on growing a family

I think it’s official. Chicken knows something is up. All the spring cleaning, the picture hanging, the making room in his dresser for clothes that are DEFINITELY too small for him, and that new little bed on wheels in mom and dad’s room… it’s all got him awfully suspicious.

And as a result, he’s become more cautious in new or exciting situations. For example, we went to the park and there were a lot of other kids there, many of them older, running, yelling, and generally being, to Chicken's eyes at least, awesome in the fear-inducing biblical sense. When the Chicken of a month ago would have watched for a moment and then leaped into the fray, Chicken of this week spent most of the park outing with his head on my shoulder, just watching the other kids play.

This phase, apparently, is totally normal for kids who are about to become big siblings. We’re just trying to show Chicken that our laps and shoulders have a reserved spot for him forever.

We’re doing out best to savor these days before Bing makes his grand entrance. “Chicken is definitely going to sleep for 12 hours. We should watch a movie!” We’re relishing the fact that when both Ryan and I are home, one of us can be off-duty because there’s only one kid to care for. And of course, we’re trying to soak up our one-on-one time with Chicken.

It’s bittersweet– we’re excited to welcome our new babe, but also a little sad that our family is about to change forever. There’s a lot that we’ve loved about being a family of three. Some of what we’ve loved will remain, grow deeper and richer, and some will wither away under the chaos of life with an infant, under the stretching need of four people rather than three.

We’re preparing to be a lot busier, to have less peace and more tantrums, to spend more time refereeing and multitasking and less time taking sweet, leisurely sips of quiet moments. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to lean in a doorway, undisturbed, and watch Chicken sitting in his chair, flipping through a favorite book, pointing at the pictures, and whispering the words he knows by heart.

There will be more laundry and dishes, more takeout dinners, more compromises, less sleep, less free time for reading and exercise and making fancy meals. I am anticipating a summer full of oven pizzas and spaghetti dinners. I am anticipating a summer of attempts to be “normal again,” Some will be miserable failures, others sweet victories. 

It’s a comfort to remember that a couple of years ago, there was a lot we loved about being a family of two. When we had Chicken some of what we loved remained, and grew deeper and richer. Some withered away.

I like to think we’ve grown more patient and compassionate, learned how much we are capable of carrying in one hand while a toddler squirms in (or out of) the other. We wonder what we used to DO with all the free time before we had Chicken. "We thought we were 'busy' but we were just assholes," I think. 

We’re more efficient now. We’re a better team because we have the very best and hardest thing on Earth in common, and we’re the only two who have it. We listen to each other more. We have tougher skins and softer hearts.

Sure, we can’t train for marathons together without sacrificing other major commitments. Like sleep. We can’t just go to a movie on a Tuesday night. We don’t eat in fancy restaurants or meet up with friends for a drink at a cool wine bar. I don’t work in an office, so I feel insecure and defensive when see friends who do.  I don’t wear clothes that need dry cleaning. Ever.

Our bathtub is filled with spongy primary-color letters and rubber boats instead of fancy shower gel and loofahs. Meals aren’t quiet. Our house has tiny handprints on the glass doors and windows. We mop the kitchen every week. We don’t live in a cool apartment; we have a crappy old house with an overgrown yard and tons of storage.

We’re tired every day. We read books about parenting instead of books about... anything else. We can’t watch movies in which something bad happens to or around children. I don’t know if I’ll ever see Schindler’s List again.

I want to accidentally leave the front door open and let the cats get out and then pretend to be distraught but secretly be relieved that I don’t have two more living creatures who need something from me anymore. 

We live and die by naptime. We speak to each other in toddlerese and yes, okay, the level of our discourse has plummeted. We have given up quiet Sunday mornings watching movies and letting the emptiness of the day roll out ahead of us, a silent stretch of open road. Every day is a traffic jam of tasks now, bumper-to-bumper have-to’s and should’s and gotta-get-on-that’s. 

Going on vacation sounds like hell. “All this in a hotel room? At the beach? Fuck. No.”

So we gave up the luxury of repose. We sacrificed a lot of glasses of wine and swanky resorts and the coolness of untethered adulthood. We’re less cool. We’re less hip. We’re more desperate to be both of those things.

That’s okay. 

If I never take a bike tour through French wine country it will be okay. Don't get me wrong, I’d love to do that. But I’m okay with putting an adult vacation on a someday list, and letting it live there for a few more years. A decade or two, even. I like where I am. I’m needed here.

So our family went from two to three and we gave up things we liked but didn't need. 

I've gotta run - Chicken woke up from his nap and is in his room calling "THACK! THACK!" His lisp when demanding snack is one of the many things I hope to remember forever. I've gotta rustle up some cheese crackers and read "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie." I'm going to watch his face as I read the familiar words, and let him finish the sentences he knows. I'm going to enjoy the relative quiet of this time, sitting at his tiny white table together, Baby Bing swelling up between us, still silent and contained and needing nothing more than my own air and blood. I'm going to savor being a family of three for just this afternoon longer.


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