Today I spent the entire day with only my two babies and no one else in the house, something I've never done before. I have two observations.
The first is that K has gotten so adorably fat that I'm tempted to upload a picture of her chubby legs and bottom just to prove it. Seriously, it's so cute.
The second is more involved.
F is going through a really needy phase for some unknown two-year-old reason. Whereas she is normally enthusiastic about all kinds of people, the last few weeks have seen her more reserved and even resistant when it come to interacting with people other than Mama. She's even treated HC with never before seen nonchalance. I don't really know what to make of it.
At any rate, today she got my full attention from morning to night.
We had a busy day: I took both the babies to Target and then we did a lot of chores around the house. the whole time she and I had a steady stream of conversation. Often, I was holding her in my arms and when I wasn't she was walking behind me with one hand hanging on to each of the back pockets on my pants. We got dressed together, we ate together, heck, we even went to the bathroom together.
But it wasn't enough. It's like her desire for my attention is bottomless and I can pour and pour and pour all my attention into it, but there's still room at the top.
Luckily, baby K was really quiet today and didn't need much beyond the occasional change of scenery. In the later afternoon, however, she finally reached a critical crossroads where hunger and tiredness meet and she got pretty cranky. So, after about 9 straight hours of my undivided attention, I finally told Felicity she needed to entertain herself for a few minutes.
We were standing in the kitchen, at the end of the long hall that connects the kitchen to the nursery.
"Stay here now, please, and play with your puzzles. I need to go rock K for a minute so she can take a nap and I need the nursery to be very quiet. I'll be right back."
This wasn't much to ask; F has been able to entertain herself for hours on end for as long as she has had motor control. This time, I guess, was different.
As soon as those words came out of my mouth, she stopped dead in her tracks and stared at me with dread and disappointment. I acted as if everything was normal, gave her a smile and walked down the hallway. At the door to the nursery I reached for the nob and looked back at her. She was frozen in place, watching me from the end of the hall.
Needless to say, a flood of guilt came pouring out of every one of the folds in my brain, but the other baby, the screaming one in my arms, kept me on my mission and I smiled again at F before going into the nursery.
Two minutes went by. K was calmer now, feeding some before her nap.
A tiny tap on the door was followed by a hesitant blond head peeking in.
"Hi, Mama." she whispered.
She looked at me pleadingly for a long moment. "Could you read me a book?"
"Ok, Baby. As soon as I finish with K I will read you a book. I'll be finished in just a minute."
On the verge of tears she quickly left the nursery.
Two minutes went by and there was another tentative tap on the door and a cautious two-year-old came quietly in.
"Could you play puzzles with me, Mama?"
"Ok. As soon as I finish with K I will come play puzzles with you and read a book. She's just eating right now and then I'm going to put her in her crib for a nap. Then, I will come play with you."
On the verge of tears she quickly left again.
Another two minutes went by and there was another tentative tap. This time, when she came in, her voice quavered.
"Mama, could you hold me? You need'a hold me!"
By this time, K was dozing off anyway so I put her down and picked up F, who wrapped her arms around my neck and put her head on my shoulder.
She quickly recovered, but I'm left wondering: what is she struggling with?
If it is just being two years old that is the issue, I shudder to think how children with both parents working cope with the little scraps of attention they receive. Either they are forced to bond with someone who is paid to spend time with them and will likely not have contact with the child for much of their lives, or they just don't get the attention they so desperately crave.
If, on the other hand, this behavior is some kind of delayed reaction (jealousy, insecurity, etc) to K's presence, I'm amazed at F's self control. Is it possible that she had started to pick up on my ignoring her when she throws tantrums? Is it possible that she knows I respond more positively when she asks politely for things? Is it possible that at two years old she is purposefully trying to control her emotions and act rationally?
I don't know. I think adults routinely underestimate children, even very young ones. But I also know that parents tend to see the most remarkable things in their own--even unremarkable--children.
In this case, maybe it's a little of both. All I can do is pay attention.