At two and half years old, my daughter takes her time at everything, which is not ideal when her 2 month old sister needs so much attention and does not like to wait. I watch two light-brown curly pigtails hanging over her shoulders as she looks down at the first bumpy stepping stone. One little pink Croc takes a deliberate step forward off the driveway pavement over the overgrown grass onto a stepping stone. “One,” she counts as her left foot catches up with her right. All I can think each time is, Come on kid, get a move on! Hustle that butt! Instead, I try to let her take the steps at a tortoise’s pace and enjoy watching her meticulously mosey her way to the backdoor.
When my daughter walks up the stepping stones from the driveway to the patio, I’m usually in a much bigger hurry than she. Frequently, I am draped with a diaper bag, purse, infant in car seat, and whatever item my toddler decided she couldn’t live without but also couldn’t carry herself. That makes no difference though; she still carefully steps on each stepping stone with both feet firmly planted and counts each one before moving her foot to the next.
Even though my sweet girl moves like a snail at times, she reminds me of life before kids. Life when I could take my time and plan each step.
I married young at 22 but didn’t have my first child until I was 28. My husband and I knew we weren’t ready for kids right away, after we got married. So, step one; get married, find jobs, and locate housing. Done. It was carefully planned and calculated. We spent a long time hanging out on that first step. It was comfortable and the thought of the the next step made us wobbly.
The stepping stones next to our driveway were there when we moved in. Whoever put them there was not concerned with spacing, because the first step is close to the pavement and easy to reach while the second step is spaced as if someone forgot a stone in between. My daughter has to balance herself carefully before taking what is for her short legs a giant step forward. “Two,” she whispers as she wobbles on one foot until her left catches up with her right.
Six years later, we decide it’s time. We want to try to have kids, and we are prepared to start trying but are totally aware that it may take quite a bit of time to get there. Little did we know it was only going to take three months to get pregnant. We were lucky at how easy that part was for us. Of course, even though it was easy, it happened so fast our second foot hadn’t quite caught up with the first and we were thrown off balance. It did not matter that we were not quite caught up yet and still a bit wobbly on our second stepping stone; we were going to have to get ready for this baby. This proved to be a challenge.
My father was living with us and occupied the spare bedroom ever since my mother passed away, so we were going to have to clean out what we used for an office and turn it into a friendly nursery. It took months of sorting and several very big trips to Goodwill, but we got it done. My little girl was going to have an inviting room to come home to.
We had 39 weeks to prepare mentally to become parents. We did the best we could, but I was unbelievably grateful to have my mother-in-law there to help when we got home from the hospital. My mother-in-law was my main source of support as my mother died three years earlier after an eight month battle with cancer. About a week after we got home from the hospital to a house full of family to help us with our first child, everyone left. We were on our own to sink or float. Sink didn’t really seem like a good option. I very vividly remember the feeling in my stomach as my in laws pulled out of the driveway. Sure my dad still lived with us, but he was never much good at child rearing just the spoiling (which is the way it is suppose to work for grandparents). Even my husband was overwhelmed with emotion and absolute panic; somehow we got through those first few months of sleep deprivation. To this day, I am not sure how.
We spent the next two years learning about parenthood with our daughter, when suddenly…
…surprise! Baby number two was on the way. This was not our plan. It was like our stepping stones had disappeared and we were staring at an open field with no path to guide us. We were out of bedrooms in our house, so the first order of business was to get dad to move out. He was so excited to have another grandbaby that he moved out with time to spare.
With enough room now, we were able to redecorate (paint) my dad’s former room into a haven of my daughter’s favorite characters. This would be her big girl room that she loved to watch progress. Just a month before baby girl number two was due to arrive, we were moving her big sister into her big girl bed in her brand new room. Now we just had to prepare a dramatic little toddler for a new baby. Turns out, our toddler needed less preparation than I did.
I still struggle. Now I’m a nursing mother of a 2 month old with a 2.5 year-old desperately looking for attention. While I am home for the summer both for maternity leave and summer break from teaching, I get to enjoy rocking my new doe-eyed infant while watching my blue-eyed toddler play every imaginary game possible. My favorite moments have been when they are both on the floor: baby in her play gym and big sister hanging out next to her showing her the best toys and singing.
Even though I am adjusting to being a mother of two in a family of four, looking forward to my next steps are helping me through the more difficult nights. My husband is about to finish his master’s degree at which time I am hoping to start looking for a program to work on my doctorate. I look forward to when my two girls can play dress-up or build with blocks together, and I cannot wait to see them become friends (I hope). I see big steps in our future that I imagine are closer than I know but will be big, and I may need someone to help me keep my balance and maybe hold my hand so I don’t fall.
Allison Burgeson is the mother of two girls, ages 2.5 and 3 months. She is an elementary school teacher by day and writer by night (very late post bed time night). She enjoys science fiction and fantasy to read but writes from her life (definitely not science fiction or fantasy).