I’m 21 weeks pregnant today, which means I’m over halfway through my pregnancy, and, holy crap, in just four months or so, I’m going to be the mother of two! Mostly, I’m very excited about this prospect. I’m looking forward to the new experience of raising a girl (and maybe it won’t actually be very different, but I’m interested in seeing how similar or how different the experience is, nonetheless). On a superficial level, I’m having fun buying girl clothes (they’re all so damn cute!!). I’m looking forward to watching Drew with a daughter and Jackson with a little sister. And, of course, I’m excited for the ways the love in our family will expand and how the dynamic will become . . . well, more dynamic.
But there are some worries, too. I’m concerned about balancing the needs of two small children, and I’m especially anxious about how Jackson will adjust to sharing the spotlight in our family. I am expecting some behavioral regression on his part when the baby comes, but, recently, it seems the regression has already begun. Or, maybe it’s just typical 3-year-old behavior, I don’t know. Oh, hey, did you know 3-year-olds are far more terrible than 2-year-olds? It’s true. Two was very challenging, but three has pushed me in ways I wasn’t prepared for. I think it’s a combination of Jackson’s growing will and desire to test boundaries and my general fatigue after two years of toddlerhood now, my God it feels relentless sometimes. I am so tired. So, so tired. And not just physically, although that’s certainly the case, but emotionally fatigued, too.
The emotional fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks over the weekend. We had a five-day stretch of some of the most awful behavior in recent memory. It was compounded by a (thankfully, short-lived) cold (Jackson’s) and general lack of sleep for all of us. There was back-talking, hitting, screaming and yelling, a tantrum at school, and a tantrum to end all tantrums at a restaurant in Chinatown. You know that blog that went viral last year that featured pictures of toddlers crying with captions explaining the really silly, mundane reasons the kids were losing it, like “He got a blue straw instead of a green straw?” Well, Jackson’s Chinatown meltdown was that blog on steroids in real life, complete with knocking shit off the table, standing on a chair and screaming loud enough for his grandparents to hear him in Missouri. I was mortified. And just . . . hurt, which at this point in parenthood I realize is kind of a dumb emotion to feel. Jackson’s just being a normal 3-year-old. As awful as that tantrum was, it’s pretty typical of the way a kid his age will act on (thankfully pretty rare) occasions. But in that moment — and, really, for the rest of the day — I was hurt and pissed off. But I was also feeling really . . . defeated. If my best job as a parent yields these kinds of results, then we’re screwed, right?
By Sunday night, my emotions got the best of me, and, after Drew got Jackson to sleep and I cleaned up the kitchen and put away Jackson’s toys, I sat on the couch and just cried and cried.
“I don’t know if I’m cut out for this and now we have another kid on the way!” I sobbed, as Drew cautiously took a seat next to me.
I was remembering the conversation I’d had a few days earlier with a (child-free) friend. He’d just gotten back from his second trip to Florida this winter, was about to leave for a weekend away in another city, and was telling me about the two-week trip to Italy he’d just booked for May. As he talked, I thought about how it’s been almost three years since we’ve had a real vacation, how I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks, and how I’d kill for a margarita right about now.
“You should never have kids,” I said, matter-of-factly. (My friend is on the fence about having kids, and it’s been a topic of conversation in recent months).
“You have such a nice life,” I continued. “Just enjoy it. Enjoy your freedom!”
“Yeah,” he said, “But you have a really nice life, too. I look at you with your family and a baby on the way, and it looks pretty good to me. I guess the grass is always greener.”
It’s easy, during the Chinatown meltdowns and the sleepless nights, to lose sight of the green over here, on my side of the fence. When I’m mortified by out-of-control behavior in public, I forget that those moments are fleeting, actually, and the happy, sweet, rewarding moments far outweigh the stressful and embarrassing ones. I forget sometimes that this is not only the life I signed on for, but that it’s also the life I want (and am very lucky to have).
Yesterday afternoon, after another tantrum that resulted in thrown food and more tears (his and mine), I got Jackson calmed down and the two of us sat together for an hour or two, playing with play-doh and listening to Joni Mitchell.
“I love when she sings ‘California,’ Mommy.” Jackson said. “Can we go there?”
“To California?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“We will some time. I’ve never been there either.”
“Is it by Grandma and Grandpa?” he asked. “Is it next to their farm?” (There’s a farm we visit when we’re in Missouri that I guess he thinks belongs to my parents).
“No,” I said, “It’s farther than that. It’s all the way on the other side of the country.”
“Well, I would love to go there,” he said, “I would love to go there with you. And Daddy and my baby sister.”
“Me, too,” I replied.
And I would. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone else I’d rather go with.