I can’t quite believe this, but Bean is going to be six months old next week. SIX MONTHS. In just another short six months she’s going to be COMPLETELY different. She’ll probably be walking, using her hands to eat, drinking from a sippy cup, and saying a word or two!
Which is why it’s difficult for me to admit that up until last week I didn’t feel the type of intense connection with Bean that I had with Monkey when she was born. Kind of embarrassing really.
Don’t get me wrong — of course I had a connection with her. I oogle her and kiss her, cuddle her, and do silly things to make her laugh. There’s never been a question about whether or not I LOVE her and want to care for her and protect her. That came as naturally to me as breathing. But it just felt like something was missing — like when you order a turtle sundae and they forget the hot fudge — it’s still really good with the caramel and the nuts, but it’s just not as good as you know it could be.
I remember telling my mom about this very early on. I said, “Bean just doesn’t demand as much of my attention as Monkey did at this age. I just don’t feel something.” Overall, Bean is much more laid back. She never demanded to be held as much as Monkey did when she was a newborn, which was pretty much ALL-THE-TIME. And when you have a Toddler Tornado running around, capable of saying and doing almost anything to get your attention, you’re kind of grateful that your newborn is nonplussed about being put in the vibrating bouncy seat while you go get juice, or crackers, or color, or change the laundry over, or make dinner, or spend 35 minutes chasing the neighbor’s chicken out of your yard.
Plus, when someone can’t tell you all about themselves — what they like and dislike, what their favorite color is and their favorite outdoor activity — how much of a connection can you really build with that person? Imagine walking up to someone in Starbucks and trying to make friends with them. Except, the only thing you know about them is that they don’t like it when you poke them and they’re happy when you buy them a Danish. Oh, and they smile when you act like an idiot, and they don’t like sitting in their own sh*t. Or anyone else’s sh*t for that matter. See!! Kinda hard to build a meaningful relationship, isn’t it!?
I think another compounding factor is that my memories of Monkey’s first year are not that far from reach. The girls are only 21.5 months apart. It really wasn’t that long ago. When you’re a first-time parent, EVERYTHING is new. And absolutely each new thing rocks your world. And there are lots of new things — like a new thing almost every week. There’s the first smile, the first laugh, the first time they roll over, and the first time they sit up (more or less) unassisted. Oh my gosh, the list is endless!
Being my first child, Monkey was the center of my universe by default. I had the luxury of reveling in baby blissdom because I didn’t have anyone else to pay attention to! By default, I’ve spent lots more one-on-one time with Monkey than I probably ever will with Bean.
By default, Bean’s first year is kind of like a movie I’ve already seen and am watching again, except that it’s on in the background and I’m also folding laundry. You know those movies, right? Your favorite movies that you know really well and don’t have to pay super close attention to? You’re watching, but you’re not watching it as closely as you would if it were the first time. You don’t notice and appreciate the details like you did the first time. You still laugh at the funny parts, but not as hard. You still cry during the sad parts, but not as much. And you know certain parts so well that you can recite the lines by heart. Even though I look at my children and tell myself on a daily basis, “Remember this time. Appreciate this time.” I knew I wasn’t appreciating it as much as I could be.
Obviously, this whole connection thing has really been bothering me. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and feeling like a bad mama. And then, the other morning while I was up with Bean and Monkey was still sleeping, I decided to think of Bean as my *only* child. I began to imagine that she was my first born. And just like that – it clicked. There was the connection I had been longing for.
There are a lot of similarities in a baby’s first year of life, before they can really express who they are. But it’s not the same. While Bean does look an awful like lot like her older sister, she IS her own person. And as soon as I began to appreciate her as if she were the only one I had, it clicked.
Which leads me to reflect on what I do know about Bean. The older she gets, the more her personality starts to unfold.
- She’s got a really sensitive palate. She’s not as welcoming to new flavors and textures in her mouth as Monkey was as a baby. My first indication of this was at her two-month well-check when the nurse tried to give her an oral vaccine. Upon receiving the first squirt, Bean contorted her mouth and made that awful “eeeh” face like you swallowed a cockroach and you can feel it crawling back up, and then she gagged, and made the face again. And then she gave that shudder — that “Ugh, that was just awful,” shudder. So yeah. There were definitely more of those faces when we started her on solids. It’s pretty hysterical actually. Even now after having had prunes a half a dozen times, she still makes that face on the first bite.
- Bean is pretty sensitive in general. While she’s more laid back and it takes her a long time to get worked up, when she’s mad, she’s MAD. Sometimes, the kind of mad where even after you pick her up and are comforting her, holding her and rocking her, she’ll pause, and then decide she’s still MAD. And she’ll keep crying her head off. I hate that! Monkey was never like that. There’s nothing that makes you feel like an inept parent more than not being able to calm your crying baby.
- She’s easily over stimulated. While Monkey seemed to thrive on ACTION! ATTENTION! PEOPLE!, Bean freaks out and shuts down when she’s had too much.
- She still looooves to sleep. While there definitely have been some transition periods, for the most part, the biggest reason Bean gets cranky and cries is because she’s tired and wants to go to bed. I didn’t even know they made kids like that.
When Bean was first born, lots of people advised me that it would be really important to spend some one-on-one time with Monkey to ease her adjustment to the baby. But after spending the last few mornings playing with Bean before Monkey wakes up, I’ve come to realize that I want, and need, to spend some one-on-one time with Bean too. I think the alone time is what helped the connection click. I just need to make more time where I focus solely on Bean.
And I’m reaching out to you otha muthahs, to hopefully tell me that you know what I’m talking about and that I’m not the only one in the universe to have felt this way. Am I crazy? Selfish? Unfeeling? Normal? Anyone, anyone? I know I feel guilty. Guilty that it took me so long to figure this out and appreciate Bean for who she is and who she’s becoming. And feeling a little sad, because like I said, she’s going to be a COMPLETELY different person in six months. Why does this go so fast!?
It’s really wonderful to finally have the connection I was longing for. The invisible string that ties you to your children. The tugging you feel because a little piece of your heart is walking around outside of you.
Thankfully, sometimes the beautiful thing about watching one of your favorite movies over and over again, is that you’re surprised to notice something that you missed every other time.