The benefits of being ignored

Zoe is standing at her craft table, intently pounding big red splotches on crisp white paper. Her brush's bristles are all smushed from the pounding and her apron pulls sideways and I almost point these things out to her but don't. Eliza is nursing away in my arms and I suddenly realize that she's in need of a burp so I carefully disengage her Hoovery pucker, grasping firmly under her chin to hold her wobbly body upright.

At which point Zoe discovers red paint all over her apron and, since it is pulled to the side, her shirt.

Cue tantrum.

I can't get too involved with, or worked up over, the tantrum because I've got to go change a freshly poopy diaper. So I leave Zoe to it and tell her I'll be right back.

When I return, Zoe is back in action, pounding away, this time with green paint. I notice there is a rag from our rag basket lying on the craft table, covered in red paint. The smushed paint brush sits on top of it, discarded for another, better, not-smushed-yet brush that she found in the paint bin.

Seems she figured some things out for herself.


We are playing in the living room and Zoe wants a snack. Eliza has just finished nursing and is in a milk coma. I tell Eliza: "Mommy has to go help Zoe now. I'll be right back." mostly for Zoe's benefit but partly for Eliza's too. I buckle Eliza into her vibrating chair and cover her with a blanket.

After a few minutes spent setting Zoe up with her snack, I return to find Eliza, eyes open, staring at the wall where our black and white photographs are rimmed with thick black frames. Her eyes focus in and out and I see her sizing up her world and taking it all in, in her own time, by herself.

I pick her up and hold her, alone, just the two of us for just a few minutes. My breathing slows. My lips and nose brush back and forth over the downy fuzz on her head, the soft spot in her skull making my lips do a dip now and again. For just a moment, I am truly here with her.

Zoe calls for me and I return to the table, baby sister in my arms.


They both have me but they both don't have all the attention, all the time.

I'm really starting to understand how this can be a good thing. For all of us.


artemisia said...

This is so very thoughtful.

Hillary said...

I love this post. I love that Zoe solved her own problem. I can't wait to have another downy little head to nuzzle.

My Buddy Mimi said...

My second baby is much more mellow, and I don't think that is just a coincidence.

Swistle said...

Yesssssssssssssss! And I love the title.

desperate housewife said...

I totally agree. I read in some birth order psychiatry book that second children seem to be much more well adjusted than first borns. I really think it's because maybe they DON'T get so much constant one on one time and scrutiny of their every move. I think kids really benefit from more freedom than our modern, paranoid, helicopter-parent society tends to offer.
And I'm glad you've already realized this and aren't having emotional breakdowns like I was the first few weeks of having two!

Kathleen said...

Oh, Jenna, what a BEAUTIFUL post! I didn't know HOW this having-two-kids- thing would work out for you, but I knew it would. I am so delighted to see your heart-felt observations of your children giving you this BRILLIANT insight. This is one story I will share with many others as they consider whether to have a second child, and how on earth one does it.

Love you!

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

Once again, impressive. I had the opposite sort of day. Little T had a huge poopy diaper I had to deal with while M had a melt down at ballet. Kevin was with me and it was still overwhelming. You sound so grounded even after being o your own with both. Hopefully I will get there soon! Thanks for helping me along the learning curve.

Kira said...

:) sounds like you are doing wonderfully. yay!! love you.

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