On Sunday at church Carter was starting to get fussy, so I stood up and rocked him a bit. Like clockwork, a few minutes in he fell asleep. On the way out after the service was over, one of the other moms in the room said to me, "That age is so nice when they'll fall asleep in your arms like that...especially with boys!" I agreed and said that I am definitely appreciating this stage much more the second time around! There are a lot of things that fall into that category this time, in fact. Having been there and done that, it's easier to NOT take for granted the bliss that comes with having a baby instead of a big kid...
1) Good sleep - Carter has been a fantastic sleeper. Even now, in the throes of teething, he's been sleeping through the night. I know not all people have that, and I remember all too well how miserable Jacob was during teething, waking up at all hours screaming inconsolably. While I don't take advantage of the good sleep quite enough (because inevitably I'm up late catching up on things and enjoying a little downtime), I do appreciate that I could. And while his naps aren't great, once in a while they are hugely helpful. I am looking forward to Carter getting in a better groove with his naps so I can plan activities more effectively around them, but for now I'm enjoying being able to go out whenever and know he could just sleep right through it!
2) Dressing - This summer Jacob has been impossible to dress. He refuses to wear the handsome plaid shorts in his drawer, or even the khaki cargos like Daddy wears. I don't know what prompted that bit of stubbornness, but I guess I have no choice but to put my cute dressing urges into Carter's wardrobe. I don't want to buy a lot for him since we won't get the benefit of hand-me-downs for another kid, but the four-month gap is creating some awkward holes in his wardrobe, so I have to buy some things. And let me tell you, I have been loving the plaid shorts, adorable t-shirts, and the cute rompers. I need to enjoy it now before I have another kid who cares.
3) Eating - The simplicity of having a kid who eats only one thing and blissfully eats it each time is so lovely. Carter is not really taking to baby food particularly well, at the moment. He'll eat it if I can get it into his mouth, but he gets bored or tired a lot of the time so getting him to open up has been challenging. Things only get more complicated from here, from toting around baby food to starting in on finger foods, to navigating how to incorporate our normal dinners into his diet, all while teaching him table manners. I'm already missing our milk-only existence.
4) Public places - Going out in public with a baby can be a daunting experience. The risk of a random meltdown or diaper blowout is a tad scary, but when you avoid those things, it's downright pleasant compared to outings with toddlers. Babies can sleep, and they're often content to just look around, be it from a stroller, shopping cart, or the carrier/wrap of your choice. People love seeing babies, too. We all know how toddlers and preschoolers can be, and I'm dreading the public meltdowns and the sideways glances from fellow shoppers. Wegmans is generally my friend again, for now, but I remember all too clearly the many times I nearly left my cart to drag Jacob out.
5) Snuggles - Oh, the snuggles. Carter has a reputation as a good snuggler, as did Jacob. I love having a baby to snuggle again. It's so peaceful when he falls asleep in my arms. I hoped to still be able to cuddle Jacob, even at this age--particularly once he got his big boy bed--but let's just say he hasn't been the best snuggler with me lately. My hope is that as Carter gets older he will flail less in his sleep than Jacob always did, because it got to a point where I could not sleep (not even nap) with Jacob because he was constantly moving and kicking. But it is nice once the baby is old enough that you no longer fear suffocation and you can snuggle up for a nap, even if there's no sleep to be had.
6) Tiny parts - It's so easy to forget how tiny new babies are. It absolutely blew my mind when Carter was born, even though I'd been eyeing up his clothes and diapers for weeks. And it really blew my mind, after spending so much time with him, when I spent some time with Jacob and realized how giant he seemed in comparison. Suddenly his hands felt huge, his skin felt rough, and his arms and legs seemed so long! And somehow, in the few months when I was pregnant where I had to stop picking him up, he got too big for me to do it once I wasn't pregnant anymore! I mean, I can, but it's a struggle. But knowing how fast those tiny parts grow into less-than-delicate big boy parts, I'm savoring every second with Carter's tiny hands, chubby wrists, squishy thighs, little feet, soft hair, kissable cheeks, and a belly just waiting to be tickled. It's so great when you can still snuggle all of them in one armful.
7) Peace and quiet - I'm pretty sure Jacob hasn't stopped talking since he learned to start. Between the constant stream of questions, random noises, and more recently, the incessant backtalk and potty talk, I'm even more appreciative of Carter's relative quiet. Yes, he cries. But it doesn't happen a lot, particularly without reason. He babbles, but most of that is completely adorable right now. Sometimes he comes out with a crazy noise that I'd rather not have happen in, say, church, but for the most part he's in a good spot right now for good, non-annoying noises. I do look forward to hearing first words from him, but I know what follows after that so I'm in no rush!
8) Lack of toys - I remember that during the first six months of Jacob's life I was all proud that our house hadn't been taken over by baby stuff. Aside from a pack-and-play in the corner of the living room, a blanket on the floor, and the swing in the dining room, you'd have hardly known at a glance that a baby lived there. And then came the high chair...and the Jumperoo...and Christmas. And that first Christmas he got a few toys--toys with lights and noise, no less--and it all started to crumble. And by the time his first birthday hit, we officially had a crapload of toys in the living room, and the baby stuff was taking over. Jacob's stuff grew to an entire eight-sectioned shelf in the living room at our new house, though some of that is slowly but surely finding it's way up to his room or down to the basement (either due to punishments or in preparation for Carter starting to crawl in the next few months), and now some of it is being replaced with baby toys. Until now we'd had one play mat and one bin of toys, but I just brought up some of those same Christmas and birthday toys that Jacob had, so the takeover is beginning once again! But for a while, it was nice.
9) Reuse of items - I grew up in a very frugal household, so I always try to get the best bang for my buck. Well, being able to utilize Jacob's old clothes (including hand-me-downs from other people) again has been great! Not only is it economical and good for the environment and all that, but seeing all those clothes again brings back some fond memories. I get sentimental when I see some of them, and marvel at how time flies. And, you know, it's nice to have a whole portion of his wardrobe free of charge because I feel less guilty sprinkling in a few new things when I want to or need to. Between the old stuff and new stuff, it makes for a perfect assortment with plenty of options. And besides clothes, it's nice to be able to reuse baby gear and toys since most of that stuff didn't get used enough the first time around.
10) General appreciation for the process - Having gone through babyhood once already, I just have so much more of an appreciation for the experience. I know how fast it goes, how things change, and how this strange little human grows up and becomes a unique and amazing person. I'm trying to take things more in stride and be a little less crazy about the little things. After all, if we survived them once, we will again. All bets are off with Jacob's happenings, since everything there is still a first (and some very trying ones, at that), but hopefully Carter will have the benefit of our enhanced wisdom and an ability to not sweat the small stuff. Each day is a challenge, but I'm trying to enjoy the ride because I know how fast it goes. I may never have a tiny baby again, so this is my shot to love every minute now that I'm not second-guessing every little thing. As much as Jacob's five years have flown (or in some cases, feel every bit of their length), looking back through photos I realize just how much we've crammed into this time. And I am looking forward to doing so much of it all over again with a new excited little guy.
Parenthood is exhausting, and there are plenty of things that are harder about this experience the second time around, as well...and maybe they'll got a post of their own one of these days. But in the end we obviously weren't scarred enough by the experience the first time around to prevent us from doing it again, so I guess that says something. I can't say that I'm particularly positive these days about the parenting experience as a whole, given what we've been going through with Jacob, but all I can do is pray it will get better. If there's anything I've learned from parenting, it's that things change and evolve, and just when you think you can't stand it another moment, it finally changes. Or, if nothing else, something happens that reminds you that this experience is worth it and you just grind it out for another day. One way or another, we'll get through, and hopefully we won't take this second chance for granted.