On August 9, 2009 I posted this entry on a previous blog. Ninja Boy was 2 months old and we were finding our groove as a family of four. Our struggles during that time were exacerbated because I was suffering through a serious illness and also had post partum depression. My husband was working overnight shifts to help us make ends meet, but it was driving all of us batty through lack of family time and sleep. Our family has had many moments of reckoning where we decided it would be in the best interest of all of us to exchange money for time and happiness, deciding to live on less financially to build a better family foundation. At the moment I wrote this post, however, Ninja was a newborn, Twinkle had just transitioned from using single words to trying out sentences, my husband was working the 10pm to 6am shift at a superstore and I had just returned to working full time.
Not Kirk is slugging away, working over night shifts and watching the kids during the day while I work day shifts and care for the kids during the night. When he isn’t home Ninja and I co-sleep. Last night it took four tries, but Twinkle actually went to bed and put herself to sleep. This is a huge new accomplishment, and a new milestone in our family. Being able to take her to bed, read some stories and sing songs, then turn off the light and leave is amazing. Especially when I only have the two hours between when she goes to bed and when Ninja and I do to clean up the house, run the dishwasher, lay out clothes for the next day, prepare all three meals for the next day in advance (chopping, dicing etc), do laundry and shower.
I have been talking up how ‘super cool, Dude!’ it is to sleep in your own bed the whole night, instead of getting out of bed and yelling. I always talk about how awesome it is when Twinkle acts like a big girl, and every time she does anything ‘big-girl’ like we have a dance party moment and sing and get excited. She is starting to really understand big girl concepts, like putting on her own clothes, telling us when her diaper needs changing (or even asking to use the potty sometimes), and now sleeping in her own room and putting herself to sleep. Amazing.
Kids growing up and learning how to label and respond to their environment is awesome and inspiring. Having Twinkle go from saying words to (almost) complete sentences is astonishing. She doesn’t just point and say duckie anymore, she says ‘momma, ducky swimming. Ducky baby swimming momma’. Trying to understand her brother’s eating habits, she went from saying “momma booboo (boob)”, to saying “momma booboo milkie”, to saying “momma booboo milkie Ninja” just this week. And the look of accomplishment she has in her eyes when she figures out how to say a complete sentence, that moment of triumph as she completes relaying a thought or feeling that just weeks ago was too complex for her to utter, makes me glow. When Not Kirk gets home from work in the morning as we are dressing for the day she runs to him laughing and saying “silly daddy” with complete glee on her face. When she sees me after work she always says “A MOMMA!” like it is a surprise that not only A momma, but HER momma has returned.
Last night it took four tries but she finally went to sleep on her own and didn’t get out of her room again. After rushing around to get Husband’s dinner ready for when he woke up for work (9pm) and packing him a lunch to take for his shift (10pm-6am) I was exhausted. Ninja and I fell into bed and I nursed him to sleep. I then passed out cold. I woke up at 3am this morning to Twinkle coming into our room. Hoping she would return to her own space I pretended to stay asleep. Instead of leaving, however, she lay down next to Ninja, grabbed his hand, and asked him to snuggle (“hug Ninja?” to be exact). Worried about having all of us in the bed I asked her to come to the other side, so I slept with one baby on each arm. When I woke up for the day a couple hours later I saw that Twinkle had crawled up to my pillow, lay across it horizontally, and was holding both of Ninja’s hands in her own. I crawled out of bed and turned on the coffee maker. I went back to wake them up and found Twinkle had taken my spot and was laying side to side with Ninja, smiling.
Universe, can I order 365 more mornings this sweet please? Except maybe instead of 3am she joins us at 6 when I get out of bed? Now that she can tell me when she is frustrated “hold ME momma, hold ME”, and tell me when she wants me to stop paying attention to Ninja and pay attention to her “Ninja’s chair momma. Ninja sleepy chair!”, we get on so much better. There is so much more love shared between them now, and the animosity she felt towards his arrival has nearly completely dissipated. It’s mutual, too; Ninja looks for her whenever he hears her voice and rewards her with gorgeous two dimpled, full faced smiles whenever she comes over to play. Watching these tiny humans turn from completely dependent entities into functional humans, and watching the evolution of their language, their feelings and their understanding of the world has changed me. Hearing my daughter explain to me how the ants on the sidewalk were going home when they stepped onto the grass suddenly seems so much more interesting than listening to anything else. My reality, full of peanut butter hugs and watching ants parading down the sidewalk, is the most pacifying reality I have ever experienced.
My beautiful and amazing family returned to me last night. Although I hate when they are gone and hate not being able to go with them, their travels to visit my husband’s family are a critical component of their childhood. When they think about summer vacation their memories will always be full of grandparents, of fancy gardens and bird sanctuaries, of spending time outdoors in the thick air of the Midwestern town that shaped their father into the man he is today. When we have the choice for all of us to go together for 4 days or sending the kids off with their father for 8, I want to be selfish and pick the shorter visit but I know that isn’t fair. They need these days of carefree adventure with the family who loves them so much, and from too far away. And in a way I need the quiet time to reflect, too, on how every moment I spend with my children shapes me into being a better person. From their earliest moments of sweet interaction to their learning to use language, their gifts to me and the rest of the world are profound, are important and are destined to make the world a better place.