There’s something about the finality of a second child that makes a mother cling to those milestones ever so much more than with the first. The first go-round I was simply trying to stay on-route, attempting to keep that squawking creature in the backseat from distracting me from the unknown road ahead; all the while her first words, first steps, and first birthday blasted by like showy billboards strung along a busy highway.
Baby number two offers a return trip down that road, and although the squawking is even louder with two, by now I’ve become accustomed to tuning that out. Allowing me, hopefully, to enjoy the scenery a little more this time around.
See, I now have the historical perspective to know a bit about what comes next, as opposed to when Elle was turning one and I couldn’t even fathom the ways in which she would change over the course of the next year. That those navy blue Velcro shoes with the white stripe down the side, the ones I wore in 1980, would only fit her for a month or two. That those downy Gerber Baby curls, the ones that stuck out from the back of her head like cartoonesque ski jumps, would lengthen out into locks that I’d be fighting to pull into pigtails. That as soon as her babbling baby talk turned to language she literally would not stop talking… ever.
I have the historical perspective to recognize that there’s a good reason second siblings are born 18-24 months after the first child; that reason being that babies between the ages of 9 and15 months are the cutest damn things in the world. By then, they have outgrown that newborn baby neediness, trading those middle-of-the-night feedings and bouts of colic for drool-soaked open-mouth kisses and uproarious games of peek-a-boo. Babies this age are just waking up to this great big world around them, and one cannot help but share in their enthusiasm as they shuffle and toddle around merrily, checking it all out.
You don’t love your kids any less as they shift from baby to toddler to little kid; your love just seems more complicated. In their process of blossoming into thinking little people, there are some growing pains. That bouncing baby girl, flashing six-tooth grins like little beams of sunshine, will swiftly evolve into a 2- then 3-year-old whose smiles are interspersed with theatrical temper tantrums and naughty deeds. And the most daunting part is that those behavioral challenges will likely seem like a tea party compared to the wrath the adolescent and teenage years have in store. Where, by the way, does a 3-year-old girl learn to roll her eyes at her mother? Is that an inborn trait of female children – the art of facial scoffing?
We’re in the sweet spot right now with Baby Emme. And while I may not know everything about the road ahead, I do know this: She will never be a baby again. Those chubby pads on the back of her hands that jiggle when she claps will disappear. So, too, will her willingness to be rocked before bed, and before I know it she’ll be too big to snuggle into the crook of my arm. With those changes will come her budding independence, and all the raised fist defiance and mischievousness that come with it.
With the passing of those milestones come more things to look forward to, of course; Elle is evidence of that – 2-year-old temper tantrums and 3-year-old naughtiness and all. Babyhood is a sweet but fleeting stage, and I’m thankful I know better now how quickly it passes, thanks to raising Elle.