I’ve had this argument with countless others, including my husband.
Every child needs another.
He said lets give our princess the best we can – he meant our attention, love, education and things money can buy. To me, the best we could give her was another baby.
So her brother was born. She had to go through sharing mom with a tiny helpless being who constantly usurped her prerogative of bawling. Of her prerogative of being the one rocked to sleep. At two and a half, she couldn’t express her anxiety, unhappiness, jealousy; nor was she then allowed to express her love and her smothering kisses.
She and I had our share of heartaches with the new baby. We could not spend as much time together. We almost stopped reading our bed time books as the baby had to be rocked to sleep first. We could not go off for our Saturday burger treat, as baby would have to be carried along. I, who had spent all my time with her, had to hire help so manage her needs while I took care of baby.
She loved the time in the evenings, as he was always an early sleeper.
That’s when she could pretend she was her Baba and Ma’s only baby.
That was a year and a half ago.
Today, my younger child went off on his first play date. Suddenly, the house felt so quiet. After a year and a half, he wasn’t somewhere underfoot. And she, who was now mama’s big girl, bawled like a baby. Bring him back, what will I do all by myself, why is he out for lunch, who will eat with me, how will I sleep all alone. When is he back?
Finally, it was the promise of a full bar of chocolate with no sharing that calmed her. And we could read a girlie story with princesses and magic and handsome princes. Without having the book pulled away from us by a restless toddler who would rather she play “bow-wow” with him than read a story with mama.
I have never been stressed about not keeping him stimulated and engaged. I used to talk to her all the time (till she learned to zone me out), play with her constantly, worry about her mental health if I ever did something for myself. I didn’t read a book except when she was asleep, I never left her alone for even the time it takes to have a relaxed bath (I still haven’t gotten over the habit of a rushed bath, by the way). Her potty training was by the book, with each step described by all my reference parenting books adhered to.
He may not ever have got my undivided attention as much as his sister did at the same age. I have not talked with him as much, I haven’t taken him out as much, I haven’t described and labeled everything we see around us as much.
The times we spend together, just the two of us, when she is at school or play dates of her own, we both miss her.
I can leave them together playing their separate games without having to keep obsessive watch over them. I actually get time to read the newspapers these days, knowing they have each other to share the box of crayons with.
My “big girl” has taught him to walk at nine months, running away with his toys. He is talking less than she did at the same age but his social skills and self defense are far more developed. And my little boy can now say chu-chu and pulls his pants down like didi does; did he potty train himself?
He has taught her to share, he is the only one who can wake her up with a smile, he has helped her overcome her fear of the big slide by whizzing down himself. And he already beats up other children in the park if they trouble her (he has learnt early to use his size and age to advantage when taking on bigger bullies).
To all the mothers who have one child, now hear me. It is so much easier to manage two.