Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Second

The younger child is 22 months old now, or what I think of as The Nightmarest Age. She is verbal and opinionated and not afraid to use the former to emphasize the latter. She is egocentric and hasn’t yet learned that having an opinion doesn’t automatically mean having the prevailing opinion. She is, in other words, entering Those Terrible Twos.

She is difficult and defiant and recalcitrant and tantrum-y. Developmentally: normal. Emotionally: exhausting.

She is also: just like her sister at that age. So I know how much worse it will get before it will get better. And yes, it’s reassuring to know that it will get better. But being able to measure with predictable accuracy just how far the distance to Better adds a whole second dimension to Exhausting.

Compounding: she’s a daddy’s girl. Acknowledging the depth of this truth pains me sometimes, because I cannot say how much of that condition is innate and how much is exactly that, that is to say, conditioned, because we raised her to be so out of convenience that her elder sister is on the extreme radical end of Mommy’s Girl Proclivity. In so addressing her elder sister’s (loudly insistent) needs, have I shortchanged the attention L needs from me? Have we conspired to draw her to her daddy, and in so doing, to send her away from me?

When we achieve balance I admit that our household has a symbiotic flow. The lovely husband is first-in-command for addressing L's daddy's girl needs; and I take the helm for addressing the many needs and wants of E, Attention Demander Extraordinaire. So we can do simultaneous bedtimes, or read two different stories, or take a big girl out for an exciting trip to the grocery store while a little girl takes her still-mandatory nap. They're still little; it's rare they can fend for themselves for more than a few minutes at a time.

Still, though our Plessy v. Ferguson approach works, I worry we're doing a greater disservice than good. L is so daddy-dependent. E is so mommy-centric. And I worry that I don't know L as well as I knew E at that age.

That thought haunts me. Though maybe it's just what it is, and maybe it was an inevitable since L was never my only child, still it haunts me.

So now L is in this appalling phase where every action upsets her. I pick a diaper and she screams, No! Not that diaper! I pick! I want Elmo! I show her the Elmo on the diaper in my hand and she says I want big Elmo! Not that Elmo!

I go in to her room in the morning when she wakes up and she looks at me. No, Mommy. I want Daddy.

Nobody can please her and I especially can't please her.

This is trying on a good day but becomes far more than trying, it becomes anxiety-inducing, on the eve of one of the lovely husband's business trips. And on one of his eleventy-billion day trips such as this one, I become just so depleted. I try to accommodate their both desires, their both wants, their both needs. I try to give E as much as ever and I try to give L extra - both to show her I will always care for her, too, and to cushion her upset over how much she misses her daddy.

M finally comes home tomorrow. I know both girls will be so excited to see him. I know that I'm just one more teething and bruxism-fueled dual-kid-insomnia night away from sharing the caregiving, from getting some quality sleep for myself again.

But L. That girl. Yes, she's difficult right now. Yes, she's dismissive. Yes, I'm second choice. She's the second child, soon to be the middle child. Will I never feel I know her adequately?

I never want M's trips to arrive on the calendar and when they do I always want them to end but from this eleventy-billion day trip has been one gift: between the yelling and the hitting and the ignoring and the tantruming, she's also shone her countenance to me. She's given me the brightest of her smiles, the deepest of her hugs, the full belly-floppest of her snuggles.

I know it's only because her daddy's been gone so long that she's realized I'm all she's got right now. But it's been good, those parts, and I'm going to cling to them when she's back to shunning me in favor of her preferred parent.

And then maybe I'll go book myself a pregnancy massage.
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