One of my biggest surprises as a mother of two is this feeling of almost mourning my time as a mother of one. I miss my time with just Donovan. More specifically, I miss having time with Donovan where I'm not already dead tired (there must have been a time for that before I got pregnant with Quinn, right? Right?).
A lot of this is due to Quinn being such a high-needs baby. If I had a nickel for every time I've had to say, "I'm sorry, sweetie, but I can't [race cars/read a story/sit with you/etc] right now" over the past 9 months, Donovan's college tuition would be paid for. Babywearing helped a lot, indeed was a lifesaver, but still-- anything that required me sitting? No way. Or shall we say, I couldn't do it without Quinn getting very upset. And I don't fault him-- he's a baby, he has needs, and that's not at all his fault. It's just life. But Donovan has most definitely gotten the short end of the stick as far as "Mommy Time" goes. Quinn has been a very squeaky wheel, and D much more silent, so guess which one gets more grease?
I am at least starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the past few months Quinn's disposition has become much sunnier, in large part thanks to becoming mobile. This brings on a whole other set of challenges, such as trying to keep Quinn from messing with whatever Donovan is playing with at the time (being the classic younger brother, Quinn of course wants to do whatever big brother is doing. Sometimes this is ok with big brother, sometimes... not). But Quinn is better able to entertain himself now, which means I get to play a few race car games with D every once in a while.
Also, Quinn's become more receptive to other people, and lately I've been able to leave him with the nanny or friends and know he won't scream at them the whole time (you think I'm joking, but I think we kinda scarred the nanny one time when Quinn was a few months old and she watched him while I took Donovan to Starbucks just the two of us. It... did not go well). Last week she watched Quinn while I took D to meet up with Zach at work and then go to lunch together, and I had one of those moments where I remember what an amazingly awesome kid Donovan is when I get a chance to just be with him.
Isn't that sad? That that was a realization. I mean, I know Donovan is beyond awesome, but when the vast majority of my time with him is divided between the two kids, and my mind occupied with how to keep one of them happy without the other melting down, and also try to get anything else done, it's easy to not pay attention. To even forget. To get so distracted by the stress and hassles of daily life, and forget to stop and enjoy.
A couple of months ago I had one night when I cried on Zach's shoulder out of sadness that I was missing out on so much of Donovan's current state of being. I've viewed Quinn's first 6-12 months as a period of time that I try to enjoy, but mostly try to get through. It's getting a lot more fun now, but the first 6 months, certainly, were so much work, so difficult, so draining, that I was counting each day as it passed and glad to have survived it. Part of that was Quinn himself, part of it was simply the logistics of trying to care for and fulfill the needs of two very different children. And, mentally and emotionally, I'm at peace with feeling this way about these early months, because I know how much I'm going to enjoy the toddler years and beyond, starting from about now on. But, focusing so much on Quinn, that night I had the realization that while I was letting Quinn's early months pass by, Donovan's current stage of two- and three-year-oldness was also passing. And that, I did want to enjoy and savor. I want to take all of that in, because this stage he's in is so fascinating. His thoughts, the things he says, the games he plays, the way he relates to the world and discovers new things in it... it's so amazing, so wonderful, and it makes me so sad sometimes to know that I'm missing out on really drinking him in right now because he also has a younger brother that needs a lot of my attention.
And of course, I love Quinn. I adore having my two boys, I wouldn't take anything back about the decision to have him, about the timing, about any of it. I know having a sibling will be, is, worth all this, and is already paying off as I watch them play and wrestle together (even as my heart jumps to my throat as D bodyslams Quinn on the bed, waiting for the time Quinn breaks something instead of dissolving into giggles as he always does. I swear he's even started trying tackle D in return) and enjoy each other's company so very much. It's truly heartwarming how much they adore each other.
But, I still mourn the sort of attention I could pay to my older son, before I had a younger one as well. Our family gained so much in having Quinn, but this is still a loss, and it still weighs on my heart.
My goal from here on out is to spend more one-on-one time with each of them. I know it will be difficult to do, but worth it. I am a much better mother-- more relaxed, more fun, more patient, calm, understanding-- when I'm caring for just one of the boys individually rather than both together. That may simply be a truth about me, that I do so much better as a mother of one-child-at-a-time.
I also am trying to work every day to be more patient and more present with them. Because they really are such wonderfully amazing little people, these two.