Ever since Little One arrived, people have said that she looks like me. My ability to see the resemblance shifts depending on what she is wearing or how she is acting. Over the past few weeks, we have realized that she likes to do hair and look at herself in the mirror. None of these things are activities I particularly enjoy; although, I do like *other* people doing my hair and helping me figure out what to wear (as long as they are kind and positive). An effective punishment for us has been to take her mirror away; it's so strange to me that the possibility of not seeing herself in the mirror makes my daughter listen.
Being a parent has exceeded my expectations and continues to surprise me. The Little One's interest are diverse. She also loves dinosaurs and building things with blocks. She likes to sing, dance, and run around. She likes swimming, yoga, and reading. In all of those activities, I can see bits of Partner and my interest reflected. I thought that the hair and mirror were anomalies until we came to MD.
She has been working on mastering a bun and pony tail. Tonight, she got a bag full of hair bands and scrunchies. She used every single one of them to put her hair in a bun and it actually looked good. I sent the picture to some friends just for fun and to make people laugh. Beth responded that the hairstyle looked familiar. When I looked again, I realized that I used to do my hair in pretty much the same way. Not with as many bands, but the general idea was the same. I suddenly remembered being obsessive about getting my hair just right and spending time picking out the perfect hair bands, clips, or headbands. In a baby album, there are pictures of me smiling at myself in the mirror.
Holy crap-- this strange behavior is something that I share with my daughter! As odd as I find it, I do hope that she always feels confident. That doing her hair and looking at herself in the mirror continues to bring her joy. One of her favorite new phrases is "I am fabulous!" I hope that she says it as frequently and passionately years from now.
We took our first road trip as a family of four to arrive in MD for a massive Thanksgiving celebration. At various moments, the travel felt like it was going to last forever. There were accidents, traffic delays, meltdown, and tantrums. I had a lot of opportunities to rise to the occasion and be the parent I admire. Unfortunately, I also fell short a lot. I feel stuck in this place of knowing better, but not being able to do better. I often wonder what it would be like to parent with many nights of full sleep instead of scraping together rest during kid naps.
While Thanksgiving is often a good reminder of the many wonderful things in my life, this year Thanksgiving made me think of transitions. During our blessing before the meal, my mom started crying when she talked about people who had died over the past year. I was initially so confused because I could not remember who had died this year and then I realized that October and November are the death anniversaries of my grandparents. When the little mister arrived, I felt a huge pang that he would not meet my grandparents; I was thinking a lot about my grandfather because I was hoping to name little mister after him. We chose a different name, but the sounds are similar. My cousin's wife also lost her father this year; her brother and his family came into town. Their son is autistic and kept hugging my mom because she reminded him of his grandmother who died a few years ago. I felt a big ache when I realized that there was going to be a Thanksgiving when I would cry because I miss my parents terribly.
Even with all the morbid thoughts, I laughed and smiled so much. We welcomed the Little Mister to the family. Partner presented him in Lion King fashion. The Little One got applause and props for being a good big sister. Because the Little Mister is breast feeding, I even got a time out from the crowd which was a good chance to connect with him and recharge. During our drive down, we listed to a CD that Partner made me for our wedding anniversary. Since both kids were asleep, it was fun to reflect on our wedding and travels. The soundtrack is the same in many ways, but the reality is so different.
Dear Little Mister:
We started doing baby yoga together about two weeks ago and it is some of my favorite time with you. I have learned some exercises and activities to do with you that are calming, fun, and help me fill time when I am not sure exactly how to "entertain" you. In a group setting, parts of your personality are starting to emerge. You love to look around and see what is going on. You are generous with smiles and grunts of approval. You seem open to trying new things which have mostly been new yoga poses :)
You are starting to have longer sleep stretches at night. HOORAY! HOORAY! HOORAY! Daddy finally convinced me to try the noise machine and I am amazed at how much the "wind noise" improves your sleep. One unexpected downside to the long sleep stretches is that I feel incredibly sore in the morning and our first feed of the day is pretty messy. The pump has returned to my life as I try to manage the milk supply while making sure we all get enough sleep. It is another chance for us to practice establishing a new normal that works for both of us.
I must confess that I am struggling a lot with parenthood. As I mentioned before, I love being your mom and I love being your sister's mom. The challenge is being a good mom to both of you at the same time. One day last week, you both started crying after bath. You were hungry and wanted to be fed. Your sister wanted me to hold her and put her to bed. I tried everything I knew to reason with your sister and even laughed a little bit, then I saw both of your faces and I started crying really hard. I felt like a failure. You both stopped and just watched me. I was broken. After a few minutes, we worked out a decent solution which was that I would feed you in our bed and your sister would sit next to us. She decided she wanted to sleep in our bed and she feel asleep while I was feeding you. As soon as you started eating, your whole body relaxed and you went into a meditative state.
The transformation from the distressed crying to peaceful bliss in a matter of minutes captures the parenting experience. In a span of ten minutes, I feel so happy and then like complete shit because everything is falling apart. I want so badly to do right by you, for us to have a bond and connection that runs deep. I am glad you feel safe around me and want to be near me when you are upset. I also want those things with your sister. I want you to have those connections with your dad and with your sister. The question I struggle with the most is how to create strong bonds with each individual in my nuclear family without making the others feel left out or upset.
In the midst of all the anxiety, there are some good anchoring moments. Almost every morning you wake up happy. You look around to make sure we are all accounted for: Daddy, Didi (elder sister), and me. You and your sister spend time together in the crib. She gives you toys, tells you stories, shares blankets, and sings songs. Daddy and I watch you both together. In the midst of all the chaos, these quiet moments of togetherness are the best part of my day. Thank you for anchoring us in joy.