Lately, the contrast between the way I've raised each of my children thus far has come into sharp focus. Maybe being that we're unemployed right now and I'd expect to somehow find myself in a permanent funk, but instead to my surprise sometimes find myself feeling pretty much stress-less has caused me to evaluate the different stages of my life in the past years and ponder what I've done differently at various points.
Thinking back to the years when little Jimmy was home with me before starting school (as Kyla is now) I recall pretty much all day Mommy and son time. We did story time together. We took walks nearly every day. We visited all the local parks regularly. We played with blocks and Lego's and puzzles. We read LOTS at home. We ran errands. We did just about everything together. And while that's wonderful and beautiful in a lot of ways, it also caused me to frequently feel like I was totally losing my mind. Don't get me wrong - I LOVED (and still do) little Jimmy and being with him, but sometimes I just really needed some alone time. And yes, we did have the kind services of babysitting from various family members which was great; still, many days it felt overwhelming. I tried to join a YMCA when little Jimmy was younger solely for the purpose of my having personal time and space, but he was very much a Mama's boy, and I found myself frequently being called to the child care section of the facility to pick up my child who had screamed non-stop from the moment I had dropped him off. Within a few weeks of joining, I was forced to cancel the membership. It didn't help either that I didn't know at the time that he was totally allergic to milk (and I'm beginning to think gluten now too). Jimmy has a very strong will - a will that I believe served him well in coming through his premature entrance into this world, and a will which I fully believe will serve him hugely as an adult. But as a baby and toddler, it was challenging. The struggle of those first few years is certainly not solely attributable to him; I completely played the role of the overprotective mother. I coddled my little boy and sheltered him just as much as he would let me. I checked on him at least twice a night until he was four years old, and I think I even gave him a sippy of milk once a night until well past the age of two (I know! - that in itself is unbelievable. . . but if only I had known the milk itself was not helping anything at all). Frequently, I cooked three meals a day for him. I don't know that I ever left him with anyone aside from family (with the exception of our short stint at the YMCA). Long and short of it - he was my first; he was early and strong willed by nature, and I was worried and hyper-overprotective and also strong willed by nature.
And then Kyla came along. In my opinion, she's been a people-pleaser since birth; not really - she's just extraordinarily accommodating. She's cranky when she's sick or tired, and the rest of the time, she pretty much just goes with the flow. Whatever's happening, she goes with it. Granted she doesn't appear to have any crazy food allergies which makes life much simpler. She wasn't born prematurely and spending her first six weeks of life being poked and prodded in a hospital. No, by contrast, she had a very easy start. I was too exhausted from caring for Jimmy rather spastically for the past four years to devote that much obsessiveness to her - and she didn't want it either (go figure). Of course I still was up with her through the night as an infant, but once twelve months hit I let her learn to put herself to sleep. Now that's not to say Kyla has always been all peaches 'n' cream; no, she definitely has her own little personality that she shares with everyone. She's just a different person with a different temperament and different experiences. We do read and play and go to parks and run errands together - just not as much. I have a membership to another YMCA now, and I take full advantage of it; and yes, I do go to get a break from the constantness of motherhood. Sometimes it's just good to not have to respond to anyone at any given moment. We usually go to the gym in the morning after dropping Jimmy of at school, and then we come home for her nap time. When she wakes up, we have lunch and play a bit before picking up Jimmy. When we get back from picking Jimmy up, it's Jimmy's homework time and Kyla's coloring time. And then it's playtime, and they play together wonderfully (usually). Yes, I play with them too, but they really can do a great job on their own which frees me up to make a decent dinner.
It's just struck me how easy this phase of life is as far as child rearing goes. Somehow I feel like I should feel guilty for how simple it is. But should I really? The kids are happy, and I'm reconnecting with some levels of my own sanity (note that I said some). And I like it like this. Kids are great and all and I'm thrilled to have this experience (and to have survived it thus far), but in my perspective at least, they're easier when they're not infants. At last both of my kids are old enough to articulate their feelings or wants or needs; do you have any idea how huge that is, and how much whining and crying that eliminates?! I don't even need to tell you that a child crying may as well be nails on a chalkboard to me, do I? Even a child that's not my own. If I can hear a baby crying at Wal-Mart per se, I will intentionally shop in an area where I am out of range of hearing that - it disturbs me. I feel compelled to *fix it,* but given that it's someone else's child, I know that my efforts at appeasing their little one will go fully unappreciated (just a hunch). I also love that I only have one child in diapers who will soon be out of that phase completely too. Again, don't get me wrong - there's not much cuter than a child toddling around the house in a diaper; but really, it's fecal matter and urine people. . I'm happy to not deal with that repeatedly all day.
I remember before Kyla was born asking some friends who had two kids when they were going to have their next one. "We're not. . . Just wait, you'll see. . " I have to say, at the time I honestly didn't believe them, and that was even as I was in the thick of raising my first. But there's been a lot of water under the bridge between then and now. I get it. Raising kids while being the most rewarding job, is also easily the most exhausting and frequently the most unappreciated job. In a nutshell: I like my sleep - A LOT. I've enjoyed reconnecting with the me who is well rested.
Once more, I can't reiterate it enough: I love my kids as much as it's possible for one human to love another. . but I don't want anymore. In August, what ended up being the week the company Jim worked for closed and the week he lost his job, Jim got the old snip-snip. It was a little touch and go there as to whether or not the insurance would be active at the time of the surgery (as the company closed on Wednesday and the surgery had been scheduled for Friday) but in the end we were both very relieved to hear the insurance would still be active. What a relief to no longer have the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy. And while I'm sure a vasectomy is unpleasant (it is surgery after all), I believe the men should be more than willing for this type of procedure after all the pain their wives have endured in bringing their child/ren into the world. I was so pleased with the whole thing being taken care of and done with that I made Jim a little cake in the shape of scissors to commemorate his bravery for the sake of his wife's constitution.
Have I regretted the decision at all? Not a once. In fact, when I see other mom's with their infants or hear about newly expecting friends or family, I actually feel a tinge of pity. Of course expecting a new little one is a happy time and all, yet there is so much work in the whole process and so little sleep. All of that to say, I'm glad to be where I'm at. I sleep, and I think more rationally. I have time for such frivolities as blogging and Facebook (gasp!). I can use the bathroom any time I feel the need. I get to read WHOLE books. I can cook real food regularly. I shower every single day! My life is not consumed with doctor's appointments. It's a nice place to be really. Ya, we may not have found a job yet after several months of searching, but that doesn't mean there's not a lot to be thankful for, and having two great kids and no more is one of them!