“Zero to one was tough, and two to three was challenging, but going from one child to two wasn’t that bad,” several friends told us with the benefit of hindsight, and perhaps a dose of selective amnesia. Intuitively, this makes sense. First-time parenthood is tough because there is so much to learn. And going from two to three is hard because sometimes you find that you have more little humans who need attention than arms at your disposal. Still, adding a new baby into the mix is bound to make life more complicated, and we’ve found that having two small children frequently feels much more than twice as difficult as just having one.
For the first month of Junebug’s life, we followed a divide and conquer strategy. With D home on R&R and plenty of relatives visiting, balancing two kids was a manageable challenge. Newborns sleep a lot and are relatively portable, and with an endless stream of visitors who gave Munchkin the attention he covets and helped with the day-to-day household chores, the first four weeks flew by. We felt incredibly lucky to have had so much family support, but S was under no illusions about how daunting being home alone with both kids would be.
The first week passed in a haze of cruel jet lag. The next was marked by Rwanda’s presidential election – a week full of long days at the office that seemed to persist long after the final ballots had been cast. The third week was blissfully uneventful and marked in its passing the midway point of our separation.
S’s sister recently sent us a New Yorker article that chronicled one French/American couple’s travails in choosing a name for their son. Charmingly witty, humorous, and filled with all sorts of quirky name trivia, the article also hit a nerve, for despite the fact that S had compiled a list of girl names she liked long before she was even pregnant with our firstborn (who turned out to be a boy), we had a hard time choosing a name for Junebug.
The grass always seems greener on the other side, so the saying goes, but there are exceptions, and this was one of them. There was no doubt in D’s mind as he transited three airports over the course of 27 hours that the return alone from Portland to Kigali was going to be a bit of a downer. What he hadn’t quite counted on was to find the saying to have literal implications as well. Rwanda is a lush, verdant country for most of the year, but D returned during the height of the dry season to find the countryside sere, the grass wilting brown, and the air pregnant with dust.
Junebug’s birth provided a reset of sorts. The six weeks D spent stateside closed the book on the first year of our Rwanda tour. D flew back to Kigali a few days after the anniversary of our arrival in Rwanda to find the country gearing up for a presidential election.
All good things come to an end, and the best, it seems, reach their conclusion faster than most. We’ve tried to stay in the moment these past six weeks – enjoying the summer in Maine, catching up with friends and family, savoring our last few weeks alone with Munchkin, and then soaking up the newborn snuggles after Junebug was born. Alas, we have run out of moments, and D has begun the return journey to Rwanda while S and the kids will remain stateside for another month.
There are some American cities that, for better or worse, leave an imprint on one’s DNA. New York is like that – an international metropolis that makes life elsewhere seem pale by comparison, a city that exudes the kind of confidence that might be mistaken for smug superiority. Growing up in the Bronx – diehard Yankee fan country – it was impossible not to develop a deep-seated loathing for Boston, the only other East Coast city that could credibly lay claim to a similarly brash swagger. Even now, after spending the better part of the last decade overseas, the same reflexive antipathy born of a sports rivalry that knows no bounds stirs in D every time he visits Beantown.
Long summer days, the short northern nights made shorter still by interrupted sleep. The days run together, exhaustion and enjoyment converge, and the calendar grows increasingly more meaningless with each passing (or perhaps passed over) sleep cycle. Vacation at its best? Parenthood at its most painful?