Well it happened. Today is the day. The day I thought would never arrive. But it did. Inexplicably fast. At lightening speed, in fact.
Today, Mark is one.
And as much as I hate to admit it, every “Mom” cliche is true. HOW a year has already elapsed is beyond me. Some days were slow, and some days were painful. Some days felt so tedious and impossible that I wished them away. I’ll admit to all that. But somehow, this year FLEW BY.
I realize you’ve heard this all before. From your own Mom, maybe. From EVERY Mom, probably. But since I’m already being cliche, I’ll say that this year was – without a doubt – the most amazing and beautiful year, as well as the most difficult and demanding.
So if you haven’t gathered, I’m here to write a reflection post on Mark’s first year. It was our first year as a family of four, my first year outnumbered by kids, and the final chapter in our whirlwind adventure of birthing two babies in less than two years.
Mark was born sixteen minutes after midnight on Sept 9, 2016, seven weeks shy of Annika’s second birthday. His birth was different than my first and not at all what I expected, but his pregnancy was different, so I guess it was fitting.
His first moments earth-side are ETCHED in my memory. I remember the details of the delivery room. I remember the expression on people’s faces. I remember the conversations, feelings and every little insignificant element.
But don’t ask me what I had for breakfast yesterday, because THAT I can’t tell you.
Just like with Annika, I remember staring at him and wondering what he’d look like when he left that squishy baby phase. What he’d be like as his personality started to develop. What our lives would feel like a year later. But I couldn’t fathom any of it. It didn’t seem like it would ever arrive.
But here we are. And now it feels like I’ve known his face and his personality forever.
We named him after my Dad who died more than ten years ago. In fact, we named him more than ten years ago. On that very day when my Dad passed away, Andrew promised me that our hypothetical first son would be named Mark. We were young, dating, and not yet engaged (let alone married,) but we had hope and faith that it would all work out.
When I discovered I was pregnant with a boy, I envisioned him being like my Dad. After all, we have a fierce and adventurous first born girl, and I’ve always assumed second-borns tend to balance our their older siblings. In a way, they become the opposite of their counterpart. At least this was the case in my family growing up.
My Dad was really calm and easy going. He was quiet and unassuming. I had it in my mind that my little Mark would be like this as well….especially since our girl was (to put it in layman’s terms) the “wild one”.
Well. My “easy” child plan didn’t really pan out. But that’s been a lesson for me that I probably needed to learn. Mark, though different than Annika in a lot of ways, is just like her in others. He’s a climber. He’s an adventurer. He’s ALREADY stubborn and determined. He knows how to express himself and will let you know when he isn’t pleased. But on the flip side, he can be cuddly. There are times when he needs me…times when all he wants is to be held.
Andrew and I are both bullheaded first-borns. We’re stubborn and can be stuck in our ways. So I’m not sure WHY I thought we’d have kids who were anything less.
That being said, I wouldn’t change either of these kids for anything. In a way, they give me peace of mind. In a turbulent world, I know they’ll stand their ground. And if we do our best to instill the right kind of values, they’ll be strong, capable and passionate in whatever they do.
To change course a bit, this year has also shown me a lot of sides of myself.
I’ve failed. I’ve screwed up. I’ve let them down. I’ve let all of us down. It’s been humbling because there have been times when I’ve not been good at this “Mom” thing.
There were days I wished they were older and more independent. Days where I wished away their babyhoods, even against my own better judgement. BUT. I’ve also tried to forgive myself because I’m human, and I’m navigating waters that I couldn’t fully prepare for.
More importantly, there has been renewal. We’ve been rejuvenated with all the antics, laughter and silliness. Especially with the “firsts”, and the excitement of more firsts. Seeing them laugh together for the first time? Watching them “chase” each other for the first time? Those moments made the hard times worth it. They will forever and always outweigh the days where we all cried, and I felt like a complete and utter disaster.
I think the biggest lesson I take away from this year with a baby and a toddler is that I can never say never. I’ve been humbled beyond measure. I’ve been pushed to a breaking point, but returned from it grateful. I’ve realized I’m not better than anything or anyone. I’ve been the Mom who yelled three minutes after vowing to never yell again. I’ve been the Mom who read the article on the “dangers of screen time”, but plunked them in front of the TV because I was exhausted. I’ve been the wife who said things I didn’t mean because I was exasperated, and just needed to let off steam. I’m nowhere near the perfect Mom, and they’re not perfect kids, but striving to do better is where I make myself proud. The key is trying harder next time, forgiving myself and my husband when we falter, and consciously deciding to work toward a better tomorrow.
To touch on another cliche, we were definitely more lax in parenting the second time around. Oh my God we were so much more lax…and it was a nice feeling. With the second, you realize they probably won’t die from eating a button or licking a Walmart floor. There’s less hovering, fussing and worrying, because despite your ineptitude, the first one survived that first year okay.
At Annika’s first birthday party, she had no idea what to do with her smash cake because I’d been so strict about sugar. Cake was foreign to her. With Mark, it’s been a different story. He’s grabbed pieces of syrupy pancakes, slurped freezie off the floor, gotten hold of cookies, stolen french fries, and tried to put the pet guinea pig in his mouth. I’ve made less of an effort to intervene this time around, but he’s still thriving. In fact. He taught himself to use sippy cups (both spout and straw), and cleans up puzzles by putting them back in the boxes piece by piece. I had to BATTLE his sister to do those things. So. Something can be said for leaving them to their own devices….sometimes.
But back to the birthday boy himself!
Mark. He’s such a funny little monster…so delightfully weird and curious. He has this mischievous smile that melts my heart daily. He loves to sway to music and climb in bins and boxes. I think he might be part cat the way he’s obsessed with climbing into enclosed spaces. He likes to scale the stairs and the couches, and seems to have ZERO fear of heights or falls (eeeek). He likes to get his little pointer finger out and loudly proclaims “AHHHHH!” when he sees something that interests him.
He already know how to handle a hockey stick and throw balls, so he’ll likely be sporty just like his Dad and his namesake. ANNNND he eats like a teenager. We’re lucky that he isn’t particular. He will eat anything we put in front of him and then want more.
He gives the most disgusting yet beautiful slobbery kisses, and his current favourite activity is hammering pegs through holes with impressive precision.
When it comes to the two of them, I can see that they’re finally turning a corner towards being friends, and that’s my favourite thing of all. Mark becomes more interactive by the day and Annika relishes that. When he was born, she was too young to understand why he wasn’t able to play WITH her. Now we see her beginning to teach and guide him, and we see him looking up to her with awe and admiration. I die every time.
I’m so curious to see what the next year brings in terms of their development as both individuals and siblings. And just like this time last year, I can’t imagine it. I can’t fathom what it will be like. But I do know that when it arrives, it will blow my mind that it flew by the way it did.
I guess if I’m going to offer advice to new Moms, or Moms bracing for more kids, it would be this: YES you “should” abide by all the old adages like “enjoy it while you can” and “savour these moments”…but you won’t always. You won’t be able to. So just try your best and forgive yourself along the way. If your kids are happy, fed and relatively clean, YOU HAVE ACED IT.
Remember to make time for you, too. Do things for you and…dare I say it? Put yourself first sometimes. Eat cookies in the bathroom when you don’t want to share with two whiny, diaper-clad crazy people. Day drink the first time someone is willing to take BOTH of them off your hands. Essentially, DO you.
Anyway, there you have it. Those are my thoughts on surviving a year with two babies and watching my little boy turn one. I’d love to hear from you guys if you’re so inclined! Happy Friday, Friends.