Excitement, fear, and a little bit of grief.
It feels like the calm before the storm.
Sure, having a two-year-old is no picnic - and ours isn't even out of diapers, or a great sleeper, or particularly easygoing. But he is steadily gaining independence and, slowly but surely, a toolbox of charmingly garbled words and phrases to communicate with. Oh, and he's in full-time preschool. Full-time parents of toddlers, I bow to you - I find being with my kid all day on the weekends to be sufficiently exhausting, and that's with the substantial support of my partner.
Yep, things have just started to get easier...before they get way harder.
The parents I know who have gone through this already have not sugar-coated anything for me. Brace yourself, they say, in a tone of relief (they're past the worst) tinged with schadenfreude, the first few months are BRUTAL. I believe them. Though the memory of those grueling first weeks and months with a newborn have mercifully faded from my mind, I know I was perpetually bleary-eyed and physically weathered; I longed for adult company, and whatever help I got never felt like enough.
But I'm not that worried about the newborn - I know what to expect, and I have a better appreciation now for how fast it all goes by, how everything is just a passing phase, for better and for worse. What I'm really worried about is my toddler, and how he's going to face the existential blow of no longer being the center of our universe.
I know it's an important life lesson for him, especially as he's in the thick of an aggravating "mine-mine-mine" phase. I just thought we might be able to hold off on "life lessons" and "tough love" until he was, say, three or so. And knowing that he'll eventually forget what it was like to become a big brother just makes me sad.
"Your heart gets bigger," people say. "It just works out."
My friend said she cried when her second was born, because she had to miss accompanying her first to a fun activity that day. It sounds a bit melodramatic, but I get it. It was the first in what would feel like an endless string of choices - whom to pay attention to, to spend time with, to believe in an argument? When just one child seems to consume so much of your energy and focus, it's hard to imagine making space in your world for two. "Your heart gets bigger," people say. "It just works out."
I'm bracing myself for at least a few months of jealousy and tantrums, which I hope I can manage with patience and compassion. But in my son's last few weeks (days? hours?) as an only child, as I grieve the end of our family of three, I just want to cuddle my first baby close and make sure he knows how much he's loved