Fri 3 May 2013
When Abi was almost two, we went to my sister’s to help her care for her colicky newborn. Every time I would hold the baby, Abi would scream and sob to shake the rafters. Nothing consoled her: being held by her dad, leaving the room, leaving the house, being offered a toy or some food. Nothing. The screams persisted until SHE was the one in my arms.
Now she is almost four and I think that somewhere inside her she is screaming like that still. Having siblings has turned out to be a real crisis of faith for her. For three fourths of her life, there were two foundational principles she could count on: Her parents loved her more than any other child in the world, and they would always be there for her. Enter babies. The latter principle fell into dust first. It took her about six months to work through that one.
Then the boys started getting real personalities. Her parents now play with, cuddle and console the boys just as they do her. They recount stories of their cuteness to friends and one another, just as they do with her. Abi knows she is deeply loved, but she also now knows she is not loved The Most. She is back to wearing her chew necklace (a repurposed teething toy to use when she is stressed). She talks often about “our old family” and fantasizes about eating the babies or getting rid of them. She has made it her mission to impede the activities of parents and babies doing things together by grabbing someone, blocking a path, or covering eyes.
She still loves the boys very much and shares her toys, invents new games, calls them her “sweet babes” and performs impromptu marriage ceremonies between herself and Callum. It’s quite a war inside that intense little girl. I sympathize and pray for her and do what I can to reassure of her place in my heart; but I must ultimately stand on the outside and let her work through it on her own. Meanwhile the boys are causing one ruckus after another.
Ronan is a lightning fast crawler now. He loves to open and shut the drawers in the bathroom. The bathroom is verboten. So when he hears Abi announce she has to go pee and sees her race down the hall, he drops whatever he is doing and is off like a shot after her, knowing she will open the door. He can usually get most of the drawers open before she is even on the toilet. He’s also adorable beyond words, so pleased with himself and the world when he’s not sick. Tonight at dinner I gave him a chunk of my bagel to gnaw on. He sat up straighter in the chair, beaming and squealing, reaching out with the bagel to show each family member in turn his awesome score. And he cracks me up with his frequent mistaken crises. Like once his foot went under the couch and he couldn’t see it anymore. He was SURE it was stuck and started sobbing in panic, though there was plenty of clearance. That’s Ronan.
Callum has a much shorter attention span than Ronan does, which I guess is why Ronan spends the most time picking at the knotted string tying the cupboard doors of the entertainment center together. But Callum is full of joy and constantly exploring and even taking a few wobbly steps now and again. He doesn’t crawl unless he has to, preferring the challenge of cruising from one piece of furniture to another, and pushing smaller furniture around with an almost pompous look of “I’m doing important work here” as he strains to maneuver a dining room chair or end table. Whenever he is bored he heads over to the piano to play a little tune and sing along. He is such an easy baby when he is not sick. Before Callum I didn’t quite believe this kind of baby existed, though friends claimed to have them– one who sleeps often and well, who eats happily and well, who doesn’t cry much and laughs and smiles often.
Parenting them is challenging in new and different ways. The sheer amount of time I spend cleaning babies, high chairs, and floors after meals is borderline overwhelming, even with cheats like bibs that are actually rubber buckets (thanks for the recommendation, mom’s group!). And now that they are bored with the usual rooms and toys and routes and routines, I am mostly on the run, grabbing a baby on the cusp of danger or destruction. One sees the other doing something and tries it too (pulling off outlet covers and eating them, dragging the floor lamp around, etc). I’m glad to have Abi around. One of her chores is to act as baby anchor. She will sit down and lock her arms around the waist of a baby about to get into trouble and hang on for dear life until I get there. She was really put to the test at the library recently, stopping Callum from pulling books off the shelves while I retrieved Ronan from under a rocking chair and put him back in the stroller. “Mom… I … can’t… do… it… much longer! This job… is getting… TOO HARD …. for me!” she said. Indeed.