Monday, March 18, 2013

A New Season

Something happens in Michigan during the middle of March.  Winter starts to integrate itself with spring.  You may be scraping ice and snow off of your windshield on Monday and driving with your windows down on Tuesday.  If March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, then the middle of March in Michigan is a liolamb- a chameleon that changes frequently, sometimes snowy white and sometimes robin egg blue.

My due date is in the spring.  As long as we were battling freezing temperatures and lake effect snow warnings, it always felt like I had miles to go before I met my son.  But now that we're in the middle of March, spring is starting to reveal itself and I know he's coming sooner than I've allowed myself to believe.  As I type this, birds are chirping outside of my window as if to say, "He's coming!"

There are so many thoughts swirling around inside of my head during this new season.  In the last few weeks leading up to Jack's birth I remember feeling a similar sense of anxiety wondering how things in our little family would change.  It's a much different feeling going from 2 to 3 than from 3 to 4.  Of course, there is a great deal more fanfare for your first child than for your second: showers, baby books, fears about labor, anxiety over breastfeeding, fears of all of the unknowns.  My unknowns now revolve around helping Jack with the transition while Trevor and I go through the transition ourselves.

A season is coming to an end and not just the one that melts the snow and causes buds to grow on branches and in soil.  A season for our little family is coming to an end.  Jon Acuff is a smart and polished author who wrote the book "Quitter".  I was able to see him speak at a leadership conference earlier this year and he spoke about life's seasons.  Your 20s-60s can be represented in the following ways:

20s: learning & experimenting
30s: editing
40s: mastering
50s: harvesting
60s: guiding

I see parenting in much the same way, although the cycles will repeat at various stages in life.  When Jack turns 13, I see us sliding all the way back down to learning & experimenting again just when we thought we had it all figured out!  But for now, we are moving from a place of learning & experimenting to a place of editing with Jack.  We are learning more about him and refining our approach to strategies that seem to suit him.  

There is a notion that 2nd children tend to be a bit crazier than their older siblings and I have seen that play out in many families, my own included (sorry Rosie, but you were nuts).  It makes sense though, doesn't it?  Parents are now caught up in 2 cycles- learning and experimenting with their second child and editing with their first.  I can see how easy it would be to jump to editing with a second child, just hoping that the same strategies will work, the same toys will be enjoyable and the same foods delicious.  Unfortunately, it just doesn't always work out that way and it would stand to reason that any kid who was being forced into a mold of their older sibling would fight against that.  If you were my sister Rosie you'd fight against that by insisting on wearing scuffed up white patent leather shoes with every outfit you owned, dressy or not.  Dammit, I love my sister so much!

My mom says that when my sister was born (she came 3 years after me), she did everything in her power to be her own person.  If I went left, she'd go right.  She is blonde, I am brunette.  She was the opposite of me in so many ways.  She wouldn't allow our parents to edit her in the same way they were editing their style with me.  So they had to learn and experiment all over again.  

I don't know who this little guy is growing inside of me, twisting and squirming constantly.  I hope that I can resist the urge to make him a Jack 2.0.  I hope that we can move through one season with Jack while starting a new season with his brother.  It all sounds so complicated and I understand now why 2nd children may be a little louder as they fight for their own unique place in the family.

And then there's Jack who has enjoyed 2 years of undivided attention from both of his parents.  Love multiplies, but attention is divided as a family expands. Trevor and I are both oldest children and we empathize with where Jack will be in a couple of months.  I famously refused to look at or speak to my mom when my dad brought me to visit her in the hospital upon the birth of my sister.  And yet, as much as we treasure the 2 years we learned how to be parents from Jack and he learned how to be a kid from Trevor and me, I know that he will have no recollection or memory of this time.  His entire existence as he knows it will include his brother just as my entire existence as I know it includes my sister.

People tell me that, like Jack, I won't remember much from this season either which is why I'm so grateful for this blog.  Jack taught me what it means to be a mom.  Such a huge responsibility for such a little guy.  In a few weeks, he will have someone to help him.  Jack was my 101 instructor.  He taught me the basic language of motherhood.  His brother will be my Masters level professor helping me edit and refine those rudimentary skills.  He will add to the complexity and chaos.  He will add to the love.

The wistfulness that accompanies the ending of one season washes over me now as I think of moving from a family of 3 to 4.  This is a period of so much reflection on where I was and who I was during this season of motherhood accompanied by excitement about what lies ahead.  In this new season, we get to teach Jack how to be an older sibling, something both Trevor and I have been nearly all of our lives.  We will teach him that no matter how old they get, his brother will turn to him for advice and there will even come a day when he can look to his kid brother for advice too.  Jack will see pictures of himself alone with his parents and think "wow, those were the good old days", but secretly he will be grateful for the gift of his brother even when he doesn't want to admit it.

And to my little spring chicken who is getting ready to hatch~

Be patient with us as we grow this little family.  You are wanted and special and so loved.  Your dad and I don't have older siblings, but you know who does?  Aunt Rosie, Uncle Tom, Uncle John, Uncle Frank, Aunt Mary and Uncle Cris.  And believe us, they will have no problem or hesitation listening to you and understanding  your unique place in our family.  But there is something you need to know and someday if you stumble across this, you will know that we only had one expectation for you, even before you were born:

You will always be expected to be only one thing in this life- yourself.  

Also, don't tell anyone, but we don't have all the answers.  Not yet at least.  By the time you're 15 we will know everything though.

Alpha, Beta & Gamma.  This photo is a 100% accurate reflection of our personalities.
(and if you think the 2nd kid has it rough, check out the shiner on #3!)