Sunday, January 09, 2011

Just me, Mademoiselle, and le Petit

I think I can do this after all.

My husband took two wonderful, busy weeks of paternity leave over the holidays, giving me a chance to catch my breath. Thank you, French government, for such progressive family policies! At the end of the two weeks, I was rested, less hormone-bound, and finally over the terrible cold that I'd had since before I gave birth, but I still wasn't sure how I'd handle things on my own all day with both kids.

Well, I'm happy to report that the first week was a success. My confidence grew, and I even managed to get some things done; some of them important, like taking both kids to the pediatrician, and some of them trivial, like (gasp!) vacuuming. The best part, however, was that contrary to all my pessimistic expectations, I actually had fun.

I spent at least one afternoon doing nothing more elaborate than playing with Legos. We didn't have any exciting adventures. We stayed close to home, we read books, and we played quietly in the living room. The highlight of our week was baking a galette des rois with le Petit for Epiphany: he adores cooking with me, and takes his tasks of measuring cups of flour or, under my strict supervision, pressing the buttons on the food processor very seriously. I spent my mornings sleepily nursing Mademoiselle, or organizing the apartment as best I could with her in the wrap. By the middle of the week, I realized that we three were a winning team. I didn't want to do anything more than just be focused on the two of them for eight hours, and they seemed to be blooming under my constant attention.

Le Petit is particularly patient and attentive to his little sister. He runs to her crib when she cries and winds up her musical mobile. He asks me if she wants "lolo" (milk), and if she does want to nurse, graciously suggests that I sit on a pillow on the ground and play Legos with him at the same time. He's even starting to understand how to be quiet -- or at least quieter than usual -- while she's napping in the next room.

So I didn't lose my cool or even (so far) resort to Elmo videos. My mother-in-law came over to help with the most delicate part of the day, from le Petit's pick-up at school through our lunch. Since I can hardly use the stove and comfort a crying baby at the same time, I was grateful, to say the least. She also looked after one child while I shuttled to the other to the doctor's office, and took Mademoiselle for an hour one afternoon while I ran errands with le Petit. I don't have to be completely self-sufficient, thankfully.

I'm looking forward to this week, and now I think -- no, I'm certain -- the next eight months are going to fly by fast.

* * *

We ate lunch at my in-laws today. In the French tradition, we spent several hours at the table, so it was already dark outside by the time we walked home.

Le Petit joyfully ran home. He still only has two speeds: "mach 10" and "dawdle," but the latter is the one he employs most often with me (especially on the way home from school), so I was surprised to find him in such a hurry.

He suddenly stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and stared up at the sky, a huge smile on his face.

"Monsieur Lune! C'est Monsieur Lune!" he exclaimed.

I looked up, and sure enough, a crescent moon was hanging in the narrow strip of night sky above the street. I would never have noticed it on my own. But le Petit did. He kept stopping and looking up every few feet all the way home, just to see whether Mr. Moon was still peeking at us from between the outlines of the office and apartment buildings.


Jac. said...

My feelings about whether I can handle it really depend on the time of day. At the moment, I feel like a rock star because I successfully loaded both kids up in the car and took DS to preschool and got home during DD's nap sweet spot so she's sleeping in her crib upstairs. Last night, when I spent two hours wandering between their rooms trying to get one after the other to go back to sleep (seriously, they were tag teaming me!) I felt ready to run away from home and I wondered why I thought this would be a good idea. The balance seems to be coming down on the "I think I can do this" side of the scale, but ask again in a few hours! It's amazing how this parenting gig changes minute by minute.

It's wonderful that you have some family nearby to help out. My sister is usually around and she's a bit of a baby whisperer, but she left Friday for a 10 day Caribbean Cruise. I'm dying of envy.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@Jac. - Minute by minute is right! I, too, go from feeling like a rock star one minute to feeling despondent the next. And I'm pretty lucky because a) Le Petit is sleeping well these days and b) his sleep is completely outsourced to my husband. And honestly, although Mademoiselle is waking up frequently still, the wakeups are quick and painless. I can't imagine how exhausted I'd be if they were both waking me up all night.

hush said...

Today I brought dinner to a friend of mine who just had her second baby. I can't believe how quickly I had forgotten what it is like to hold a brand new, 5-day old baby! Too precious for words and that delicious new baby smell!!! Ahhh!! I blinked and my own "babies" are now 3 years, and 15 months! My overwhelmed friend asked me how life with 2 children really is and I replied very earnestly: "So mentally and physically hard at first, as though you have an impossible mountain to climb, but honestly it just keeps getting better and better." And I meant it! Glad you and @Jac are taking it one day at a time. Soon, this will all seem like it happened to you forever ago - but of course you already know that from having raised your older kids into preschool-hood. But I swear the second one goes by even faster.