Gone are the days of trying to project a serene, 1950’s everything’s perfect facade. No more exclamations of smooth sailing and fluffy angel kisses. We’ve hit two and we have hit it hard. Our sweet little cherub, our downy haired first born, our wonder of wonders daughter has morphed into a curly haired bomb, a blue eyed, hair trigger tempered little spit fire. There are days when we find humor in the explosivity of her temper. How can you not snicker just a little when her own capricious whims send her into a raging nose dive of a tantrum:
“Boo-nana. Briar havin’ a boo-nana.”
“Ok, honey. Just a minute. Mama’s feeding Avery.”
“Ok, here you go.”
She looks at the proffered banana. She pauses. She reaches for it and then:
“No want it boo-nana. Away. Mommy! BRIAR NO WANT THE BOOOOOO-NANA! Take away!” Followed by gasping shrieks and howls.
“Ok. Honey. What do you want?”
“Da, boo-na, umm, Briar want uh, boo…” Frustrated screams, hands pounding on the desk and feet kicking violently against the chair.
“Owwweee. Mommy, Briar’s feet hurt. Owwee! Eat cereals. Briar eat cereals. No boo-nana.”
Cereal it is. I put a dish in front of her. She looks at and then looks at the banana in my hand. Hmmm, confused, but she chooses not to flip out again. She eats the cereal. For now, we are safe.
And then there is Avery. Sweet natured, eager to please, infatuated with Briar and affectionate to her parents, Avery. We both seem to be intensely attuned to her sweetness, perhaps because we see the writing on the wall. Can it really be possible that in a year’s time she will turn into 32″ of perambulating demonic impetuosity?
“Mommy. No want it the cereals. Briar hungry. Briar needs it the boo-nana! Mommy!“
So we tend to Avery. We nuzzle, we kiss. We cheer her budding achievements. We try to guide her to things that will make her happy and prevent the arousal of Briar’s anger. Unfortunately there is that one little thing that parents of babies must face and there is simply no way to address it without seriously distressing the little ones.
Enter: the nose sucker.
Damn if it isn’t the most effective, yet disturbing aid for the early months of sniffles. Briar had tremendous nose problems early on and Sean took the lead, assuming the role of hateful, wielder of the nose sucker. Back then we didn’t know about the Little Noses gentle bulb, so we used the light blue hospital issue bulb with the 4″ lance of horror. Briar would look up at Sean, her blue eyes wide with fear pleading silently with him. Then she’d look to me as I held her hands at her sides while tears streamed down my face. It wasn’t that Sean enjoyed doing it, he was just better able to assess the situation and accept that in order to help her, suck we must.
I have tried to be more just this time around. Instead of just providing the life sustaining breast milk, cuddling and cooing, I am taking my turn with the nose sucker. It truly sucks in every sense of the word. This morning, day 5 of a vicious hanger-onner of a head cold, Avery simply could not nurse, so full was her nose with stuff. I got the saline spray and the nose sucker (the much gentler, smaller Little Noses version). Sean held Avery as I sprayed the saline. She gagged and coughed, tears streamed down her face and her little eyebrows furrowed in the most pathetic way. I inserted the sucker and began to clear her nose. Four times I had to do it. And four times her sweet natured little self writhed beneath Sean’s arms. There were no tears this time for me.
I think one of the most bittersweet things abut this second time around is the diminishment of intensity. I am still overcome at times by the exquisite ache of loving Avery, of having my devotion to her seep into every corner of my being. However the every single moment of the day and most of the moments of the night rapture are not there like they were with Briar. I am less terrified about doing something wrong (I have accepted the inevitability of that), I have less time to watch sunlight catch in the sheen of saliva on her rosy lips, I can’t just stop to trace the rolls on her thighs. Luckily for her, I also don’t sit by and let her snort because I am afraid of upsetting her with the bulb.
She is having a different experience than Briar, but for every all encompassing fascination that I don’t get caught up in, I compensate for with something I have learned. Avery is delighting in a food odyssey that I never would have allowed for Briar. Briar was by the book, to the letter I tell you. Avery, well Avery is coming along with us as instinct dictates. And I think, for all the afternoons Avery has not gotten reclining on my knees while I weep and take 37 photos an hour, she has gotten many more walks with us (outside at 4 days? Why the hell not, she’s 8 months old now and has lived to tell the tale.)
Instead of two googly eyed parent breathing down on her at every turn, she has a sister challenging her, demonstrating how to do it (or please for the love of god, how not to do it), she has better toys, more books, chill parents and someone to share the backseat with on car trips (cause boy, Dad sure loves to take the scenic route and mom is always lost).
I hope that both girls will appreciate the first years that they had, Briar with her sole ownership of the spotlight for nearly two years and Avery with her shared spotlight but heightened privilege of experience. I hope that they’ll understand that we were not trying to lessen the size of their slices of pie, but rather trying to ensure that as they grew they would have one another, be it to commiserate about our failures, share the burden of eventually losing us or simply to know that they had someone out there who really understood where they came from. And that, the place where they came from, I can honestly say is a place of intense love, wonder and gratitude. I wouldn’t trade the snot, the rage or the responibility for all the riches in the world.