The first year with two
I find myself asking what I want to save from this year. And it feels harder to answer that question than one might think. Do I want to gather up all the things I have learned? Well no, that wouldn’t really capture what it has felt like to live my year this year, and it would probably all sound very boringly obvious in the abstract. Do I then want to link up the precious moments of connection that happen between siblings as they get to know each other, in different ways, for the first time? Well yes, but it’s happened and is happening, and I’m more interested in the continuation of it than in making sure I’ve got the perfect record, which doesn’t feel at all possible to attain. So what is left, then? Something about the change I have gone through, or that we have gone through as a family, or about what has made this year different from any other?
One thing that I have found hard, and which I think runs quite deep, is the responsibility that attaches to being conscious, in every moment, of not one but two little beings. I have noticed, to my distress at times, that it is only me as the mother / primary caregiver that has this. I cannot think of either girl, now, in isolation from the other, and I cannot “rest” from the thought of what one might need while concentrating on the other. Mostly I feel that when others are helping to look after the girls, they move quite straightforwardly from one to the other and back again. It is either or. But for me it is as though I can feel the tug of those parallel lines inside of me all of the time (the unsevered umbilical cord?), and at times of course I can feel how tangled those lines will get in moments of chaos and discord, as needs and wants clash.
This is something I began to notice in a previous post, and so perhaps I can treat the thoughts here as a follow up to ‘Mental adjustments and some self-talk’. In that previous post the things that I was noticing felt very stark. It was a kind of dramatic time, if only within the domestic sphere. But as time has gone on, this newly embedded consciousness and inner prompting has remained and grown with me. It affects me in ways that feel quite subtle or at least beneath the surface, but this is probably because they are little articulated or even known.
The tug manifests itself in different ways: some of them practical, some emotional. I need to stop D2 from trying to stand over the toilet while D1 finally agrees to do what she’s supposed to, climbing on to her stool and sitting on it. This takes some doing as D2 loves to see what is going on and is rather interested in the toilet. Another instance would be when D2 is desperate to be fed, and D1 is eagerly pursuing some other attention-raising activity (shouting, climbing up, strewing objects). The drive to respond to D2 is too strong for me to do anything else, but I do feel somewhat prevented from doing so by D1, and so I find myself again caught between the two.
There are other kinds of moments in which I experience two emotions at once. When D2 offers (holding out her hand) a “toy” to D1 that D1 doesn’t take; I want to celebrate what D2 has done, but I also see how D1 can’t quite appreciate what she has been offered, even in being chosen by D2 to be the recipient. She doesn’t in that moment want the toy herself; neither does she see it as a toy. I understand D1’s reaction or lack of it, but I also feel a twinge of disappointment for D2.
I think it is the accumulation of such moments that make the outbursts of togetherness that do spontaneously happen feel so special. There have been several times when D1’s bouncing, dancing and singing on the bed has been met with great hilarity from D2. D1, spurred on, takes even greater delight in knowing she is performing to an audience. And yet there are other times when she tries to replicate that, knowing it is something that D2 likes, and it doesn’t work; D2 simply isn’t tickled in the same way. I don’t know if D1 takes any learning from this, but I am sure it is important somehow in her development as a sister.
And thus life goes on.
One thought that helped me recently was that I haven’t wrecked one girl’s world, by bringing the other into it. Sooner or later, they would have had to have had these interactions with another little person. In playgroups, toys are “stolen” and children get in each other’s way. On playdates, hair is pulled and other people’s snacks are eyed jealously. I cannot stop life from happening. I can only be with them both as it does.