When I entered the world of motherhood 8 years ago, it was to two. Twins. People often approached my husband, Robert and I to ask if it was hard being a parent to two newborns simultaneously. We usually answered that we didn’t really know because it was all we knew. Reese and Riley were born almost 9 weeks early and spent 30 & 31 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I pumped during their entire NICU stint and had built up quite a stock of breast milk.
The twins could not digest for several weeks and had to master the art of breathing before discharge. We opted to continue bottle feeding once they came home and for 10 months of their life, I pumped. Most feedings, Rob fed our son and I fed our daughter. We somehow managed to keep them on the same feeding and napping schedule which made life so much easier.
As the twins grew into toddlers and their personalities developed, we were still asked pretty regularly if it was difficult having two. Still, we said we didn’t know because it was all we knew. Plus, these two were so easy! The twins rarely cried, they didn’t shriek in the grocery store or throw fits. Of course, they had mischievous typical toddler moments but having a partner in crime helped more than hurt in their case. They entertained each other. I felt so confident in my parenting abilities! Ha.
Then along came River.
River was born 4 1/2 months early, a 1lb, 2.8 oz, 10 inch long micro-preemie. We dubbed him “The Mighty River” and boy would he ever live up to that nickname. I’ve told his story before but to recap, he spent the majority of 2012 in the children’s hospital fighting for his life. Literally. On December 31st of that year, River came home to stay.
Years of therapies, struggles and triumphs later, he is a rambunctious, healthy 4 year old. He is a wild man, says hi to everyone and I do mean everyone, loudly and abrasively. River has two modes – awake or asleep. Now don’t misunderstand, he is every bit as amazing as his siblings. But the differences in their personalities is clear.
As a parent, it is bittersweet to watch our children grow and come into themselves. But I catch myself apologizing FOR his spirit more than I should. And that isn’t fair to him.
Two years or so ago, we were at a birthday party and River was playing in a sand box. I saw him copy another little boy and throw sand. I started to walk over to to let him know that we don’t do that. Another little girl was in the sandbox too. She was 5 or 6. Her mother suddenly appeared, irate with her finger in my young child’s face telling him he was bad. River had no clue why this stranger was yelling and pointing in his face. Normally, I would have helped dust off any sand on the other children and showed him why we don’t do that – but my focus changed on repairing the spirit of my young son. And now years later, I need to be sure I’m not the one breaking his spirit for being himself.
There will always be a set of standards that Rob and I will ask our children to uphold. Be respectful of people and animals. Use your manners. Remember the rules of safety. Be kind and compassionate. We will provide guidance and disciplinary actions as needed and in private. But our kids should be allowed to be children, and they will have off days. We all have off days. It’s my hope too that as they age, that we don’t have to force them to say I am sorry to others when they err. That they will be enlightened souls who will do that on their time, when they’re ready.
Rob and I are helping shape little humans and I hope their spirits stay strong, whole, and well fed in our care and when they fly away.
“If you can give your son or daughter only one gift…
Let it be the freedom to grow and be the best version of themselves.”