I love my two preemies equally. They are so different, but I have really great kids.
With that being said, J was such a challenge for his first year. Some of the struggle was with me. I was a new mom in a new place with a very new role in life. And some of it was him. He didn't feel well. He was a very bright mind trapped in a delayed body. He was frustrated, fussy, and fidgety.
He became my world. Every, single thing I did each day was about him. The therapy. The feedings. Struggling with him over naps and bedtime. The entire day was a devotion to him. I'm not sure how healthy that arrangement is, but it was what I needed to do for him and for our family.
Everything about M is different. She was less premature. Her body is less rigid, and she seems more at peace with the slow progression a preemie makes through milestones. Honestly, M is the sweetest child I have ever known. Her disposition is like sparkles and sunshine, all the time. She is joyful and patient, even when she waits for attention from a mother wrangling a busy three-year-old boy.
I wanted to have more than one child, because I wanted them to learn that we are all part of a community. We have to wait our turns. We have to find our place. We must learn to give and to take. Not one of us is more special or important than anyone else. We are all precious with wants and needs, and we must make room for each other. Having siblings is only one way to teach small children those lessons, but for me, it was a very important way. I was afraid the world would always revolve around J in our house if he didn't have a little friendly competition.
But, here's the problem: M is so generous, so loving, so peaceful that I worry she doesn't demand enough from me, and I don't give enough to her. She too needs therapy. She needs to be challenged. We must work after each milestone, just as we have worked with J. And I'm finding the hardest part of having two preemies is that I can't focus on either one. I guess all mothers of more than one child feel this way? Certainly, all families must find a balance, and some days one child needs you more than another. But, J is still so demanding and M is so the opposite that sometimes I look deep into her big, blue eyes and ask her if I'm doing enough. In the shuffle to and from J's preschool, in the rush to cook dinner and clean the house, in the middle of three-year-old temper tantrums, am I stopping enough to talk to M, to touch her fat, little feet, to kiss her and tell her I love her, to smell her sweet baby smell, to treasure her the way she deserves to be treasured?
I don't know. I really don't know. But, I think I should try harder. The easier child shouldn't get passed over because she's easier. As M's personality is unfurling one petal at a time, I'm discovering that one of the challenges about her sweetness is that this busy household sometimes takes it for granted. We all dote on her a little, even her older brother. We all talk a little baby talk to her and feel her velvet skin and bask in her bright smile. But, I think we should do it even more. We should reward her for being so lovely. Let the dishes pile up. Let the floor go unswept. Let the clothes stay wrinkled in a mountain on the couch, at least for a few hours. My husband should get home from work a few minutes earlier to see her before bedtime. J should put down his toys to play with his sister, who can now reach for the toys he hands her. We should all give M the attention she deserves.
M is already 8 months old, and her babyhood is going so much faster than J's did. I must remember to pause more and enjoy the sweetest baby I've ever met. Even if she doesn't demand it.