Today as I put Avery down for her afternoon nap, I told her for the hundred thousandth time that I love her. And she said it back. It caught me off guard. My heart skipped a beat. To her it was another nap time, but to me her response was more than just a reply; it was an acknowledgement of my feelings.
My husband works all week so on Saturday morning when he gets up and knows he will spend the entire day at home with the kids, it is something kind of novel and exciting. He has also admitted that there are some Monday mornings when the sink is full of dishes, the living room is covered in toys, and both kids are crying and suddenly that big, quiet office with a view of downtown looks pretty inviting. When you are a stay at home mom there is no demarcation between week and weekend. Avery and I spend every day together. All day. Some moments are golden and some are challenging. Since I had my second baby 12 weeks ago, I have been in the throes (and throws) of raising a toddler and adjusting to an infant. And like most moms, I just do the best I can even though I don’t always know if it’s the “right” thing. Sometimes I am super mom, and sometimes I let Avery eat an apple in the bathtub just to avoid a confrontation. In the course of all these moments, days, and years together since she was born, somehow my little girl came to love me.
This got me thinking about our mother-daughter relationship. I have always been interested in birth order. It seemed like a magical mystery that you could predict so many of a person’s characteristics based on whether or not they have younger or older siblings, but today the reason became obvious to me. I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before. When I got pregnant with Savannah, I assumed it would be a second round of my pregnancy with Avery. Wrong. Then when I went into labor thinking I knew what to expect, I found out I was wrong again. (Ow.) Now that I have had about three months to absorb how my life has changed, I realized that my relationship with each of my daughters is already completely different. With Avery, I was a first-time mom. I relied on my own mother for EV-ER-Y-THING, and thank goodness she was there for me. As a new parent, I was hyper concerned with developmental milestones and without realizing it, I pushed Avery toward independence at every step. Her feeding and sleeping schedules were based on books I had read, and I was constantly afraid that I wasn’t doing the “right” thing. With Savannah, I sit on the couch and hold her without feeling guilty about the load of laundry that needs to be done. I nurse her on demand. I let her sleep on me for hours. I just do whatever she seems to want, when she wants it and I don’t look at the clock.
While I was looking at Savannah’s tiny little hand wrapped around my finger as we cuddled in bed, I realized the key difference that will undoubtedly affect my children’s personality traits for the rest of their lives, and suddenly the mystery of birth order is clear to me:
Avery was born to a daughter, and Savannah was born to a mother.
Avery will grow with me as I figure out how to be the mother of a kid/preteen/teenager/young adult/adult and Savannah will follow behind with the benefit of my learning from experience. No wonder firstborns are so tough! That being said, there is a reason parents typically have more baby pictures and stories about their oldest children, and it’s days like today when, I , Emily the daughter, have become Emily the mom, and for the first time in my life I heard my child say “I love you too.”