My Number One

I have written before about my observation that the hardest times with children are the transition periods. That observation is one of the most crucially helpful discoveries I have made for myself as a young mama.

It is ringing especially true right now. 

Will, my baby for 2 and a half years, was rather unceremoniously thrust into Big Boyhood three months ago. It wasn't intentional... it was simply that the presence of such a tiny real baby made Will (and us) realize that he really isn't such a baby himself. 

the dragon and the photobombing pumpkin. Halloween '13.

He's so huge! The perks of him leaving babyhood are obviously many - most importantly the conversations I get to have with him. They aren't coherent enough yet to retell and have them make sense... you have to see the facial expressions, to understand what happened a few hours ago and why that effected him... etc. He is assertive and yet has a very keen sense of justice. His temper tantrums are short lived and he is remarkably responsive to the authority of his parents. He's cautious too - this was his first trick-or-treat, and it took him a few houses to be comfortable taking candy from a neighbor ;).

I lovvvvve that picture! my precious little dragon!

He has been rather rough on his baby brother. He'll come up all bright and interested - and then out of nowhere slap or punch poor defenseless little Henrin. Give me a heartattack. 

I wouldn't call it sibling rivalry at this young age... I think Will is just a whole mix of emotions right now - curious, a teensy bit frustrated, impatient, bored with the non-playfulness of the new baby, and looking for attention. 

Sometimes its hard to not just focus on the negative and instead step back to see that he is still my baby, and he is just trying to figure out where his new place is in his small and dramatic world.

And sometimes I need to step back and drink in every part of this season, frustrating as it may be, because a part of me is mourning the loss of the honeymoon of motherhood with my first baby. 

his first campfire with Daddy and some friends. 

I know it sounds silly and dramatic and post-partummy... but I do miss the achingly sweet, challenging and swift season that just slipped disappeared in the dust behind me. I bonded so deeply with Will, right from the beginning. I could barely sleep if I was parted from him. I wanted him with me at all times. I was a girl when I got pregnant with him - I was 21! - and he made me grow up so much. He gave me confidence that I am a good mama - that my instinct with my children is solid and to be depended on - that I cannot control the outcome of who my children become or many things that may happen to them, but that I can love and learn more who they are every day - and that I can trust God has an amazing story for each of them. 

I learned alot about what not to do with my firstborn, as do most parents I imagine. I learned not to wake up a sleeping baby (!)... I learned not to panic at every little cry made by a newborn - they're just speakin' their language! - I learned to relax a little when it comes to the millions of rules and taboos laid upon mothers these days... sometimes tradition is just more reliable and you can't help anyone if you're uptight and wound up and fearful as a mama. I learned to set up boundaries with others, to put my foot down for my child when I felt we as a family unit were being a little used or unnecessarily pressured; I couldn't have done that in the past for myself (chronic people-pleaser) - and I feel like I came into more of my own as a woman when I first did that for my child. 

I started running when Will was around 7 months old... and it was glorious. I love that my many happy memories of long runs when I started to really get good at it involve my happy little guy contentedly daydreaming in his stroller as we plodded zoomed through the greenways and favorite historic neighborhoods of Charlotte. 

We really truly enjoyed every moment of our time together these last two and a half years. 

It may come as a surprise to some because of my youth that we had to try to get pregnant for 6 months before Henry finally was conceived. At the time I kept swinging back and forth over whether on the one hand I was ready to let go of just having my baby Will - and on the other hand worrying that if I didn't hurry up and get pregnant, he wouldn't be close enough emotionally with his new sibling. 

God clearly knew what he was doing. And I know He knows what He is doing in other situations when people have children very close together; I have seen for myself and I have heard them say it, that parents always end up looking at these situations with pure delight and total gratitude. 

But I am deeply grateful I had such a long season where Will was my only baby. There is something about our relationship that I cannot help feeling was uniquely kindled and cultivated over those 2 and a half years that it was just the two of us, all day, every day - doing nothing special, nothing much more stressful than Biblestudy and leisurely trips to the fancy grocery store and long afternoon runs - that I will always treasure. It is connected in my head with how young and early it was that I got pregnant. Obviously many women are happy to have done the reverse - to have had an extra year or so with their husbands, or an extra long season being single and having adventures you can't have as a mom. I think its so important to not compare yourself to others but instead to be very aware of the unique benefits and perks of your own circumstances in life, and to count them all. I think I am secure enough in my contentment that I can readily agree and understand the perks of other people's very different life-stories without getting defensive. So I don't mean to write all this to turn around and challenge or offend the various different situations of other moms. 

I am just so glad that it is part of my story that I got pregnant on accident on my honeymoon - and that I had such a relatively long and quiet season with this wonderful boy. 

A few nights ago, I planned a little "date night" dinner for us after Henry went to sleep (oh how I feel so grateful to my 3 month old baby for his solid sleeping habits). It was delightful; I read a few books to Will while we ate together (and drank green smoothies). And we invited some very important dinner guests. And we lit a candle. And played Bon Iver on Pandora.

It was so much fun. I have to do it more often.

I need that time with him every bit as much as he needs it with me. 

I tucked him into bed the other night - is it bad that I love when he politely requests to have a "Mommy kiss" in private? he says "Goodnight Daddy! Daddy go take Henry. Will take Mommy for a Mommy-kiss"...  and found myself calling him what my Dad always has called me: "My number One". I want to have a whole big beautiful hilarious family; it is so enriching to open your heart and home generously to children, and it doesn't take away your love for any one of the babies you have to just have more... but it is so important to me to intentionally celebrate having a specially unique place in my heart for each individual child.

In that sense, having Henry has helped me to love Will more for himself, not just this adorable piece or extension of me. I think my love for him became much less sneakily selfish when I couldn't just love him for being my baby... I had to focus on all the adorably unique characteristics and twists and traits of personality. I now am forced to appreciate him just for himself. 

And Will will always be my first baby, the baby I had to laugh and play with and cry over when I was still a girl. The strong-willed, eager, observant, sweet and self-sufficient little guy who lucked out and got to have a long honeymoon with just him and his mama. My number one. 

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