When my first kid was born, I was twenty years old and didn't have a clue what I was doing (I'm not trying to be humble here, I literally had no idea what I was doing. I buckled her into her car seat wrong --like, scarily wrong-- for the first few weeks of her life until someone saw and gently corrected me). Luckily for me though, this brand new little life force was fairly easy to figure out and keep relatively calm and happy. Don't get me wrong, I still endured all the new parent trials (no sleep, eating whatever I could shove into my mouth at any given moment, hygiene that would make even a medieval peasant shudder, etc.), but I was lulled into a false sense of security and self righteousness way too quickly. Look how great I am! Look at this beautiful child with her schedule and her calm personality which is obviously a sign of super cool, laid back parents. Parenting is so easy!
Dear Lord, and then.
Then my second baby came.
First of all, did you know that babies come in more than one personality? Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question. Did you? Also, if you did, WHY YOU NO TELL ME? This child, whose name means "Beautiful" and "Grace of God" came into the world with one goal and that was to destroy any notion I had that I knew even a single, tiny bit about parenting. As an infant she would cry for hours (and I often joined her). She didn't give a crap about sleeping. I would finally get her to sleep, rush out of the room, and I would hear her crying just as I turned the shower on in what was my very futile attempt to resemble a human being again. She took twenty minute naps and woke up multiple times a night for the first thirteen months of her life.
She was also bold and daring and whip smart. She began talking in full, understandable sentences well before she turned two years old. She climbed and jumped and explored. Where my oldest was cautious and thoughtful and asked for guidance as she surveyed a situation, my second very precisely and with great vigor did whatever the heck she wanted (I'm using past tense like this isn't still wildly accurate for both girls. These differences have not changed, only deepened and sharpened over time).
Parenting these two different personalities has been the ongoing lesson of my life. What works for one very rarely works for the other. Trying to coax one out of her shell while teaching the other that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something is a balancing act I hardly ever feel qualified to handle. How do you do that? How do you teach confidence and humility, boldness and sensitivity to two very different hearts? And why can't I just stand them side by side and have them absorb these things from each other through osmosis? Come on, Science! There are days (and by that, I mean almost all the days. Ever) when my husband walks in the door after work and all I can think is, "YOU! Thank God! You You You! Here, these children are all for you now. I'm going to go stare at a wall for a few minutes/hours."
A few months ago we added another personality to the mix. I haven't figured out yet if the whole "happiest, easiest going baby on the planet" thing is for real or simply a ruse cooked up with his sisters to lull me into another bout of false security, but I'll take it either way at this point. Those gorgeous little hooligans are mine. They're in my blood and under my skin and beating in my chest. I am left bewildered that God ever looked at anything I have to offer and thought, "Yes, you are the perfect woman to mother these babies," but He did and so here I am.
(Locked in my room, trying to finish this post as the two oldest watch Garfield and fight about grapes, and the youngest snores in his crib. But I'm here! I showed up. I'm doing it. Slowly, awkwardly, sometimes correctly, a lot of times incorrectly--doing it)