We had our two girls fairly close together. Not so close that anyone has ever thought them to be twins, but close enough that I am sometimes given sympathetic looks and asked, "So...umm...how close are they?" These questions often follow a frazzled look on my face or an obviously frazzling experience. For instance, the day I had to run errands in town and discovered upon arrival that Neil had removed the stroller from the trunk of the car and had the freaky experience of both kids running off...at the same time...in opposite directions.
The days I've spent wishing Emma had been a bit older when Becca arrived are innumberable. However, so are the days I've spent in reflection and gratitude for the closeness of my beautiful girls.
When Becca was first born it was rough. She was a happy baby for the most part, but her scheduling was off for the first few months and I? Was not handling the sleep deprivation well. Add to that an undiagnosed case of Post Partum Depression (yes, it does indeed deserve the capitals), a very boisterous toddler, and having to move every three months for my husband's schooling. Emma took every opportunity to love her new little sister. Often in the form of hugs (around the neck), laying on top of her, trying to feed her when Mommy wasn't looking, and throwing various toys and other paraphenlia at her head.
I grew angry and resentful of Emma. Becca was the sweetest of babies, and it was hard not to cast Emma in the role of villain. Though her shenanigans were never malicious, I had trouble seeing that in my muchly befuddled state. This went on for the first year of Becca's life and though it gradually got better as Becca learned to walk and hold her own a bit, my temper continued to flare. Frequently.
And it's not like I didn't know it was happening. It was an excruciatingly torturous experience. I felt like I'd been possessed and forced to watch as the body snatcher hurt my family and myself. I would often break down sobbing but when Neil asked what was wrong I could never put it properly into words. It was a very dark time in my life, and climbing up from those depths was no quick or easy thing.
That's a story for another time though. Back to the present.
Now, at two and a half, Becca is developing a more, shall we say, assertive personality. She voices her displeasure loudly and often, in a very shrill, ear piercing sort of way. I can honestly say that I have felt phsycial pain from the pitch and decibel level of her shrieks.
The playing field has been levelled somewhat.
Emma is no longer the only instigator of screaming matches. Loud thumps followed by wailing are not always her fault anymore. And I am immensely relieved. I don't feel so angry and protective anymore. I feel like I can love my children equally as I feel I always should have. It was a rough couple of years but I feel like we're finally getting a handle on things around here.
It's a bit shaming, really, to realize and admit to how long I favoured one child more than the other. I hope that I can learn from this lesson and do better next time. If there is a next time.
Now, as I sit on our little patio typing on the ole laptop, I'm listening to my children yelling and giggling and chatting with each other. They share ideas, invent stories together, push each other on the swingset. I hear Becca squeal with delight as Emma races her around the yard in her green plastic car, the rumble of the wheels on our gravel driveway as they whoosh by, laughing hysterically.
In the midst of the grief and the shame there is a flicker of pride. I could have done so much better. I could have been so much more patient, so much more loving. I could have been kinder, more selfless, and more giving of my time to my children.
But I did teach them something. I taught them to love each other. Perhaps my favourtism wasn't as transparent as I fear it was.
Yesterday afternoon I watched as Becca climbed up onto the couch and deposited herself in Emma's lap. She leaned forward and gave her a huge hug and said, "I love you Emma!" "I love you bigger Becca!" "No, I love you biggest!"
Yes, my children are close. We felt inspired to make that decision, and though I once questioned it intesely and often, I no longer doubt that this was the right choice for our family.
As I look at the world with new clarity, shaking off the lingering traces of depression and despair, I can't help feeling a bit reflective.
Could I have climbed up from the depths without the both of them?