Dear Second Child,
Today you were roundhouse kicked in the face by a boot-wearing, overtired nearly-four-year-old little girl who you will someday soon call ‘sister.’ She was showing off for the sales lady at Stride Rite, demonstrating her huge leaps and flamboyant moves, when all of a sudden, your face (apparently) got in her way. Thud. you fell backwards and rolled a little bit, shocked. Sadly, this is not the first time, nor will it be the last. You cried. She apologized. I comforted. I whispered, as I have many times before, “I’m so sorry, buddy.” Any guesses how many times I’ve said that to you in your short nine months of life?
In many ways, it’s true what they tell you about welcoming Child #2 into your family. I was faithful with progressive belly pictures all throughout my pregnancy with your sister. I counted down my daily glasses of water on the refrigerator white board and made sure I was adequately rested. Everything was perfectly in place in her nursery months before her arrival (even though she wouldn’t sleep in there for months!), down to the last picture frame. Fast forward three years later: I took my first belly picture when I was nearly halfway through your pregnancy, and was proud of myself when I remembered to take three or four more before you were born. I was lucky if I ate square meals and snacks, and more so when I remembered to add greens and plenty of water. I was even happier that everything was, at least, washed and put away in your dresser.
I was also told by others time and time again how much of a blur your little life would be. That all of a sudden you’d start crawling and I’d be shocked and have no memory of how you got to that point; that you’d simply be an accessory, along for the ride as I chased your big sister around. That you’d be hitting milestones and I’d barely notice, that the exhaustion would take it all out of me. In my insecurity I even wondered how I could possibly love you the way I love your sister. Such a strong, encompassing love couldn’t possibly be replicated, right?
Oh, were they, was I, wrong, my little son.
Your life has brought us such delight and joy in many of the same ways your sister’s did, but with one exception: we realize, now, how fast it all goes, and that is powerful. I have no desire to speed your growing up, or to launch you headlong into your next milestone. I know that all too soon you’ll be calling me Mama and tearing through our house on your own two feet. That you won’t lay heavy and soft in my arms, reliant on my comfort, in the wee hours of the morning. One day you won’t coo and giggle playing peekaboo the way you do now, and when I hold you on my hip, you won’t cling to my shirt and hook my arm like a baby sloth anymore. I will miss the way you blow raspberries, and how you make tiny coughing noises when you’re hungry. We won’t lock eyes when I feed you, anymore, and you’ll start enjoying freedom and mobility apart from me. It will be beautiful and exciting, but it will hurt, too.
Your growth has been miraculous to me, just as it was with your sister. I’ve noticed, son, so please don’t ever think I’ve missed it or not marveled. It’s been a hard-hitting truth throughout your sister’s life that these years, these moments, are ones that I cannot possibly get back. There have been so many times your dad and I have wished we could bargain our way back into just one day of your sister’s babyhood, and I know it will soon be the same with you. Attempting to get them to stay would be in vain, but that should only compels us to take steps back to breathe and watch.
So when it’s hard, instead of sighing that I wish you’d just be able to do x, y, or z already, or that I can’t wait until this stage of whatever is over, I have vowed to remind myself that I will someday long for you, the way you are now, with all of the challenges and trial-and-error that is parenting an infant. I will try pinch myself in the many moments that seem too good to be true, because they are real and deserve to be bottled, somehow. And while you, son, may need to learn how to run away when you see your sister’s smother-love coming, and will become a pro at dodging her accidental blows, you will know that your life has been noticed and cherished as much as this imperfect mother can muster.
All my love (and continued boo-boo kisses),
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.