In a little over a month my little S will be the same age as J was when our baby was born. Which is nuts to me. We didn't start saving J's clothes until S arrived, because we have other kids in the building to pass them on to and we didn't know if we'd have another kid, or when that kid would arrive. When the baby arrived, of course we stopped passing things down and started saving them for S. She's wearing those clothes now. Almost every day S is in an outfit that was pioneered by my oldest, especially now that summer is almost upon us and the weather is starting to overlap.
S is more of a climber than J and as a result has been graduated to a big kid bed far sooner than big sis. Keeping a 21 month old in a toddler bed is a bit of a challenge, but it's working. What's harder to wrap my mind around is the lack of a crib in their room. When I'm not being driven insane by bedtime I'm reveling in the sounds of sisterly conversations (they have conversations! with each other!!) that collapse into giggles as soon as a parent sternly opens the door.
So. Almost two years into having two kiddos, what I have learned? Here's some stuff that so far has been true for us.
The second kid does not get as much attention as the first one did. This was my big fear, one of the top things I fretted about before baby S arrived and in the weeks after we brought her home. I remembered so clearly the many nights when J was a new baby that Andrew and I stood, stunned by the miraculous beauty of her presence, and watched her sleep. I remember how every time she cried I felt as if my heart was being ripped bodily from me and how I could do nothing except for abandon whatever I was doing and go make it better for her. It wasn't like this with S, in part because I was quicker to remember what different cries were about and how to respond and in part because it is just hard to spend a lot of time staring at one sleeping child when there is a toddler screaming "MOMMY C'MERE!" at you. However, the end result of this was not what I feared. S as a baby was more sociable, independent and content than her bigger sister was - a combination of nature and nurture, but still. Now as a toddler she can easily out-charm big sis to get the attention she wants from anyone, something I try to keep my eye on. Turns out babies don't need all that worship and adoration. (and she still got and gets plenty, just not to the degree only-child baby J did)
The first kid doesn't get as much attention as before either. This is a pretty good thing. The first time J hit her baby sister I was full of conflicting emotions. J was my baby, and I'd never been as furious with her as I was when she smacked....my baby. But as she learned appropriate ways to interact with her new sib and I learned appropriate ways to set boundaries I observed some pretty awesome stuff from my toddler that I never would have discovered if she remained an only child. J was actually a great help during the early months of baby S. She was willing to spend time alone looking at books or watching a tv show while I helped baby sleep. Her social skills skyrocketed as she realized that Mommy and Daddy were not the only people who could meet her needs for social interaction - she became adept at commandeering any visitors to our home as her special guests within moments of them stepping inside. She welcomed her baby sister into her bedroom and learned how to go back to sleep when woken up without any help from us. She's grew up a lot and having a sister has been a big part of the how and why of that.
It's good to have a sister.
Now that S gives as good as she gets J has someone to learn how to fight with who is always around and never gives up. They're learning how to play and conspire together - well enough that I now know to find them immediately if things have been quiet for more than five minutes. It's a sure sign that they're up to something they both know is not Mama-approved. They're a powerful pair when they decide to team up. Yes, sometimes I despair of the squabbles and frequent tears. My daughters are physical people and we're working on using words not bodies to express ourselves. But if I ever doubt their attachment all it takes is some other kid on a playground or over to visit giving S trouble. J is fiercely protective of her baby sister.
It's also good to get a break from your sister sometimes.
At Seattle's Comic-con this year it just so happened that one day Andrew was there for part of the day with S while I did some things with J and another day he took J without the other two of us. Both days we each had a fantastic time with the kiddo we were one-on-one with. It's a no-brainer probably but that's when I realized that the girls were ALWAYS together - either home with me, Andrew or both of us or at daycare together or off to grandma's house together or being babysat together. They sleep and nap at the same time. With the exception of church where J is in Godly Play and the baby's in the nursery they never get a break. We've been making a bigger effort since then at giving them breaks from each other and having some quality one-on-one parent time and it pays off with happier kiddos the rest of the time.
We're getting better at this.
We don't waffle around as much. We have clearer ideas about what to do and when to be flexible. We understand that this too, whatever this is, will pass and sometimes that's a relief and sometimes it's sort of sad. Relearning all this with S has reinforced our faith in it being true for J, if that makes sense. Right now, for example, S wakes up every day between 5 and 5:30. No matter what time she goes to bed. When J was her age and had sleep issues it felt like THIS WILL NEVER END. Now, with S, I'm not happy about the situation but I'm very aware that it will eventually pass. She'll sleep later and better when she's gotten through whatever developmental milestone she's working on. And knowing that about her reminds me that the same is true with J, even though when she hits a rough patch it's likely something we haven't seen yet.
So yeah, I'm stunned to think that in a few weeks J will have had a little sister for as long as she didn't have one. And that from here on out I'll be more experienced parenting two kids than I was with just one. Experience isn't everything but heck, it's not nothing either.