I hate to admit it, but I was a little cocky before my second child was born. Veteran parents warned me that the transition from one to two kids would be difficult. While I appreciated their concern, I half dismissed their comments. I had survived my son’s toddler years, a period that drove me to seek the help of a parenting coach. The fact that I had successfully overcome his toddler angst left me feeling equipped to handle any new parenting challenge. Adding another kid to the mix was not going to be that hard.
Little did I know what was coming our way.
Much of my overconfidence about baby #2 stemmed from our good luck the first time around. While my son was a challenging toddler, he spoiled us during his baby days. He ate well, slept like an angel and was a charismatic people magnet. His easy going nature charmed nearly everyone, especially men. Dads and grandpas who normally avoided babies found themselves drawn to my son. Naturally, my husband and I attributed my son’s pleasant demeanor to our amazing parenting skills (ha!). But my daughter’s arrival four years later humbled us.
My daughter showed her spirited personality well before she was born. The second half of my pregnancy was filled with her kicks, jabs and flips as she made herself comfortable inside of me. Even my husband was on the receiving end of her firm kicks when he rested his hand on my belly too long. Two weeks before her due date, she surprised doctors by flipping to the breech position. Thankfully, she complied when they flipped her back, but she made it clear that she liked things on her own terms.
Once our baby girl was born, it was even more obvious that she had an intense temperament. She felt things strongly and let us know when the world wasn’t to her liking. She made me work during my maternity leave. I spent my days rocking, bouncing and shushing a baby who seemed determined to be cranky. During the early evening hours, my daughter’s incessant cries gave the term “witching hour” a whole new meaning.
While we eventually settled into a rhythm at home, daycare life was a challenge for my particular baby who disliked strangers. She resisted eating, reluctantly slept and let everyone in ear shot know her discontent. After three months, our daycare provider asked us to leave her program. My eight month old got kicked out of daycare! We were astounded and disheartened at this unexpected turn of events. When it became clear that home was best place for our daughter, my husband left his job and became a stay-at-home dad.
My daughter is now one, and she can definitely hold her own. While her strong will can be frustrating, overwhelming and exacerbating, it has also taught me the art of adaptability. She pushes me to be a better mom, not allowing me to rest on my laurels but driving me to continually evolve my parenting tactics. I’m learning how to balance the opposite, and often competing, natures of our children’s personalities and how to flex to each child’s unique rhythms, preferences and triggers.
There have been times when I’ve wished that my daughter was an “easy” baby. But I can’t imagine life without her spirited personality. I love seeing her fearlessly tackle her older brother and charge into a room without hesitation. She knows what she wants and is not afraid to let the world know it. I envy that about her. More than that, she loves strongly and fiercely. I see it when she plays silly games with Dad. I hear it when she shrieks with joy as she chases her older brother. And I feel it when she enthusiastically greets me at the end of a work day.
I love my spirited baby and can’t wait to see how she takes the world by storm. In the end, the extra wrinkles and grey hairs feel like a small price to pay for the daily reminder that life is meant to be lived passionately.