Monday, March 14, 2011

Surprises in Becoming a Family of Four

As a family of three, I (unintentionally) put a lot of pressure on my relationship with Noah. When he was sick, or hurt, or just generally in a grumpy mood, I felt like the responsibility to make-it-better was mine. In theory, we were a family of three, and there was Fritz to make-it-better as well. BUT... I like to be in control. And I'm a perfectionist, so, of course things should be fixed.  By me.

Because of this relationship between Noah and I, our little world could quickly become unbalanced. If he was sick and not sleeping, everything would revolve around this fact. Noah would be cranky and tired. I would be tired and frustrated. Fritz would be frustrated and helpless.

And we would all suffer Noah's cold intensely.

Since Mattias was born, I no longer have the luxury of sitting by Noah's bed all night and comforting him.  I have to worry about Mattias, too. Two children forces me to deal with Noah's needs with a broader perspective. That means sometimes I simply say, "sorry, Buddy. I know you don't feel well. Go take a nap in your bed. I need to feed Mattias."

I think this is a good thing for Noah. We thought it would be a good thing for Noah. That's why we had a second child.

What I didn't anticipate is that it's also been a good thing for me.

Maybe some people are better at saying No to their kid. I'm not good at it. Or at least, I wasn't when I had only one child. It's a whole different game with two.


When we were a family of three, we were a family of three similarly disposed personalities. There seems to be a whole list of traits that Noah, Fritz and I share. We're all stubborn, serious, and generally skeptical. Life with just the three of us could be quite... um...demanding? And the three of us can snowball on each other's moods. Mattias, however, is an adventurous, smiley clown. He defies our moodiness. He causes all three of us to break into laughter with his antics - even when the rest of us are perched on the precipice of a big, snowy mountain slope.


I can't believe how fast Mattias' first year has gone. Noah's first year seemed about 5 times as long and I didn't enjoy it half as much as I've enjoyed Mattias' first year. I heard a lot of advice as a new parent, among the most common: "enjoy it, the time goes so fast." But I couldn't really enjoy it as much as I wanted with Noah. Everything was new and I was stressed. I'm pretty sure the only way for someone like me, who has such strong controlling, perfectionist tendencies, to relax is by repetition and practice. As much as I tried to enjoy Noah's first year, my enjoyment of it really pales in comparison to my enjoyment of Mattias' first year. And you know what? It feels great to enjoy it. It even feels great to feel sappy about its conclusion.

To put a finer point on it, I felt guilty that I didn't enjoy Noah's first year more. I felt guilty when I was relieved that his first year was over. (Hello, Perfectionist!) But I don't feel guilty about it any more. Somehow, enjoying Mattias' first year redeemed me.


Being a family of three was sometimes like being a couple with a high maintenance but adorable accessory. Early on, many (childless and not) friends offered to take care of Noah if we needed a little time. That didn't - and doesn't - happen with Mattias. On one hand, Mattias is generally about 3 times easier than Noah to take care of, so I'm not quite sure why anyone wouldn't want to take care of him. On the other hand, I know it's because there are two piccolini now, and it's a lot more intimidating to offer to take care of 1) just Mattias or 2) just Noah or 3) yikes! both of them.  That's okay. Really. I understand. I enjoy having Mattias to myself.  I enjoy the fact that I no longer have to share Noah. There's not a tendency to treat the piccolini like accessories. It makes our family feel - a lot more like a Family.


In theoretical conversations about society, I'm always a big proponent of the value of differences. In practice, I like living in a city because I like the diversity of people. It's also true in my own household: I like having two different kids because it makes me appreciate their unique qualities more. A rather basic   example: Noah loved to sit on the counter and watch me cook.  Yup, I pretty much sat him on the counter and he watched me cook dinner every evening until he was 2.

Noah, at 17 months, on the counter (um, stove? Don't worry, the burners had a child lock.)

Wow! What a helper! I used to cook dinner all the time. At the time, I didn't appreciate whatever character trait it was that allowed me to do this with Noah.

I would never even try that with Mattias. In fact, it's hard to imagine that I even did it with Noah. These days, nobody is eating any home-cooked meals for dinner because Mattias will simply not tolerate sitting still (ie, staying out of trouble) after 4 pm such that I can cook.


These thoughts from a mother, who was uncertain about the second child. Now, I would never go back.

Becoming a Family of Five, posted in November 2014.


Erin said...

This is such an insightful post. I relate in so many ways. Each one of my children are very different, but especially my boys. It never ceases to amaze me how different they are. And yet they are best buddies (see also: mortal enemies). I really believe their differences are partly what binds them.

Pregnantly Plump said...

What a cutie! I enjoy the family of four as well, though I feel more guilt now because I don't have as much time to devote solely to each boy. In our house, Little Elvis is a lot like his daddy, and Baby Plum is a lot like me.

Ann Wyse said...

I guess I knew the piccolini would be different - I just didn't know how much I would love the differences! Some of the books I've read really discourage comparing siblings... but at the same time - oh man! - not only am I thankful that there's a difference, but that difference actually seems to improve our quality of life for everyone.