Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beanie with a Spoon. In four acts.

When Jordan was Mina's age, things were different. He had my undivided attention. Multiply his only child status by the drama we went through after he was born, and you can begin to understand how different parenting him was.

When Mina arrived on the scene, it became necessary to divide my focus between the two of them. I didn't like it. The constant pressure to be in two places at once became apparent immediately. And it felt like they both needed me right away and all the time. They were both so young. They were both so little. They both urgently needed feeding, or changing, or bathing, or napping, or meds, or a rash to deal with, or an appointment with the pediatrician, or the dermatologist, or a clinic visit to prepare for. When one slept, the other was awake. When one cried, the other might chime in or laugh at the sound of it. One needed sleep every two hours, then three naps, then two..till finally I got them on the same schedule.

They are still little. They still need three meals and two snacks a day. They still both need frequent diaper changes. They still compete for attention, which leaves me feeling conflicted. Sometimes, I feel genuinely remorseful that Mina never got the kind of one-on-one constant attention that her brother got when he was her age. With him, I sweated every detail. With her, I'm more willing to make do with what's on hand. Jordan had us all to himself every minute of the day, each and every day. Mina doesn't get that. With Jordan, I felt hopelessly inadequate as a parent because I had no idea how to care for a heart transplant baby. That first year...that's what he was to me. Yes, he was my baby..but he was also the fragile, "post-operative heart transplant patient." Once I realized he wasn't going to break, I relaxed. I came to appreciate that I was doing the best I could for him, and he was turning out pretty good.

My feeling of inadequacy continues unabated though with Mina because I know it's possible to do more, be more, spend more time with her..but there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do with her. I try. But it never feels like it's enough. When she hits a milestone like walking on her own, feeding herself, or saying words, I cheer..but I pause too. Wasn't I cheering a bit harder when Jordan did all those things?

The trade off is that Mina benefits from me being a more experienced and hence, a more relaxed parent. I may not sterilize every spoon the second it hits the floor for her, but I know when it makes a difference. I know when to hold her tighter and when to let her explore on her own. I don't love her any less than I love Jordan. I love her more efficiently. As pulled apart as I sometimes feel, I suspect it's harder for parents who both have to work outside the home. Juggling the home/work/child care demands all the time every day must really leave one feeling pulled in a thousand directions. Efficient love takes on a whole new meaning in that situation.

One of the things I am most looking forward to with Jordan in school is the opportunity to spend more time alone with Mina. Just the two of us. Doing the kinds of things I used to do with Jordan solo - taking classes, spending time in the park, reading endless numbers of books curled up on the couch. It doesn't sound like much. It's actually quite a lot.
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