Thursday, September 23, 2010

Same Family, Different Lives

Lola looks like my sister, and a small bit like me. She owns, like Lura, a four letter lyrical name beginning with L so it was meant to be. Her arms and legs go on forever, slim and coltish. She tans in a blink. Her eyes are huge and blue and framed with delicate blonde eyebrows. The nose is shaped and interesting, not as small as mine but not as large as Dakota's. Her mouth- my sisters, bow shaped and smallish, expressive and keeping secrets while singing away the world.
She has my sister's delicate chin and my sister's awkward, adorable way of walking and swinging her arms and trotting endlessly on those lean legs. Long feet, long piano playing, artistic fingers, so unlike my farmer's wife hands, wide and utilitarian like my fathers.
Lola was born underwater, and when the midwife lifted her dripping, squalling self to my chest, the first thing I saw and caught in my hands were her hands, her fingers, so incredibly feminine I didn't need to see anymore to know this was a girl baby I was holding. My Lola. My girl.
Lola rolls along as the third in our family, experiencing, the way kids from larger families do, an entirely different childhood than either of her much older brothers, and different than Ever's will be as well. Dakota and Ian were born into parents just barely out of teenage years, parents who had no money and less common sense than they do now, parents who were less mature and less wise to the navigation of an adult life, with adult feelings, experiences and joys. The boys saw me when I was still a smoker! I quit years ago, and Lola or Ever will never remember that I smoked... Mom smoked? they will echo when the boys bring up a story as adults. The boys experienced some things I wish I could create more faithfully for the girls- a looser, freer and more experimental childhood, with more random trips to bookstores and less expectations. But they also went through things I'm grateful the girls never will- court with the ex's, their parent's quicker, younger tempers, and our mistakes made from ignorance when handling certain childhood challenges in school or behavior. Because of course, we plan on not making ANY mistakes with the girls. We are very realistic now, all grown up.
Lola has a Snow White beauty about her spirit that lights up our entire family, especially during times of stress. She sings to herself off and on throughout the day, in the shower, outside on the sidewalk- beautifully unselfconscious in a way that brings tears to my eyes, knowing how shortly time will allow this. Play with her hard fairy toys or doll babies is still completely easy and comfortable for her, at 8, on the precipice for so much change. She is aware of the different, various lives her friend's lead but does not compare her own to theirs, yet. Her largest difficulties in life arise when the family around her is under a great amount of stress, and she feels it. She is private in the way my sister was, and yet very open when asked the right questions by a caring person. When pressed, she can articulate her experience of life's stresses quite well.
Mommy, I feel really sad when you and Daddy fight. I get a knot in my stomach.
What are you worried might happen? What are you afraid of?
Well I am concerned that Daddy will get really mad at you and you will start crying. Then you might go into the bathroom and cry and I hate it when you cry. And I hate it when Daddy is mad because I love him so much and I don't like how his face changes when you guys fight. And I hate it when you don't want to talk because you are sad. But sometimes I like it because Dakota comes in my room and reads me a story.
That is understandable. That is hard. But it doesn't happen often, right? We don't fight often?
And you know we always work it out, and even if we are mad, we love each other very much?
So even if we have feelings that are hard to have, nothing bad will happen because of it. Everything important is hard. Marriage is one of the most important things for us. Sometimes when you are married you get angry, and that is OK.
Lola? What are you thinking?
Well, it's OK to get angry and cry, but it still sucks.
What can I say to that? Nailed.

I keep thinking about Lola these past weeks, her position in our family and how it will be changed by the birth of her first sister in November. Not only will she not be the only girl anymore, but she will not be the youngest, the baby of the family, even at 8. While many things will stay the same- things I have reassured her about, like nightly storytime and cuddling- many things will change. The energy of family life will alter, and how it is directed toward her. I know a lot about some of these changes because Dakota was almost exactly Lola's age when she was born, but I don't know how it feels to be the only girl, and then, not. There will be many happy changes from this, and Lola has begged us to have a baby for years and is a very mothering little girl to all her friends. She has come with me to my preschool for years and the littles there adore her. Lola was a first word of one of our babies in the infant room! And still, as with everything, there will be an uncomfortable shifting, painful emotions and moments, losses, life moving it's inexorable river of time over our family.
As her mother, I can offer her the solace of conversation, hugs and kisses, alone time, and understanding. And I'm sure Lola in her honest and charming way will inform me of her emotions. I can imagine-
Mom? Remember how I wanted Ever so bad?
Well last night when she was crying and you had to stop reading to me and nurse her I really wished for a minute that I hadn't wanted her so bad.
That's OK.
It is?
Sure. Feelings come and go. Loving is not always easy and it doesn't always feel great. Sometimes you can love someone and really hate their guts for a minute.
Oh. Good.
Anonymous said...

oh, i love this, very real, and dramatic.... yo write sooo well!!!!
love to you and your family!!!!

Elisabeth said...

Every time a family adds a new person into its midst the family changes into a new family.

It's not so bad really, though it can feel awful at times, and wonderful and all manner of stages in between.

My third daughter found it tough when her younger sister was born seven years later. She had been the youngest of three for seven long years. She did not enjoy her new position as the third of four girls.

Sometimes I think it was the making of her. The pain of being supplanted has given her a drive that can be inspirational.

Elizabeth said...

My youngest sister is ten years younger than I and I adore her. Always have -- she was like my little doll when I was ten years old and then by the age of twelve or so, I was just so proud of her cuteness! I think Lola will be a fantastic big sister and will have a very smooth role change -- she seems so wise and fluid, the way you describe her!

Petit fleur said...

That Lola. What a treasure!

Ms. Moon said...

You know what? I think that Lola is going to fall so hard in love with Ever that your main problem is going to be trying to get Lola to let you hold that sweet baby. She will want Ever as her own.
But we shall see.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Sometimes you can really love someone and hate their guts for a minute.

Truer words never written.

Lola will be just fine because of the love and attention you provide and will continue to provide. You are a fine mother, Maggie.



Mandy_Fish said...

Aw, I feel this too. I have a six year old who so wanted his five month old sister. Sometimes I wonder if he must miss it just being the two of us...

Bee said...

I love to read your very precise descriptions of the people in your family. I'm sure that, on balance (and it will be balanced), Lola will enjoy being a big sister. My own youngest daughter begged for a baby sister one years! She had that same loving "Snow White beauty;" such a perfect description.

37paddington said...

so real. i believe lola will be a wonderful big sister and her special place in your family and in your heart will only be more so. what a beautiful expressive child. your gift.

Laura Marchant said...

Very well written. It can be so hard.

Middle Child said...

What a lovely tribute to Lola - I love it when oI read how others feel about their children - appreciating them now in the present unlike some who are disinterested. She is a lucky girl to have a mum like you who "knows" stuff...

anymommy said...

Trite but true: She'll gain so much more than she loses. That doesn't make the loss nothing. You're writing always moves me.

Annie said...

Hi Maggie,
I think Lola will come out fine as the big sister, because you are so open and willing to discuss her feelings. Her life will be enriched by that experience, as well as yours. I often wish I'd had a second child (my son is an "onely"), so he could have experienced that bond, but it was not meant to be. I love your descriptions of Lola. Thank you for sharing Lola's water birth, and catching her fingers and her hands. It's a beautiful image.

justmakingourway said...

I love reading about Lola. She sounds like a really special kid. And as long as she can express her feelings, she'll do just fine.

Also? "Sometimes you can love someone and really hate their guts for a minute."
One of the best lines ever.

Sandi said...

I have missed you. It's rare for me to find time to get over here and read you but my thoughts are with you often. I love when I get to spend thirty minutes of evening on your blog, catching up and sucking up the life you write. It's my guilty pleasure.

Caroline said...

This is beautiful, Maggie. Lola will no doubt love little Ever to pieces and will be a fantastic big sister. I am so happy for you and am thinking about you! Not much longer now!

p.s. Our baby was born Sept 7th. A beautiful baby boy! We named him Oliver--my mother's maiden name.


Still Life With Coffee said...

This is so beautiful. I love how it is all about Lola and how she sees things. Yet about so much more. Lovely.

swonderful said...

You always write about things I wish I had the energy and courage to attempt. Sibling order is confusing and like anything that changes the routine of life, will muss things up. But that is not bad. I like what Stacy (anymommy) said.

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