Birth order and sick kids

My life is so glamorous.  Liam has been sick so I’ve spent the past few days cleaning up the liquids that come out of my kid at high rates of speed from both ends.  (So fancy, this life in Europe.  Also, nothing makes me miss my big, fast American washing machine like a couple of days of kid illness.)

I’ve been a mom for 4 1/2 years now, so although no one is happy when the boys are sick, it doesn’t overwhelm me or freak me out like it once did.  In a few days, Liam will feel better.  Then maybe B will get sick, or I will, and then, at some point in the near future, we’ll all be well and we’ll get back to normal life.  Everything we own can be cleaned (or replaced).  And although middle of the night cleaning isn’t my most favorite thing, it doesn’t kill me (or even ruin my day).  So, armed with this knowledge, I face Liam’s illness — sleep deprived, sympathetic, patient, and full of coffee.

But I didn’t always feel this way.  I vividly remember past times, especially when B was little, when a stomach illness in B created panic in me.  Getting him cleaned up and taken care of on top of cleaning up the house and doing it on no sleep made me a little crazy.  I felt like THIS was now my existence.  I lived in a space where I lost all perspective and couldn’t keep myself mindful of the fact that it was temporary and that however unhappy I was, my little one was suffering more than me.  I was reduced to tears more than once — scrubbing carpets, washing sheets and blankets, cleaning the couch for the third time in a single day.  I always managed to keep it together while holding, comforting or cleaning B, but, often, everything else was too much for me.

And I’m just not like that anymore.  Sure, it can still be daunting to deal with the collateral damage from a sick kid, but, the vast majority of the time, I maintain reasonable stress levels and don’t fall apart.

The other night, when I was up at 1:30 a.m., cleaning everything in Liam’s room and not freaking out, I reflected on how lucky Liam is in this way.  His illnesses don’t happen alongside a breakdown from Mommy.  B has that experience now, but for his first few years, he didn’t.  And it’s not just when they’re sick — I take everything more in stride now than I did when I was new at this.

On the other hand, I’m so often aware of how much one-on-one time B had with me when he was little, and how much less of that there is for Liam.  B got more of me, but I was so much less together.  Liam gets less, but I’m probably traumatizing him less, on average.  I guess it works out.  And I really, really hope that B ends up with more memories of the mommy that I am now, rather than the basket case I once was.

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