I knew that sometime during this pregnancy I'd have a "what have I gotten myself into?" moment. That moment has been lasting about three weeks now.
I've always said I wanted three children, so being a bit scared of having
two is surprising me in some senses. Or is it just a reality check? I don't
know. I do know that my son Aaron is three, and he's good at being three. He's mastered it and then some.
My little guy, normally sweet and relatively compliant, has been very defiant and cranky recently. We'll ask him to do something simple, such as come to the table for dinner or clean up toys before bed, and either he outright ignores us or flat-out says, "No!" with a very nasty voice. Oh my. And that's just the simple interactions.
We've talked with Aaron, we've used time-outs, we've revoked privileges. We've tried reason. We've validated his emotions while being clear that his behavior is not acceptable. He's thrown tantrums. I've been close to throwing a tantrum or two myself. We've all been frustrated and shed tears. We've questioned every parenting method we've used in the last three years. We've had days when all any of us wanted to do is go to bed. At 8 AM.
Part of me knows that he's three, and he's testing limits and asserting independence appropriately. But part of me wonders where I went wrong. Did I drive away his sweetness somehow? He's also about to become a big brother and his place as the focus of my attentions during his waking hours is very much in jeopardy. There's a lot going on in that beautiful soul of his.
I remember talking about child spacing with a friend of mine years ago, long before I was pregnant with Aaron. This woman had just received her doctorate in child psychology and was working in the child study center of a nearby university. She talked about two to two-and-a-half years being close to the ideal age spread, although it depends on the individual children involved. She mentioned that shorter spreads are harder on the parents physically, but the kids adapt faster, and that with larger spreads, the kids have more tools with which to deal with the changes but it takes longer. A toss up in many ways.
Have I given Aaron the right tools to deal with this major change in all our lives? I don't know. I'm trying. We talk about it a good bit. I tell him often that I love him and always, always will. No matter what. He's my one and only Cheese.
We chose this age difference (larger than the "ideal" discussed by my friend) by example. My husband and his younger brother are three years and five months apart, and my sister and brother are three years and nine months apart. Both of those sibling relationships are strong. They were close enough to share some interests, but not so close that they were competing for the same things, other than general parental attention. Granted, I don't know what the early years were like, and my parents' memories are rose-tinted to say the least. The only anecdote I know of is that when my brother was newborn, my sister once came out of her room at 2 AM and told my father, "That baby is keeping me awake."
So now I have a three year old who so clearly needs me and needs my help figuring out the world and I am also the one who is thoroughly changing that delicate world. There are days when I can barely meet his needs, deal with his growing pains, and now I'm going to have two little people? Am I crazy?
Then there are the other times. Sadly, a bit rarer right now. Friday night I didn't sleep well. Aaron crawled into bed with us early Saturday morning, and was fairly well awake asking for Sesame Street (it was still too early for Sesame Street). Somehow he understood that I was just exhausted. He told me to roll over so he could rub my back. But first he gave me a big kiss and hug. It was very nice.
Even at moments like that, part of me wonders what I have gotten myself -- ourselves -- into. I have so much love for my son, how will I give that same kind of love to our new son? How will I give either of them what they want and need and deserve, much less both of them? How can I possibly be fair to both of them?
A prediction by our old pediatrician in Boston resonates in my head. Aaron
was a fairly easy infant, and Dr. D. once said, "You realize, your next
child will be a hellion." Thanks, Tony. If Dr D's prediction comes true,
we are in for an interesting winter as we get to know this new little person
and Aaron adjusts to his new expanded family. I just hope that in twenty or
so years I will look back on these years with those rose-tinted glasses.