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I’ve come across mothers both in real life and across the Internet who, when talking about their children, simply melt into this giant puddle of starry-eyed goo. Their children are just so precious, just so amazing, just so awe-inspiring. They talk about their offspring much like a teenager does of a new crush. Those little angels can do no wrong.
It comes as no surprise to me, that these are the same women proclaiming they were meant to be a mom.
I was not “meant to be” a mom.
Now, let me clarify.
I love my children so forcefully that sometimes I think my heart my actually explode out of my body. There are times where I get lost staring into their big brown eyes, am dazzled by their intelligence, sweetness and laughter. The fact that I created them is not a small thing lost on me. In those moments, with all the pieces stacked neatly into place, it all comes easily and I know that I am fulfilling a really important role. In those moments, I’m sure I’m that woman gushing about my little sweetums. I mean, I adore those rascals.
There are also times when the day is endless. The kids are whiny and at each others throats. The toddler poops in the tub (while they’re both in it), the preschooler is drawing on my dining room table, and the house is a disaster. As they push each other down again and start screeching, I sometimes wonder, how is this my life?
I have to work at being a mom every single day. Some of it comes naturally. The love, for sure. But not all of it. Every day challenges me to do better, to BE better. I had wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember and even at the worst of times, I would never go back. But there was no divine intervention, no choosing of me to be a mother. It’s a job I chose and one I’m damn good at (most days), but still, not “meant to be”.
Maybe those Meant to Be moms really do have perfect lives with children who fall right into that picture. I think they’re just showing the world their best cards, but who knows. What I do know is that this morning, as I literally scooped poop out of my tub with my (glove covered!) hands, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself that this was NOT what the mom brochure promised.
I don’t think there’s any shame with having to work at being a parent. I think the regular self-evaluation makes me a better one, actually. If you’re like me, you love being a mom. You LOVE your kids. You might have even uttered “meant to be” once or twice. I might have. Probably while my first born was itty bitty and sleeping on my chest. Maybe not when he was spitting up in my underwear.
Definitely not while the other one was pooping in the tub.
I was supposed to write you this letter back in September, as in just over a month you will actually be three and a half. You’ve already grown so much since September, but it’s important to me that I document this time.
Back when I intended to write this, you had just started preschool. I was nervous about your first day. You had a history of needing two or three times to get used to new situations. I had seen it firsthand at small things like story hour or toddler gym, and bigger things like swim lessons — so I prepared myself for your tears at the first drop off.
To my surprise, you marched in confidently and full of excitement, kissed us goodbye, waved, and went on your way. No tears at all. Except for mine, of course. I had to hightail it out of there without talking to anyone, because I couldn’t stop my emotions over my baby going to school from running down my cheeks. I had a good cry the whole way home, nervously waited those short three hours, and practically ran back to get you. When we arrived, you were sitting on the rug, and as soon as you saw me your face burst into a big grin. “Mommy!!!”, you shouted as you ran to me. My heart, Owen. Oh, my heart.
School has been amazing for you and it’s been a real joy to see you blossom into this awesome boy. You’re smart and curious and want to know all the things there are to know. You will talk anyone’s ear off and are sweet and compassionate. It’s so interesting to hear the things you come up with now; the questions you are dying to know the answers to. I can see the wheels turning in your head constantly and it’s exciting to see what you come up with.
As your brother gets bigger, the two of you have gone from happy playmates to complete and total buddies. You are together always. Of course, this is not without issues, as we have been trying to work through some major sharing issues, learning to keep our hands to ourselves and how you are really scaring him when you roar in his face. Please stop that. Overall, though, watching my two little puppies wrestling on the rug (and it IS wrestling now. It’s full WWF Smackdown some days. This has got to be a nature thing, because I sometimes watch in bewilderment and think, where did they learn that?!) makes my heart swell. Yesterday on the way to school, you told me you just LOVED Ryan’s face. “Do you know why I love his face, Mommy?” “Why, Owen?” “Because it looks like my face. Because we’re brothers. And I love my brother.”
I know you’re still little, but often when I look at you now, I can see the boy you’re going to become. In your jeans and button down shirts, the last remnants of your baby cheeks becoming a memory, you seem so big. Looking at Ryan, I swear that was just you, only moments ago. These little moments really do fly by.
I love you through and through, bugaboo. I love who you are and who you are becoming. You are so great!
I’m sitting down to write this two weeks after your birthday. Such is the plight of the second child, I’m afraid. I’ve been composing it in my head for much longer, though. One year…just like that.
The first things people comment on when they meet you is your hair, and your happiness. Both are pretty remarkable.
Your hair is starting to get a little too long in the back and is threatening to become a mullet if I don’t do something about it soon, but the thought of cutting it makes me sad. I’m going to wait it out a little longer until it becomes a vision hazard.
And your happiness? Oh, Ryan. You are just the happiest. You are always smiling. Always! You flirt and laugh and give giant, wet, open-mouth kisses. You have pride in your accomplishments and give yourself a round of applause when you do something well, all while shrieking “Yay!!” Sometimes I find you laughing while flipping through a book or crashing a car because, life! It’s a blast!
Your nickname around here is “Trouble”, and it suits you. You are into everything, so very scrappy, and are already proving to be my wild child. One of your favorite “scare Mama” tricks is to push your giant stuffed lion next to Owen’s closet, climb on top of it and pull on the net of his basketball hoop. Can you at least put a helmet on if you’re going to do that? Over the past two weeks you went from taking your first step, to standing from the floor on your own, to basically walking around the house like you own the place. I forgot how startling it can be to have a small person round the corner doing his best Frankenstein impression when you’re not expecting it. I think Kodiak forgot, too, because you’ve startled him a few times.
I’m hoping once you are fully comfortable with walking that your sleep will go back to normal. And by normal, I mean you used to just sleep all the time. Naps were done in minutes without a fight, bedtime was easy and essentially through the night. As you’ve been working on this skill (and working on adding to your four teeth, I suspect) though, you’ve been up a few times at night, wanting to nurse constantly and have been royally fighting your afternoon nap. I would really, really like to go back to you sleeping. Really. Trust me, we are all happier when everyone sleeps. I will say that you always tell me when you’re ready to sleep. When you’re tired you cry “nigh, nigh, nigh!” until we put you down for night night. Never stop that, ok? It’s adorable.
You are a talker, mister. You are constantly babbling to yourself or anyone who will listen. Your consistent words include: mama, dada, wawa (Owen), dog, book, ball, bear, dat (that), yay, bah (cup), nuh (nurse), night night, hi, uh oh, rum rum (which isn’t really a word, but the sound you make when you drive toy cars around), and believe it or not, dinosaur. It comes out as “dye-dye-dye”, but you only say it when you’re playing with and showing me toy dinosaurs so I know that’s what you mean. What a funny thing to add to your vocabulary. You smack your lips together when you want to eat and always use the signs for more, all done, milk, and have created your own for lovey, which is you touching your mouth with your open hand just like you press your lovey to your face. (SO CUTE.)
Speaking of your lovey, you are totally attached to it. It’s a white lovey with a sheep head that was gifted to your brother when he was a baby. Owen never took any interest in it, but you clutch it to you while you sleep and like to carry it around when you first wake up. It’s slowly going from white to…not so white, despite washing it. I guess it’s just well-loved.
Owen continues to be your ultimate buddy and it’s clear you already idolize him. If he does it, you need to do it too, and that means imitating him in every possible way. You need to drink from big boy cups, and play with big boy toys, and eat big boy food (you did purees for maybe a minute around six months. Then it was “give me what he’s got”, basically.) (Oh yeah, you eat everything. Every. Thing. And if there isn’t food on your tray mere seconds after I put you in the high chair you shriek!) He loves you to infinity and beyond, even though he’s become very territorial about his toys. I don’t think he was quite prepared for all that sharing. The joy in both of your eyes when you play or spontaneously hug, or the peals of laughter from both of you in the back seat makes me know we’re all doing something right, though.
See what happened, Ry Ry? I finally got to writing about you and now I can’t stop. There is just so much to tell.
I will stop, though. For today. Happy first (and two weeks) birthday, my not-so-little Little. Thank you for the joy you bring me constantly.
I love you through and through.
Owning a dog means voluntarily setting yourself up for heartbreak. I mean that in the best possible way.
Kodiak is getting older. He’s nearly eight and a half. While he still has the energy of a puppy most of the time, he’s slowed down over the years; added a little more gray hairs to his chin. (The kids might have contributed to that a bit.) By all accounts, he is a healthy guy, but lately thoughts of the inevitable have been creeping into my head, and as much as a try to push them away, I can’t help but think about it.
People with children tend to roll their eyes at people who have no kids, but have a dog. You know the kind — the dog is their baby. Spoiled rotten, taken everywhere, talked about — and to — as if they could talk back. Jeez, those people, right?
Only, we were those people. Kodiak literally was the first baby and we treated him as such. While we swore it wouldn’t happen — as dog owners with kids do — the life he knew changed drastically once the babies came. Suddenly he had to wait, was underfoot, was no longer the center of attention. To his credit, Kodiak took it all in stride. He adapted to his new job as Fur Brother and loves those babies like they were his own pups.
But I know it’s not the same.
I spend a lot of the day shooing him out of the way of a crawling baby, or getting annoyed that he’s begging for food, or wanting to scream because there’s dog hair on the floor AGAIN. None of these things are his fault, but it’s easy to snap at him when life gets stressful. He won’t snap back. He never has.
Lately, though, I’ve realized that in not too distant future, relatively speaking, he won’t be here to snap at. And I know then that the guilt that tugs at me now will be multiplied over and over again. If only I had paid more attention, took him on a few more walks, let him bask for a few moments in his title of First Baby. When the time to say goodbye comes, I want to feel like I did right by him.
I told Michael I want to have a Kodiak Day. A day where he gets to go to all the places he loves (the beach!), gets a special meal just for him (cheeseburgers!). I know it sounds silly, but I want to do that for him.
This all sounds morbid, I know. We could have another 4+ years with him, and by god, I hope we do. And I’m going to try and use that time better than I have been. For him. For our Kodiak.
Hello there, my little due date baby. Today you have been out exactly as long as you were in. How we’ve already reached this mark is beyond me.
You are a joy, Ry Ry. From your sunny demeanor to your silly mohawk (which has earned you the nickname “Mohawka”), you completely brighten our lives. Watching you grow has been really fun. I naively thought that the second child would be so much like the first, that each time you do something uniquely you, I am surprised by it.
You continue to be a great sleeper, which is — wow. I mean, thank you for that. Your two naps are usually 1.5-2 hours long and if you go to bed at six that’s a late night. You wake usually just once at night to nurse and then sleep at least till seven. In the morning, I bring you to bed and after you nurse, you are all about your Dada. Owen will have joined us by then, and watching the two of you climb all over your daddy is the highlight of my day.
Your first word came right before you turned eight months old. It was Mama, and I’m not sure there’s a better sound than your child first speaking your name. Your tiny voice reminds me a lot of how Owen’s used to sound, so it’s a treat on multiple levels for me to hear it. It’s adorable, but you quickly learned that you can yell it from your crib, and so you do, at 3 a.m. “Mamamamamamama. Mama! MAMA!!!” Soon after, you followed with O-wa (Owen), yay, hiii, and most recently, Dada. I’m pretty sure you’re working on dog as well. You also clap your hands all day long and wave to people when you see them, and have recently started to give real hugs. Those are pretty awesome, kiddo.
You are going to be my daredevil, I just know it. You are seconds away from officially crawling, but you’ve been on your hands and knees for a while now and maneuver around the house pretty well. The other day I left you on the living room rug and moments later found you under the end table a few feet away. I was pretty sure it was going to be Owen’s waffle that finally inspired you to move your knees, but in the end I wouldn’t be surprised if you crawled first to the dog.
You refuse to sit still any longer, and will try and swan dive out of our arms to explore. We had to lower your crib mattress as you are now pulling up to your knees. You should have seen your face when I first discovered you like that — so full of pride and cheekiness.
You have solid food about three times a day now. Oatmeal, sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini, spinach, pears, peas, apple sauce and yogurt are some of your favorites. You don’t really enjoy bananas. Your pincher grasp is great and you eat puffs, diced fruit and shredded cheese like a pro, and pretty much have the sign for “more” down pat. You’ve pretty much mastered the cup, too, and do that funny frat boy chug with your water. You have yet to cut a tooth, though!
Owen remains your very best friend and I can see how hard you try to imitate him. Your whole face lights up when he enters a room and you shake and squirm until you can reach him. If he leaves, you crane your head and yell “O-WA!” until he comes back. You have baby toys, but would much rather play with his trucks or blocks. You already steal toys from each other and have started to wrestle. It’s quite the glimpse into our future.
According to our home scale, you are just over 20 pounds. I had to weigh you twice because your brother was 19 pounds at four months and I have a hard time believing you aren’t bigger. I guess we will find out for sure at your well visit next week, even though I can see you are certainly not the chunker he was.
You are a love, Ryan. From your little laugh to your great big smile, I couldn’t have asked for a better second baby. I can’t believe my next letter will be wishing you a happy first birthday!
I love you through and through, Chickie.
Last week your Mema asked you where you came from, and you replied, all matter of fact, from my Mommy.
I sat there momentarily stunned by your answer. As the story goes, my first response to that question was from the moon, so the fact that you included me in your answer surprised me. As you approach your third birthday, the things you come up with are really starting to blow my mind. I think you’re too smart for your own good sometimes.
This is still a tough age behavior-wise. You continue to assert your independence and be willful and make me wish day drinking was acceptable. While some days it feels like all we do is deal with that side of you, there really is so much more to who you are right now.
Like how each day you become an even better big brother. You are a mini-mommy and will do anything in your power to make Ryan laugh. He adores you, Owen, he really does. I can only hope this is just the beginning of a magical lifelong relationship between you two. He has recently started calling you by name on occasion — “Oh-wa-wa”. Considering he hasn’t even said “Dada” yet (poor Daddy), I would say you hold quite the spot in his heart.
You have become a loud and rambunctious boy, which is a 180 from the quiet toddler you used to be. Watching you play with other kids, dance and tumble has been really fun. You love to color and play with Playdoh, play instruments (especially your mini piano and anything you can make into a drum) and sing. OH, do you love to sing. There is a song by a band called Mumford & Sons that you adore. Every day you make me put it on and sing “I WILL WAIT FOR YOUUUU!” at the top of your lungs while headbanging to their banjo playing. Don’t worry, I have it on video to embarrass you with for the rest of your life, though really, I think it’s adorable. You are LOUD, and like to zoom things, and slam things and jump on things and whoa, are you a boy or what?
You are really into words and letters right now. You’ve known your alphabet for as long as I can remember, but now you want to know which one begins each word. You like to practice the sounds they make and I can’t hide my pride each time you get one right. “La-la-la-LOVE. Love starts with ‘L’!”
You ARE a love, buddy. The sweetest boy. As your grow and change before my eyes, sometimes I have to remind myself that you’ve only been here for less than three years. You’re so big, but still little.
I love you through and through, Bug.
Today you are six months old. Hard to believe it, little boy. Six months is a fun age because you do stuff now. You sit like a champ, though you still topple over. But when you do topple, you roll onto your belly and play. You “talk” and mimic and grab onto our faces, holding them close while flashing us your gummy smile.
You are such a happy baby, save for the past few weeks where you were such a grump. I blamed it on teething (because I always blame this stuff on teething), but you woke up from your afternoon nap today all smiles and giggles and started to blow raspberries — something I haven’t seen you do yet. Was that the skill you were working so hard to master that was making you so angry? Raspberries? Well, you’ve mastered it now so let’s keep Happy Ryan around.
I could spend my whole day staring into those big brown eyes of yours. Your eyelashes are unreal, kid.
Right before I went to sleep on New Years Eve, I checked on you and found you sleeping on your stomach. After that, it was Roll City. You like to rock yourself back and forth to move around the living room and the changing table has become a playground. As soon as I get you on there you start hurling yourself over, doing anything in your power to flip. You find this hilarious and laugh right at me as I try in vain to get your diaper on while you audition for the Olympic gymnastics team. You are trying SO HARD to move. You can almost get yourself up on your knees and I can see how much it pains you not to be able to just take off after your brother. I would not be surprised if you crawled and/or walked early.
You are my cheeky one, Little. With your sparkly eyes, big smile and infectious laugh I know you’re going to sucker me out of getting into trouble. You’ve got that “who me?” look down pat already.
You are already a blankie/lovie kid. I don’t let you sleep with one yet for fear of you smothering yourself, but during waking hours the easiest way to calm you is to pass you a receiving blanket or a burp cloth and you are good to go. You always have one in the car to snuggle and suck on.
You’ve tried rice cereal a handful of times, but unlike your brother who literally “mmmm’d” his way though his first tasting, you could take it or leave it. Granted, it’s boring old rice cereal, so we will introduce you to some veggies soon, but it may be a few more weeks before you’re truly interested. Your cup, however, brings you much delight, and while you’re not really drinking out of it, you’ve gotten pretty good and putting it in your mouth. You’re also really good at banging it on the table while shrieking with delight.
Your four-month sleep regression was nothing more than you fussing a little more at bedtime and waking around 1 rather than 4 or 5. Thank you for that, kiddo. I really do appreciate it. You continue to be such a great sleeper — most nights waking just once and some nights not at all — and I love that I can put you down for naps and bed wide awake and you will put yourself to sleep.
Owen remains your very best friend and the two of you are so funny together. You laugh together and you always want to be touching him. You watch him wherever he goes and you love tagging along to his story hour and toddler dance class. You will mimic his voice and kiss his face and in turn, he showers you will love. I couldn’t have asked for a better pair.
Sure, you have days where I’m ready to put you out with the bath water…
…but I think we’ll still keep you.
I love you through and through, Little.
There’s been a couple of stages during your life that I declare your current age to be my favorite. This is one of them. You can still be willful and stubborn and frustrating as you continue to grow and assert your independence, but something changed in just these last few weeks. It’s hard to articulate, but you are such a KID now. I know, I know. Every letter I write I tell you how you’ve grown so much, but really, trust me. This time you have. You’re not just two, you’re two and a HALF. Halves make all the difference.
You crack jokes, including your first toilet humor. You changed a word in a song from “super” to “pooper”, then collapsed in a fit of giggles. I of course couldn’t NOT laugh at your nonsense, so you repeated it over and over until it was no longer amusing and I had a pretty clear view of what life with a 10-year old boy will be like. I’ve started writing down all of your best quotes so I never forget them. Like just the other day, when I mentioned I wanted go to Starbucks and you told me you didn’t want to go, you wanted to play, and I should “go in the kitchen and make your own coffee, Mommy.” Well. Ok, then.
You want to do everything yourself, even if it takes twice (or three times) as long. You are essentially daytime potty trained, but actually wake up most mornings dry as well. When you go, you want privacy, telling us to “go in the living room” until you are done. Which is fine by me, because you can already stink up the bathroom like a grown man. Yes, my love. I put that on the internet. Consider it advanced payback for the first time you stay out past curfew.
Currently your favorite things are your toy animals, pretend food (you go shopping and cook “just like Mommy”), any of the wooden blocks/Kinex variety, and of course, vehicles of every kind. You also enjoy our weekly trips to kid/mom dance class and story hour.
Ryan is your best friend in the whole world and watching the two of you together brings me so much joy. You love to play with him and make him laugh, and I have to tell you multiple times a day that while it’s incredibly sweet, he does not need to be kissed and hugged quite that much. You’re going to squeeze the stuffing out of him.
You still think Daddy is the coolest guy on the planet (I get it. I do too!) and on his days at home, it is All Daddy Everything. On those nights only Daddy will do for bedtime.
You still nap, though it takes a while and some gentle reminding that it’s time to settle down and go to sleep. You have always been a grumpy waker from your naps, though, but I have to be honest and tell you there’s a part of me that doesn’t mind. After your nap you usually wake calling for me. It is then you call me Mama, not Mommy, and want nothing more than to bury yourself under my chin and be held. You are always on the go now, slowing so infrequently, that I cherish the moments when all you want is to slow down with me.
Tomorrow we are touring the preschool you will attend in the fall. It’s just a couple hours a few days a week, but it will be a huge change. For all of us. I know it’s still months away, but it doesn’t feel very far at all. You, my ever-growing boy. How did you get so big?
I guess you’re not This Little Toddler anymore. What do we call you now? This Little Kid? Yeah, I think that sounds about right.
I love you through and through, Mister Mister.
Every night before I go to bed, I check in on my babies. Owen is usually sprawled out on his back at some interesting angle, blanket askew, his “Mommy shirt”, an old t-shirt of mine he made his blankie, draped across him. I gently tuck him back in, occasionally removing his wedged feet from between the bed slats, brush his hair off his forehead, kiss him gently and tip toe out.
Next is the baby. I turn the light on in my bedroom across the hall so I will have just enough light to see him, but not enough for him to wake. He looks like the world’s sweetest little starfish zipped into his blanket. Ryan will have rotated to his right — he always does — and will have pressed his face against the one bumper I have in there. The one bumper I put back in because he kept waking himself up trying to snuggle himself into the crib rails. I have stopped stressing about him sleeping like that now, but I always pause just long enough to see the rise and fall of his chest.
It occurs to me that my children will never know I do these things. They might remember the story hours I took them to, the outings at the playground. They might one day remind me of the pictures we drew together or the songs we danced around the living room to. They will know I parented them all day every day, but the memories of the night will be mine alone.
At night I am transported both back in time, and towards the future. Ryan’s dewy skin and sleepy suckling are all baby, and Owen’s rosy cheeks remind me of when he was tiny. The other night, though, before my eyes adjusted to the dark, I caught a glimpse of who my little boy will become. In the dark, Owen’s sleeping profile was so strikingly similar to his father’s, I actually gasped.
Babies don’t keep, but these nights will. In my mind. In my heart. In the dark.