This might be a little premature, but I feel like I want to weigh in here a bit based on the last two weeks experience. Before Miles was born, I wrote a blog post speculating on which the hardest transition is in terms of additional children: first, second or third. And, I don’t wanna jinx myself or speak too soon, but I feel like I may have an answer (for myself and my experience anyways. Clearly, I can’t speak for anyone else and there is probably a lot of variables to be taken into account, kids personalities, spacing, our mental state or stage in life, our lingering feelings from the birth, etc.).
This morning, we were out on the front lawn surrounded by semi opened mail leavings, kids toys and all in our pajamas with messy hair when I turned to Greg and almost whispered, “Hey…psst. Do you think…maybe…this time is a bit….easier….than last time?” I clearly didn’t want the gods listening nearby to hear my boastful and presumptuous comment and take it upon themselves to teach me a lesson. Greg didn’t even look at me, also clearly careful of who might be watching/listening as he nodded and said, “Oh, yeah.”
The reasons for this are many and it’s really a very organic and complicated thing. A family is like a living organism, each person connected with each other person in a unique way, feeding off each others moods, reverberating our thoughts and feelings back and forth like a disjointed and poorly organized game of volleyball. Relating, conflicting, raging, venting, sharing, connecting. It’s hard to pinpoint the ways we interact and feed off of each other sometimes.
There’s the fact that Ruth was older when Joel was born and we were first time parents. We were all really used to the way things were with just Ruth around. Having Joel for a long time, was like taking a great mental leap that often felt impossible. It was like our brains had to split in half. Painful process.
Then there was the concrete no getting around it fact of Ruth’s personality. Joel is just simply more of an open book than she ever was. And, though Joel has been acting totally out of control and like a person we don’t know as of late, he is just more easy going in general and when he gets upset, shows it is a really endearing vulnerable way where Ruth was more likely to hide her feelings and become extremely vindictive and…sort of evil when she’s upset. It’s much easier to be patient and compassionate with Joel. This might also be because he’s just two and Ruth was three. The level of sophistication of brain development and emotional growth between those two ages might be the difference between just “acting out” and “acting like the devil”.
Besides the differences between Ruth and Joel’s ages and personalities as they are going through this transition, Greg and I are different this time. First off, our brains have already split. We are already used to feeling out of control and like our heads are barely above water. Second, we have already been through this. So we know that the emotions we feel now and the way things feel so upside down is really just a short-lived phase. Where before, I think we were frantic to figure out how to “fix” our situation and to somehow make Ruth back into the kid she was before Joel, now we know that things can never go back and be the same. Joel will never be the same kid. Just as Ruth was never the same. Things are never the same. But they are still good. And we know now that all we have to do is to move forward into our new reality, no looking back. We can accept that things are forever changed and that the anger and frustration that Joel is feeling is now just a part of his life. Life is pain. Pain always has something to teach us. It is something that changes us and that we sometimes carry around with us for the rest of our lives. It often redefines us. The same is true of a two year old, because no matter how small and cute he is, he is a person on his journey through this life, just like everyone else.
The only thing we can do, and what we are more prepared to do this time around, is to offer him compassion and patience as he deals with this painful transition in his life.
The final thing I will say that has made a difference is Ruth. Though she’s not impervious to the emotional toll this is taking on everyone, she is two years older and is dealing much better this time around. Not only that, but she offers a bit of continuing normalcy amongst all of the change. She still wants to play the same games she did before Miles was born, and fills our days with the same constant narrative of make believe play. This is much different than how things were when it was just her at three and newborn Joel. I felt like at that time, everything was in a state of flux and turmoil because of the baby, nothing stayed the same. So, she at least offers Joel a bit of stability in that way. And Greg and I as well. I think this also helps us to both remember that things won’t feel so off for very long.
Before we know it, Miles won’t feel like an invader into our sacred home life any more, but like a member. Joel is so young, in a few short months, he won’t even remember a time without brother Miles. Or that he was once the baby of the family.
So, anyone struggling with the transition from 1 to 2, this might make you feel better. I agree. For me, the transition from 1 to 2 seems, at this point, to have been much harder than either the transition from 0 to 1 or from 2 to 3. Of course, Miles is still just two weeks old. He doesn’t do much beyond sleep and poop and eat at this point. Perhaps in a couple months, I will need to revise these ideas. Time will tell. It always does.