I never pictured myself having just one child, not after having Sarah. I also never pictured myself with four or five, but I always thought I’d end up with two or three—I think it was just a given that we’d have another child. After all, Sarah was such a little bucket of joy and giggles that it just seemed natural that one day we’d want another one of these wonderful creatures. Sarah was cute, friendly, smiled a lot, slept fairly well, was never super fussy about food, was affectionate and played nicely both alone and with other children—in other words, she was the kind of child who inspired other people to have children of their own.
It took me a few years before I was ready to have a second child though—no matter how lovely and low-maintenance your child is, parenting is still a lot of work, particularly for first time parents; and in my case, I had given up my career to have Sarah, so I was determined to enjoy her first years in full, never missing a moment, a “first,” participating to everything she did. (I know, it sound a little obsessive, so sue me.)
Then when Sarah was six she started school and all of a sudden she seemed so grown up. She started writing, reading, learning math, and had a bunch of friends she wanted to do stuff with. She definitely wasn’t my baby anymore. To my surprise, I didn’t mourn that—I didn’t feel like I had missed anything, so although I felt like the years had flown by, I was ok with it and welcomed the change. As part of it, I accepted a part-time job at a friend’s firm two days a week—Sarah was in school until 4 p.m., then she spent a couple of hours with her grandma until my husband and I got home around 7 p.m. She seemed to really enjoy this time with her grandma and never had a problem with this arrangement, and I found that I thrived by making myself useful outside the house. It was a welcome change to be reminded of my talents that weren’t related to parenting, almost as if I rediscovered my value as a person, because I was useful not just at home, but to the outside worlds, too! (Or at least part of it.) I started enjoying my time at home more, too. And gradually, I found that I was ready to have another child. My husband was on board of course, he had been ready for years!
What happened next influenced not only our plans but also our lives in the months that followed: my wonderful, beloved mother in law found out that her cancer had returned with a vengeance. I stopped working, both because she couldn’t baby-sit regularly while doing her cures and because I wanted to be there for her, to help her, cook for her if needed and just spend time together. After several months she lost her fight with cancer, but not before she taught us one more lesson about courage, love, and strength. It was such a blessing to have her in our lives, that I consider myself lucky for that, even though it makes me sad that she was taken away so early.
We decided to celebrate her life with life, and started trying for a baby. I got pregnant right away and had a wonderful pregnancy, despite having to move to another town in my first trimester. When we found out we were having another girl, Sarah was incredibly happy and excited about having a little sister! And she was even more excited when Stella was born.
From the very beginning, Stella was different from Sarah: she was more vocal, more interested in food (including nursing) and we seemed to share a very special bond. I still don’t know why that is, but Stella is really a Mommy girl.
Fast-forward to now: Stella is twenty-two months old, almost two years old. She has her own personality, very charming but also stubborn, very affectionate but also sometimes clingy, and though it all, absolutely hilarious. She is a talker, she imitates everything and everyone, giggles, plays jokes and makes it impossible to be mad at her when she does something she shouldn’t. And that is the unfortunate thing: that happens A LOT. Stella is constantly emptying bags, boxes, baskets, and cabinets; if she can get into the pantry she can make a serious mess, what with all the jars of nuts, spices, sea salt, and pasta, and she pulls DVDs and CDs off the shelf and throws them on the floor several times a week (it used to be several times A DAY, so I am busy counting my blessings—as well as my few still-intact CD cases).
This morning, I got sidetracked checking my e-mail. Sarah was on a school trip and all of a sudden I felt like I should check the list we had received from the teacher because I had the feeling I had forgotten to give her something important (for the record, I had not, she had all she needed). I was logging off when I realized that Stella had left the office when I was opening my e-mail and she had been quiet since (just about three minutes). As mothers of toddlers know, this is never a good sign. I got up, and ran to the living room (where she had already emptied my expensive anti-cellulite cream over the sofa earlier this morning)—not there. So without checking the bedrooms, I went into the kitchen, and there she was, sitting on the floor and spreading some kind of white powder all over. The only sound I could make was “oh,” I was surprised that she had gotten hold of—what was that? flour? Confectioner’s sugar? Then I took a few steps forward, and I knew. It wasn’t powder, it was a very thick cream, the Weleda diaper cream , to be exact, spread over one-third of my kitchen floor and on some of the chairs (and of course all over Stella’s clothes and hair).
How, how did she open it? And where did she get it? While I carried Stella off to take a bath and then proceeded to clean up the sticky, fatty, thick cream I was brainstorming, trying to figure out where she got the diaper cream—was there one in the kitchen for some reason? But that’s not the point—the point is that if it’s someplace she can climb on (table, chair, sofa or any piece of furniture near one of the above) or reach by standing on her tippytoes (she has grown so much, my baby!) or by reaching into a cabinet (again—how, how does she open them?) then it’s not safe. Not for her, for whatever she will empty out—because while Sarah was undoubtedly a great climber, Stella is resourceful—well at least that’s a quality that will come in handy in her life.
So when I am about to tear my hair out and try to figure out how to take the cellulite cream off the sofa covers or the diaper cream off the chair cushions and from between the floor tiles, I can tell myself that these are learning experiences and that she is getting smarter because of it. If you don’t think that’s true, please don’t tell me.