"Mommy, Jeremy* said that he doesn't like me," Henry said to me looking at the ground with tears in his eyes.
"What did you say to him when he told you that?" I asked, feeling completely out of my league.
"I told him I didn't like him either." And with that, he skipped away.
Realistically, I know that not everyone will like my son. And I know that because I know that not everyone likes me, and that's just life. But hearing the hurt in his three-year-old voice cut through me like a knife. And it made me realize another part of this parenting journey that I'm not quite ready for - broken hearts, broken friendships, the feeling of sadness when it's bigger than "Daddy won't let me have a third pack of fruit snacks".
I'm not ready for his feelings to be hurt.
I'm not ready for his heart to be broken.
I'm not ready.
Henry, at three years old, is still very partial to certain people in his life. Jackson, Eston, Sophia and Serenity all consistently rank high on his "best friends" list. And the hugs and genuine feelings that pass between them all on a day to day basis at daycare is incredibly heartwarming to see.
The shouts of "Henry!" when he comes to daycare after a few days away. The bear hugs he receives before heading home at night make me smile. And the few stolen kisses he's received from his "girlfriends" always make me laugh.
Hearing that another boy might not like my son, no matter how Henry feels about him, too, hurt me in a way I didn't know was possible. It felt like a personal attack on me. And yet, he shook it off, skipped away, and went on with life.
If only life could be as easy as it is at three years old.
*Name has been changed to protect the other child, even if he doesn't like my son.
This month you’ve started to really let your personality shine through - and that personality is hilarious. You’re still stingy with your laughs, but we’re figuring out what makes you tick. You celebrated your first big holiday with Thanksgiving and as a baby who loves to eat, you were definitely in your element. Turkey, corn casserole, stuffing, potatoes, rolls, you were a fan of it all.
“Have you spent a lifetime muting yourself for fear of what others will think? Are you an entrepreneur who calls your business a hobby because you worry about what your mother-in-law will say or because it’s safer to keep everyone’s expectations low? Do you hesitate to admit your dreams aloud because you’re nervous about others making fun of you or judging you for your choices?”
All of these questions made me stop instantly. I read through them again and again and again while the power of the words pulsed through my ears.
This is me. She’s talking about me.
“Mommy, can you play with me?”
It’s the fourth time he’s asked in the three hours he’s been awake. We’ve played Uno, we’ve played Candyland, we’ve played kitchen, we’ve colored and painted and blown bubbles. And now I just want to sit. But the hope in his voice gets me every time. I’m supposed to want to play, right? I’m supposed to be eager to spend every single moment with my children because pretty soon they won’t be children at all and they’ll never want to play with me and then my house will be empty and I’ll feel so alone.
But the fact is: I don’t always want to play.
I can picture it like it was yesterday. Me, Henry, and Harrison were sitting at our dark brown dinner table. Brandon was out of town for work, again. It had been a long day of playing, rocking, feeding, screaming, coping. I was counting down the minutes until it would be bedtime and I’d finally be alone. I set Henry’s paper plate of peanut butter and jelly in front of him. Harrison had been crying for nearly ten minutes by now. Why? I’m not really sure, and I doubt he was either. But he was mad and he wanted everyone to know it.
I tried to feed him bites of the mashed potatoes he normally scarfed down. He screamed more. I tried to give him a bottle filled with watered-down apple juice. He slammed his tiny fists down onto his highchair tray. Over and over he screamed until he was so red in the face, I thought he was going to choke.
9 months! We’ve survived nine months - all of us! And just as last month, things are still improving month over month. You’re a happier baby, month over month. You’re a more flexible baby, month over month. You are so fun to watch these days. You are obsessed with the kitty, just like your brother was. You crawl to him, and open your mouth like you’re either going to kiss him or eat him. And then you rub your head along his fur. He doesn’t seem to hate you as much as he hated Henry, or, he’s just sick of fighting :) Either way, it’s so fun to watch you chase after him.
This was a month of first’s. You got your first two teeth (on the bottom). You said Mama for the first time (I will forever be glad that at least one of my two kids said Mama first). You are THISCLOSE to crawling but somehow still manage to get yourself around a room - I suspect a bit of scooting when no one is looking. You also got your first flu shot - and I didn’t even realize she had given it to you because you didn’t make a peep. I think it’s possibly those massive thighs of yours - couldn’t even feel it.
It’s been a great month.
Over the past eight months, you have often had to play second fiddle to your brother. At first, it was the newness of it all as your dad and I tried (often unsuccessfully) to juggle this gigantic shift in our lives where we now had two kids to take care of.
After that, and for quite a few months in a row, it was that Harrison was a HARD baby. He didn’t sleep, he cried a lot, and we were beyond exhausted. We snapped at you a lot in that time, and we often didn’t mean to. But we were frustrated, angry, sad, and sometimes just miserable. And we took it out on you. When you asked us a question, or needed help with something, or got upset like any other four-year-old does, we snapped because we couldn’t take ONE MORE THING.
The breeze is blowing through my hair as I push the purple double swing. I'm watching both boys, and they're both grinning, holding tightly to the metal chains. Henry leans back and forth, trying to propel them higher in between my pushes. It's quiet aside from the squeak of the chains and the babble between two brothers.
I can't stop thinking about how different of a baby you are these days. From the first 5 or so months of your life to now, it's like we have a completely different baby living with us. And let me tell you, we're all so much happier these days - you included. You're a HAPPY baby now. We even have strangers stop us, you give them that incredible grin you have, and they remark about what a happy baby you are. And finally, I'm able to say "yes, he is". Plus, we just have a lot of people stopping us to tell you how beautiful you are. It's those big blue eyes man, so much like your brothers. Between the two of you, you guys are always turning heads when we're out.
I remember the moment that Henry met Harrison. It was one of the best and also scariest moments of my life. Leading up to Harrison's birth, we talked to Henry about how life was going to change and tried to make him understand (as best a 3 year old could) that things would be different. But still, I worried. So on that day when he walked into the hospital room, my heart was racing.
There was a time, not long ago, where I felt in control of my life. Every day I got up and I knew what would happen, I could guess how I would feel, and I counted on that. I can pinpoint when that changed.
It was January 30, 2018 at 3:29 pm.
That is the exact moment that a beautiful little boy (who I was so convinced was a girl) came screaming into my life. We named him Harrison. And since then, over these last six months, I've felt anything but in control.
Oh sweet buddy, this last month was SO MUCH BETTER. It's like you're a new baby. Like we're a new family. We're all so much happier because... YOU SLEEP NOW! Granted, you still aren't sleeping through the night, but sometimes we get six or seven hour stretches and it's like I don't even know what to do with myself.
I knew I was supposed to put him down. We're sleep training him after all, and I'm supposed to put him down while he's still sleepy. But for some reason it just hit me. Harrison is my last baby. I'll never have another baby of mine at 5 months and 24 days old. Tomorrow he'll already be another day older. I felt the tears prick my eyes.
It's just you and I sitting in the squeaky, hand-me down rocking chair, the same way it's been approximately seven thousand times since you were born five months ago. It's just you and I. The house is still and quiet. We're rocking back and forth, back and forth while you gulp down a 6 ounce bottle as if you haven't eaten in days.
Well, this wasn't quite as good a month as we had hoped. Towards the end of the month we FINALLY got your belly issues resolved after having been on medicine most of the month. But we're still working through an issue with your legs while you're sleeping.
I am an introvert through and through. Though I may not have had the name for it early on, I always knew that I felt physically drained from being around people for long stretches of time. Groups of people intimidate me. Having to make small talk makes me want to hide in a corner. And I need time away from everyone in order to feel like myself again. For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me, so I just kept pushing myself to be more "normal".
It's been nearly two months since I left my corporate job to stay at home with my boys and run the magazine from the comfort of my bedroom. I don't know if it's because I only went back to work for two weeks following my maternity leave, or if that's just how life goes when you stay at home, but it feels like I've been gone from the corporate world a lot longer.
I know you aren’t supposed to wish away time in your baby’s life because it all goes so quickly - but I think we can all agree that we’d be okay with forgetting this past month ever happened. It was another rough one. Really rough. There were a lot of tears throughout the month and they weren’t all from you.
When the word fear comes to mind, I tend to think "I'm not scared of much, really". But then as I sit with the question and analyze it all a bit more, I realize that isn't true. I'm fearful, terrified really, of one big thing that affects different parts of my life in many ways. Failure.
He’s heavy in my arms, physically and mentally. He only wants me and the unrelenting need is exhausting. I’m permanently carrying around a 14 pound weight and I wonder how much longer I can keep going.
Today you have been in our lives for three months but it feels like a lifetime. I won't lie, this has been another really hard month BUT things seem to be slowly improving. Or, at least we can hope. We may have finally figured out your belly issues and you're slowly starting to sleep more and more.
Today is the close of one chapter and the beginning of another.
Ever since I was old enough, I have worked full-time. Throughout college I worked while going to school, with a new job ready for me as soon as I graduated. The longest absence I’ve taken from the working world was for the maternity leave I had with both of my sons.
Well, today I’m leaving behind the corporate world as I step into a new chapter of my life.
His cries pierce the deepest sleep I've had all night. I look at the clock.
Damn, it's only been 45 minutes this time. It's the fourth time I've been up with him since we went to bed a few hours ago.
My feet hit the floor with a thud. I run into the door frame with my shoulder. I stumble down the hall. I'm in a fog, moving strictly on autopilot.
Oh what a month it has been. Things have been rough this month. Really rough. You seem to hate sleeping and don't do it often which has lead to a very tired household for us all, and of course, a lot of frustration. (And apparently your brother also went through this at the same age.) It seems you're often two babies - the one who is very sweet and starting to coo and smile, and then the one who fights sleep at every turn and because of that gets overly tired and fussy.
I know it's been four years so I've probably blocked out a majority of the hard times with Henry, but I honestly don't remember it being this hard. Harrison isn't a kid that likes to sleep, and until recently, he spent the majority of the day being cranky. Now, thankfully, it's just the end of the night. But still... HE DOESN'T SLEEP. Did Henry sleep? I swear he did.
Four weeks ago you leisurely entered our lives. You were screaming, red, and perfect. And now, a month later, not much has changed. I won't lie, it's been quite the month of adjustment for all of us. In general, you're a very calm, contented baby. But in the last week or two you've run into some digestive issues that has you a bit fussier than normal and has Daddy and I more exhausted than normal. Plus, no one likes to see their baby in pain, especially when you can't tell us what hurts and we can't tell you how we'll fix it.
Three weeks ago my life was flipped upside down again in the best way when we welcomed our second baby boy into the world. Though you may have already seen pictures of this beautiful little boy on my Instagram or Facebook page, today I wanted to share how he came into the world - in a completely different labor than the one I had with Henry.
Today you are four. I can hardly believe that you have been in our lives for four whole years. But at the same time, I can't remember life before you, and I don't want to. You have been such a bright light in our life and I'm thankful every day that I get to be your Mama.
You're going to be a big brother any day now and it's taken me a long time to realize just how much its affecting me that you'll no longer be the only baby in my life. I have spent the last nine months preparing you for welcoming a new little person into our lives, but I haven't spent much time preparing myself.
36 weeks down. 4 (or less) to go. I had Henry at 37 weeks, so I wouldn't be mad to introduce this teeny one into our family next week. I'm miserably uncomfortable at this point. With Henry I was on bed rest starting at 34 weeks and I'm now seeing how much better that was physically for my body. I get exhausted walking around at work. Hell, I get exhausted getting off the couch.