Arguing for two (and eventually, three)

Joe and I are celebrating our ninth anniversary today – which makes me remember that when Joe and I first started dating, I quickly learned that for some people, arguing is a sport.

Indeed, Joe would have – or has, I guess, as a litigator – turned pro, so born was he to this calling. I, however, am not cut from the same cloth. Being the classic, diplomatic, peace-keeping middle child, I have always gone to great lengths to avoid confrontation.

Plus, the two of us came from very different families. Nothing was too insignificant to parse, and argue about, at length in Joe’s family. When I was growing up, meanwhile, the only kind of disagreement that happened usually involved tears, slammed doors, and extreme discomfort (on my end, anyway). To my mind, arguing was an absolute last resort. If there was nothing significant to be gained by an argument, I didn’t see the point in engaging in one.

So how were Joe and I ever going to work? It’s a question I asked myself several times early on – especially when, on one occasion, Joe stridently argued a position that I couldn’t believe he actually held. In one moment, my eyes narrowed, and I stopped pounding away at the issue long enough to say, “You’re just arguing this side for fun, aren’t you?”

He was. And as extraordinarily annoyed as I was in that moment, the exchange did finally convince me that arguments about beliefs and issues didn’t have to be painful and wrenching. Look at Joe. He was arguing passionately for something he didn’t even believe. When you experience someone turning that ability on and off at will, you realize that most arguments can simply be an intellectual exercise, not a soul-deflating, emotional fistfight. Continue reading

“Lily, please don’t lick your baby sister.”

Believe it or not, I actually had to utter this hilarious sentence quite recently, during one of Lily’s many affection-fests with Neve. (The sentence was punctuated, for good measure, with, “That’s gross.”)

For while I was initially terrified about Lily feeling pushed aside and/or threatened by Neve’s arrival, Lily has instead been quite obsessed with the baby – to the point that the problem is now about finding a balance between bodily protecting the baby and not completely dousing Lily’s enthusiasm for her beloved sister.

Lily always wants to hug Neve, and she’s a bit aggressive in doing so, squeezing the stuffing out of Neve, or yanking Neve’s head up from her seat so Lily can wrap her arms around her neck; Lily often kisses Neve all over her face, even when Neve is recoiling in overwhelmed confusion; Lily likes to rock Neve roughly in her bouncy seat, and playfully poke her in the face with her finger, and force toys into Neve’s tiny, curled fingers; and more than anything, Lily wants to carry Neve, at every minute, and no matter the circumstances (sitting in a chair, walking down stairs, walking from pre-school to our house, etc.).

To her credit, Lily – after about a million admonishments from us to be “gentle!” and “careful!” – has gotten better with time. She actually does a pretty good job of holding/carrying Neve now (though we still constantly shadow the pair, with our arms ready to catch Neve at any moment); and she’s gotten better about her hugs.

But something Lily still struggles to understand is our repeated pleas to not wake the baby. (This is particularly a problem because Neve is, by nature, a baby that likes to sleep quite a bit.) Lily just can’t quite contain herself when the baby’s in the room. She’s always itching to play with her and shower her with affection.

It never occurred to me for an instant that our situation would take this turn. In a sense, it’s a good problem; I’d much rather have Lily wild with love for her sister than slyly trying to harm her, or telling us to take the baby back for a refund. But a good problem is still a problem.

For there’s still a lot of anxiety in the room, as a parent, when you’re trying to keep your one child from literally smothering the other with love. When it gets to be too much, we try to lure Lily toward another activity (making dinner with Daddy, watching part of “Sesame Street” or a favorite movie, etc.), and this usually works.

But then, you also have nights like the one when I called out to Joe every five minutes, “How long until dinner?”

I of course hope that Lily always has a spirited, affectionate love for her sister, and that they grow to be friends in the years ahead.

I just have to make sure that Neve survives babyhood so that maybe SHE can enjoy the relationship, too.

Birthday party burnout

Lily, having her cake and eating it, too

It’s been more than a month since I last managed to get something up on this blog, and a big part of the reason for this lag is not just preparation for Lily’s birthday and party on May 14 – and the subsequent, still-not-completely finished (of course) “thank you” notes that follow – but the five additional birthday parties (and a dear friend’s wedding in Minneapolis) that we’ve attended since. (It’s been a cake and goody bag marathon that’s convinced me, on the basis of a ludicrously small sample, that the bulk of the world’s current pre-schoolers were born between mid-May to early June.)

Now, Lily’s had fun at each party, but Mommy’s feeling a bit beaten down – perhaps in part because this onslaught has coincided with the infamously fatigue-plagued third trimester of pregnancy. Regardless, I’ll need to buck up and get used to this, since I have years of the same ahead of me.

For Lily and two of her cousins, who now both live in the area, were born within a 13 day span in 2008 (which seemed a strange coincidence, but kind of neat, too, at the time); plus, an older cousin also has a May birthday. And while an appealingly pragmatic thought that briefly passed through my head was, “What if I suggest throwing one big, collective birthday party for all the 3 year old cousins?” I was too scared to even suggest it out loud. For I could hear, and feel myself also giving voice to, the inevitable BIG objection as soon as the idea flashed in my mind: Shouldn’t each girl have her own special day/party, where she didn’t have to share the spotlight?

Again and again, the right answer seemed to be “yes.” But as we all know, doing the right thing is often a huge pain the tuckus. Continue reading