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February 22, 2008

If I only knew then

FootIt's a familiar refrain - "If I only knew then, what I know now..." and it applies most especially to parenthood the second time around.

My two year old just spent the week at her grandparents house, leaving my husband and I with our seven month old.  It was the first time that we had been alone with him for any extended period of time, and we quite literally did not know what to do with ourselves.

The first surprise was how much time we had to talk to one another.  We had not realized that usually we are chattering around each other, both of us directed to one or both of our children. WIth a two and a half year old out of the way, even my son started babbling more, seeking to fill the empty air space with some noise.  Dinner was civilized, without being peppered by pleadings and threats if someone did not stop using her spoon as a slingshot or refusing anything that was not plain pasta.  We dared to go to a new restaurant without worrying that they did not serve anything in a nugget form, or did not have room for our hulking double stroller.  Probably the biggest surprise is that we went out at all...at night...and left SOMEONE ELSE to put our BABY to BED!

While we missed her terribly - I am currently sitting literally on the edge of my seat, brimming with excitement as she is due home any minute - we could not help but revel in just how easy it is to have only one baby at home.  So why did we think it was so hard back then?  While my memories of my daughter's babyhood are filled with warmth, they are also filled with fright, fights and torment.  With every milestone came a new worry.  Even her naps were no respite, as I would often lean over the crib rail, straining to hear her breath.

A no frills friend of mine recently had her third son in almost as many years.  When I marveled how amazing she is to balance it all, she said "Nothing is harder than being a new mom. Not even this."

And she is right.  This past week, as I merrily pushed my Snap and Go around the Upper East Side while my easy breezy infant snoozed, I felt confident and assured -- two feelings that never entered my being as a new mommy.  I cruised around town, baby cooing around my neck in my favorite baby carrier, and he felt light as air.  I took long showers while he babbled in the crib, without worry that he might somehow become entangled in his mobile.  I nursed him to sleep in front of American Idol, without worry that his brain would become damaged (or that he would develop odd yearnings for Karaoke).

They say that you are a totally different parent the second time around.  And while I may not have abandoned all of my self-doubt and worry, it feels good to finally feel that I am putting those hard learned lessons to good use, and being rewarded for my study with moments of confidence and calm.  And even better, when my daughter returns after a week away, shocking us all with her easy transitions and ability to stand without my support, I have proof positive that even back then, I did something right.   

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