possibly, ever, love another child as much as I loved my first child. So in the wee hours of the morning, before heading to the hospital in labor I whispered to my sleeping two-year-old, “I’m sorry.” Yes, I apologized to my first child for giving birth to my second! It seems so unfair to the second child and it was so untrue. I wasn’t sorry I was having him. And I wasn’t sorry I’d given her a sibling. Of course, I adored him heart and soul immediately. And my first child loved him too when she wasn’t hating him.
I often watch my children interact (with some envy) and see how their relationships with each other morph and change over the years. They all have different relationships and roles with each other. Most of the time, they probably don’t consider each other much of a gift. But they are, providing playmates, confidants, and exercises in all sorts of life skills.
So I take back the apology I made to my daughter 20 years ago. I had more than enough love to go around. And I gave them each other.
this is so beautifully written and i appreciate the honesty in it. i am a bit nervous about introducing another child into the mix bc i am having so much fun with miss ramona and am a little worried how a little squish is going to change our dynamic! however, i know that what these two siblings will do for each other will be immense. thanks, courtney!
is she not the most adorable wicked witch ever? the green face paint was not as much of an ordeal to put on as i anticipated — she sat there so calm and serious (like her haircut) and did her absolute best not to touch it until it was dry. even refraining from talking fully so as not to disturb the drying paint (which led to her drooling bc she wouldn’t close her mouth all of the way which led to a paint-free spot around her chin by the end of the night). and then we were off!
jp’s parents joined us on our venture, which was to lead us through the lower highland up to root down for dinner. jp dressed as
himself a lumberjack. and i put on some silly eyelashes and called it a day. ramona seemed less than enthused, not really understanding what was about to happen.
like senior citizens headed to their blue plate specials we began our trek when there was still ample light in the sky; surely we were many homes’ first knocking and begging guests. but whatever annoyance was displayed with our early biddings, you could see melt away when they looked at little miss ramona all dressed in black and green-faced, saying eagerly: trick or treat! and then, after they’d placed a fistful of candy in her basket, would stand there, staring, waiting for more. ha! we did our best to teach her to say “happy halloween” and then walk back to us but we often had little success in that. which worked to her advantage bc people fell for her ploy and more often than not put another stash of candy in her basket. smart girl.
soon after she was pointing at every single house (even the sketchy drug dens and hoarder homes) saying, “let’s go there! TRICK OR TREAT!” and i’m not surprised that my little brave one, independent and fearless and in love with people, ambled up to every front door on her own, on a mission. i think this holiday is going to be a hit with her in the years to come.
and because it’s fun and for posterity, photos my parents sent me as a little girl on halloween:
looking at these photos from our visit to nashville this past july, i’m struck by the gentleness of this morning moment. i had gotten ramona from the crib she was in and brought her into bed with me for more snuggles. she brought along the magna doodle she had recently discovered and sat there engrossed in it for quite some time. and i sat with her. in the moment. just us and morning light and crisp sheets.
this doesn’t always happen as often as i’d like. as often it needs to happen. i’ve been reading thich nhat hanh’s book, the miracle of mindfulness, and the part i keep coming back to is “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” by this he means: be fully present in the moment you are in. if you rush through a moment in order to move on to the next, then you miss out on a lot of living. thoughts, ideas, intentional breathing, revelations… these can all happen during moments of mundane tasks or seemingly unproductive down times if the tasks and moments are done intentionally, with care.
i still hate doing dishes but i have found a way to do them and do them well without trying to rush it all. being mindful of what my hands are actually doing slows my heart and calms my breath. and then i try to transfer this to moments with my family: instead of always compartmentalizing which moments are mine (alone time during ramona’s nap or after she’s gone to bed or when i can drop her off at daycare) i try to take advantage of all moments –making them all mine by being present in all of them–, savoring the time and being aware of reading her a book to read a book, or helping her put on her clothes to put on her clothes, or playing tea time to play tea time, or eating breakfast to eat breakfast, or snuggling in bed with papa in the morning to snuggle in bed with papa in the morning. one more thing will always be happening after this thing is done. but there’s no need to always be looking ahead at that next moment.
i know, as parents, it is quite hard to savor every moment: there are so many things that have to get done on top of the things we want to do with our little ones. there are timelines and nap times and family events and laundry and play dates and personal needs for self-improvement and quiet time. i am never going to be blissed out every single second of parenthood. but i can try and see the grace and peace in time spent doing what i would rather not be doing. and take extra joy when i get to do exactly what it is i want to do. after all, i have a little girl watching my every move and i’d love for her to grow up as one who is never too old to stop and smell the flowers or observe marching ants and is never too proud or lazy to pick up after herself or take time for what others might need more time for.
if you cannot find joy in peace in these moments of sitting, then the future itself will only flow by as a river flows by, you will not be able to hold it back, you will be incapable of living the future when it has become the present. -thich nhat hanh, the miracle of mindfulness, p. 36.
my aunt texted me this photo over the weekend with the question “who does this remind you of?” i had a hunch and was so excited when that hunch was correct: it’s a photo of my grandma driver (my father’s mother) when she was a little girl growing up in fort wayne, indiana. when i showed ramona the photo in the morning and asked her who it is, she said “mona.” i can see why:
the likeness is uncanny. and to see it make it through four generations blows my mind. i asked my grandma about the photo and she told me:
I suppose I was around three or a little younger since it doesn’t look like a November kind of weather. I can’t say I remember much about it except we lived across from the high school stadium and I am told when I was a little younger I ate a little box of garlic that was sitting on the back porch; I must have reeked. It is a wonder they didn’t give me away. The baby buggy I have in the garage, put together last summer by your Papa. Grandma Stowell had carefully shipped it out here many years ago, but it had been in [my aunt and uncle's] garage all those years.
it’s an honor to have ramona look so much like my grandmother, gloria. she is one amazing lady: spunky and witty and full of love. it’s great to see ramona inherit –not only her adorable cheeks and chin– but also these personality traits that will certainly serve her well in her life. i love you, grandma!