It is easier and harder. Less and more. Just as I cannot say which child I love most, I cannot say whether two is more challenging than one.
One knocked me over. Everything was new. The milestones were amazing. The hard days were impossible. I didn’t have any idea of what to expect, not really, and so it was a constant shock to the system.
Two is not surprising. It is full of the ricochet of nostalgia, of comparing photos of the two boys at the same age, comparing habits, comparing troubles. Remember when he… ? How did we ever… ? It is exhausting. It is loud. The two of them interacting with each other happily, smiles and voices and kisses and sweetness, melts, for a moment, every tension in me into a puddle of love. The two of them crying and clinging and needing simultaneously makes me want to tear myself apart.
In order to mother these two, I must be two mothers. I must be rambunctious and playful and adventurous for the toddler. Climbing and running and singing and wrestling, matching his energy, letting him be his nearly-three-year-old self. But I must be calm and soft and comforting to the baby, source of milk and coos and gentleness.
Mothers talk about tearing their love, their heart, in two for two children. My heart has grown without incident, my love multiplied without any head-scratching or erasures. But my body? My hands? How do they serve two masters?
And what about the third master, that self of mine, that makes her own very real demands? She sneaks in when she can, tries to speak clearly and succinctly. You need to run today. You need to put the baby down. You need to take five more minutes in bed.
You need to forgive yourself.