When I welcomed my second bundle of everlasting joy this winter, I worried at first about loving my eldest daughter more. After all, how could I love someone more than I love my five-year-old, precious and precocious Lillie?
I learned quickly.
As all parents of two or more children know, it’s super easy to spread that love thick as molasses for both. Love for SydneyRose was as natural and instantaneous as one could hope.
Now, five months into my second child’s life, I am struggling to keep the scales balanced in the opposite direction. I’m struggling to find joy with my five-year-old, when I have this snuggly, giggly, beautiful baby who is (weirdly enough) so much easier to deal with. “How can that be?” you might exclaim. There are the sleepless nights, blow-out diapers, the breastmilk squirting in all cardinal directions, reflux, dairy allergies, mommy separation anxiety…the list goes on. And I would answer, “But all these challenges have straightforward solutions! And there is this: her extreme cuteness is a curative like no other.”
At the moment, nothing is simple, straightforward, nor very often resolved with my five-year-old.
(Disclaimer time: I do love my Lillie. I would literally carve open my chest and deliver my heart at any time for either of my daughters. Love here is not really what is being questioned. Perhaps it is better to say, patience, empathy, and/or enjoyment.)
LillieMarie is a bundle of curiosity, intelligence, and complications; every other minute feels like a battle as we navigate her very strong desires and needs with that of the entire family. First off, every non-meal is a plate full of negotiation with a heaping side of parental desperation as I try to convince her that she cannot live off the dew of flowers and does require actual caloric intake for cellular regeneration…I depend on Pediasure to keep us all sane until we can figure out a better diet.
I had such high hopes for her first year of school (preschool), but the later part has slowly descended into misery. Morning after morning we are met with meltdown after meltdown, which has nearly resulted in hysteria from all parties. The root cause took weeks to determine. I kept gently prodding…Was she being bullied? Was she embarrassed about something?? Did she have a fight with a friend??? Did she have no friends???? Was she frustrated by what she was learning????? Were aliens crawling around in her brain and forcing her to mutiny against authority?????? What the actual heck is going on?!
There were no aliens. It was all about NAPTIME…
For all the parents that could fall asleep standing up, my daughter apparently hates, nay loathes, naptime. Even the faintest whiff of a newly sanitized cot will cause her to spiral into an existential crisis. Let’s hope they don’t have naptime next year.
As if those things weren’t enough to send a parent over the cliff into insanity, she has now become scared of monsters. This sudden fear that she will be eaten by an ambiguous character from her favorite cartoon means she will not go anywhere alone.
I must accompany her to the bathroom. If she is doing art, it can no longer be in her very large, well-organized (haha) art space, but must be done on whatever surface is nearest my person. She is fairly velcroed to my legs. The legs that are weaving around a puppy and tired from bearing the heft of myself and a baby all day.
So yeah, she’s hard right now. And I am struggling. Struggling to see past the hard to the better times ahead. Struggling to breathe through the frustration — to not snap and snarl — but to answer with kindness. Struggling to express my love in those rare moments of calm with hugs and kisses so she knows that no matter what I am her mother and I do love her. Struggling to find empathy for the battle her growing brain and body undergo every day.
As I said, I have few, almost zero, solutions for my current problems with my beautiful little girl. All I can do is hold on tightly to my belief that this will pass, breathe before reacting, pray before screaming, and just make myself see what she is feeling beyond what she is doing. Hopefully, one day soon, we will wake up and things will not be so hard. Until then, we have a squealing, babbling baby to distract us both.