Since having my son, my daughter and I have had it sort of rough. I have yelled more, we have argued more and we have said, “I’m sorry,” to each other a lot more. At 3.5-years-old, she has been a challenge a lot of the time. In those moments she has been her sweet self that I adore, she is perfect; but those have been less frequent than they were a year ago. I know part of it is her age, but I also know part of it is having a second baby in the house.
When I was pregnant with my son, I wondered how I would love two as much as I loved her. Then he came along and I just did. But, he also brought along some things that I didn’t think about, such as the amount of time another child – a baby – would absorb from my relationship with my daughter. I wasn’t really prepared for that.
During the first couple of weeks, I missed my daughter desperately. She was my miracle baby. My rainbow after the rain. She was my joy, my heart. We did almost everything together, from planting a garden to craft projects to shopping to bedtime and all the times in between. I was her favorite parent. She frequently told me I was her best friend. But within just the first week of my son being born, our relationship had already changed. She had to rely on my husband more and more because as a breastfeeding mom, my son needed me more. A lot had been effected with the transition to two between her and I, and there are a lot of things that have remained changed even as my son has gotten older.
Currently, Keira favors my husband. He’s fun, always. I give timeouts. I make her use her fork at the table and a napkin to wipe her mouth. I remind her to wipe her butt and wash her hands after going potty. I brush her teeth as she chokes through the toothpaste. I’m the caretaker. I have always played that role in our relationship, but had time to be a bit more fun before too. Nowadays, we are running between work, school and home it seems like the caretaker mode has been put on autopilot. In that role I’m constantly having to remind myself to have patience with her and myself as we both continue to adjust to another person needing my attention.
After Roman was born, Daddy had to help be the caretaker for her in one important aspect of her life – bedtime. I used to do the bedtime routine, but now my son naturally likes to stay up a little later than she did (he sleeps a little later too). This means the kids end up going to bed at about the same time. And in those first few weeks after he was born, he was cluster feeding at night. He would start eating at 5 p.m. and not really stop until 8. This was hard on me, but it was hard on Keira too. I had a hard time trying to get their routines to meld into one, seamless bedtime. I still haven’t been able to figure it out because he still likes to load up on milk before bedtime each night.
So, Daddy ended up on bedtime duty for her, which meant she would either fall asleep in front of the TV or bedtime would become a huge fight. Recently, she has started coming up to Roman’s room and laying on the floor as I finish up putting him to bed. That has worked better, but still, it’s a far cry from the days where I would read to her and then snuggle her to sleep. Very far.
This weekend, we had out-of-town friends over on Friday night who have a 4-year-old daughter. They were crashing with us before an early flight out to some far-away, warm destination and I decided to let Keira stay up and play. We see them so infrequently, I figure one night wouldn’t make a difference. I was wrong.
Keira hadn’t napped that day (because she doesn’t on non-school days) and by 8 p.m. she was a bit of a cranky mess. In a rare turn of events, Roman had already gone down to bed and the adults were relaxing on the couch, working on making conversation while we really all just wanted to go to sleep. (Seriously, if you looked at our husbands’ their eyes were 3/4 of the way closed.)
My friend’s daughter climbed up on her lap and my daughter followed suit, climbing into my lap. She laid down on me as if she were still a baby and I cradled her with her long legs extending far beyond my left arm. She nestled her head against me and I instinctively began patting her bottom, just as I did when she was a colicky baby and as I still do on the nights she wakes up crying and scared. With in a minute or two, she was out.
I had missed bedtime with her and having her in my arms as she drifted off to sleep. I missed our chats, bedtime prayers and the moment between sleep and awake, when they finally drift off because they know they are loved and safe.
As I looked down at her, I realized exactly how long it had been since I held her that way and let her fall asleep on me. This time last year, I had grown too pregnant to hold her in that way, and I certainly couldn’t stand up to put her into her bed once she was asleep. I had modified bedtime and had started just crawling into her bed so we could snuggle and talk about the day. I missed our old routine when she was the only baby in the house. I wouldn’t trade my son for the world, but sometimes I wish I could duplicate my arms so I could still rock both of them to sleep.
That small moment made a huge difference to me. I watched her eyelashes flutter a bit as she began to dream and knew I had to find a way to make bedtime work for both kids again. Not only for me, but for her. She had been getting the short end of the bedtime stick for far too long.
The next day there were less tantrums, I didn’t yell and instead of the, “I’m sorry’s,” we said more, “I love you’s.” Maybe it’s silly of me to think this was all due to me snuggling her off to sleep. Maybe we were just having a good day. But maybe, just maybe, the extra love and comfort at the end of a long day is just what she and I both needed to make the next day a little brighter.