This week, it was Baby S’ birthday. 4 years old. So much and so little all in one. Amidst these unthinkable times, we celebrated his joy with more joy and transformed self-isolation into an excuse to celebrate together and bring our family virtually to us. As I seek to clear out the last confetti, I can’t help but reflect on what he has brought us.
One of the joys of motherhood is to watch this little human being develop into a person, grow a personality, acquire habits, try new things. In the process, you become a better human yourself (well, most of the times at least). Here are the 6 lessons I learnt from Baby S.
The Lesson of Teamwork (and asking for help)
Many people believe their life is changed with Baby #1. Whilst that is an undeniable fact, the couples life is stirred further with Baby #2. There is rarely a minute to spare, especially if they are close in age, which is not my case – I was not brave enough. There is a greater need to share the workload. If Mummy is feeding one, there is a pair of hands needed for the first born. Or vice versa. If one is napping, the other one likely stopped napping all together and wants alone time.
Team work has never been more important than with the arrival of baby #2. At least for us, it was a big shake up. Hubby B has always been sharing parenting workload, but this has taken the workload to a whole new level.
The lesson of Not being the Only One
We have been obsessed about siblings rivalry since very early. We read the right books (or so we think), we took the right steps (arguably) and we gave #1 all the extra 1on1 we thought required to make her feel safe. I wish I could talk about how much that has worked. Well, let me not be negative. There is a bond between the 2 of them that I don’t always see on the street. They are truly passionate about each other and, despite the 4-years age difference, they admit they are each other’s favourite, which warms my heart. The pandemic has certainly made this stronger (or maybe just more observable since I am home).
What has not happened is the pain of no longer being #1 has not gone away (yet). We had hoped it would have subsided by now, but no matter what efforts, there is still a high level of anxiety in my Little Girl’s young heart. Uncertainty often assaults her, and after a day where she could be mostly happy for her brother’s birthday, she cracked at the end of the day in suffering about how she got no attention. For ONE day.
The lesson of Being the #2
As number #2 in our family, both myself and Hubby B struggle with the above. We get outraged by it and often need to remind ourselves that she is not a monster but rather a little girl whose world got turned upside down. And that actually is just trying to be part of her little brother’s life in the best way that she can. Remember the story from the siblings without rivalry book?
Besides learning how to deal with this entitlement, we have also learnt a lot about ourselves. Whether true or not, we see a lot of ourselves in Baby S as Little Girl C overwhelms him with instructions and her own will. And him lovingly following. We can’t figure out if we want to snap at her for doing it, or him for being so in love. She probably ends up being the one taking the snap, I admit it.
And then we constantly need to course-correct as we remember that if any of us was a #1, we would probably not be so harsh on her. It is funny, none of us has a childhood trauma, and if anything we probably know we have grown better by having a tough #1 ahead of us. We just have not learnt enough how to appreciate this in her. Living our own insecurities.
The lesson of Joy
Baby S is a bundle of joy. Whilst I recognise the tantrums sometimes make me forget that, he does not have all that many anyway. And despite the kicking and screaming, the overwhelming word that comes to mind when thinking of him is joy. He is excited about all the little things – whether that is rain or sun, beach or snow, toy truck or LOL doll. Little Girl C was a lot like that as a Baby Girl C, and Baby S reminds us of that. When we stop comparing her moods with his bursts of joys, we are bound to remember that she too was joyful. And it makes us stop to think about where joy goes.
Joy is still there. But her mind gets preoccupied with other things. She is more concerned about how she expresses herself. She is still joyful but she expresses it in ways we don’t always understand and endorse (like screaming songs or games through 30 minutes of bath time to the point I wondered if the nanny had an audition problem to be able to withstand it).
What about my own joy – would my children say I am joyful? As grown ups, we also don’t allow it out often enough. Baby S is a reminder that joy is always present, we just have to let it out in our own ways, even when we grow up.
The Lesson of Affection
Baby S gets 5* for affection. We noticed it during lockdown. As we took him to his “school” (aka kitchen) or he chose to drop off Big Sister C in school (aka living room), we learnt about all the cuddles he had in him. He would always hug her and say
And just in the middle of that zoom call and as the 10th interruption comes and you want to burst, he comes and hugs you to say:
“I missed you Mummy, I just wanted a squeezy hug”Baby S, at random times of day
All of us learnt from it. We all learned how to say I love you more often. We all learned how to wish each other well and stop our day for a hug and a kiss. Just today I went to the kitchen (again turned home school) to say hello and as I told him I needed a hug I got back the most heartfelt, warm and cosy hug. One of those that you feel gets to your heart and does not let go. One that heals.
Arguably his affection does often turn to anger (punches or kicks), but a swift come back means a fight rarely turns into screaming but rather into him sobbing his “sorry” into my shoulder or cheek as he wipes away his tears. He can’t stand breaking the affection or not feeling close.
The Lesson of Peace
Baby S is at peace. He suffers from no FOMO (fear of missing out). He suffers from no insecurities of being #2. In fact, how could he if he has never known any different. He has always shared and his world would not be imaginable without the family of 4 that we are. We see it in the way he can play on his own. In the way he gets immersed in his audio books not seeing time go by. We see it in the way he apologises immediately and seeks to reconnect. We see it in the way he rarely sees wrong in his sister. Or even in us.
"You're the best Mama" out of the blue, can heal anything.
Thank you Baby S. We cheer you. We celebrate you. And we are inspired by you.