The second time around
Evan crawled up to me this afternoon, arranged himself in my lap and settled in for a snuggle. I stroked his back as he stayed there for a few moments, his head resting on my shoulder and his beloved "sucking fingers" inserted into his mouth. Then, suddenly recharged, he happily crawled off of me and went back to what he was doing without a backward glance. He does this dozens of times in any given day -- it seems that the more independent he gets in the world, the more he needs to reconnect with Mama and feel the safety of my arms for a few minutes. Julia never did this, not that I can remember. It was me seeking out her touch at this age, trying to reconnect with a quick hug or hair stroke before she dashed out of my arms again. Different kids, different personalities. And, I was thinking today as I held Evan, strikingly different kinds of love.
My love for Julia has been intense from the moment I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test. I spent years fiercely hoping to experience motherhood, and I've loved my first child just as fiercely as I wanted her. From the beginning, I felt as if I needed her every bit as much as she needed me, and it's as often been me reaching out to her in the past three years as the reverse. Julia grows and I marvel at her progression and that heart bursting wonder and hope and joy I feel as I watch her develop embodies my love for her.
Evan was every bit as wanted as Julia, but not nearly as hard won. From the beginning, I described him using words like "again" and "other" rather than "finally" and "mine." My love for him, while every bit as strong, has never had the same impassioned tinge that my love for Julia has. It's grown organically, out of who he is and how he's become a part of my life, rather than a need that existed before he did. It's a pure, quiet love, embodied by the silent melding of our bodies as he nestles into my arms.
I've never understood parents who profess to have favorite children. Sure, I have a favorite child to take to the grocery store (Evan) and a favorite child to play with (Julia). But that, I suspect, has more to do with the ages and stages of my children than anything else. Who wouldn't pick a pre-verbal child to take to the store over the child who has the ability to demand tasty treats in every aisle? And who wouldn't prefer to play with a child old enough to understand and follow the rules of the game? I assume that as my children grow and mature, I will always have favorite things to do with each of them, just as at times each of them will individually drive me to the brink of insanity. But I can't imagine ever completely preferring one of them over the other, ever choosing one over the other, ever calling one my favorite, or even silently thinking such a thought.
All of those years I spent dreaming of motherhood, I wondered what it would be like to feel the oft-touted "mother love." I thought I understood after Julia was born. But now, with Evan, I find myself understanding all over again in a completely different way. I knew that mothering was an intensely personal and individual experience. But I'm only just now realizing that this generalization applies not only to different mothers but to each of the children we mother as well.