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For her imminent eighth birthday, Zoe has asked for sparring gear (so she can participate in the sparring class at Evolve All, where she takes marPrincess Leia legotial arts), a Jedi robe (in part so she can be Luke Skywalker for Halloween, after having been Princess Leia this past Halloween), action figures from Big Hero 6; and Legos. Oh, and to get her nails done with me.

I don’t know what exactly this means, but she is a far cry from the fairy princess she used to  pretend to be. Her favorite books right now are a series about clans of cats that fight each other to establish dominance. When she asked her grandfather to guess what she planned to be for Halloween this year and he said Princess Leia, I reminded him that she had already been Princess Leia, but that he was close. I meant close as in someone else from Star Wars, but he thought I meant another princess, so he said, “someone from Frozen?” Zoe scoffed. She does like Frozen, and we watched it again just last week, but not as much as she loves Star Wars, and she said, “I would never be a princess from Frozen.”

Certainly Zoe still loves her American Girl dolls, and has taught her brother how to properly brush their hair, because he wants to get in on the grooming action. He loves to take care of her babies (and the baby–Sam–that he received for Christmas this past year) and is often stuffing pretend food into their mouths. But Zoe also has her American Girl dolls teach her baby dolls how to do tae kwan do. I think her dad is relieved that the days are over when Zoe wants to play mommy-having-a-baby or be a princess with Randy acting as prince.

She also loves to play board games and word games and sometimes she beats us at Othello and Trivial Pursuit. She loves to draw and she has created a cartoon superhero named Pet Girl, who takes care of lots of animals. She still draws lots of rainbows that say “I love you Mommy.”

She is stubborn and argumentative and has already mastered the teenage glare although she’s still five years away from adolescence. She loses things and doesn’t pay attention and asks over and over for things she know she can’t do or have. But she is also the sweetest big sister who deeply adores her little brother, even though she does get annoyed when he gets into her stuff, which happens all the time. She is thoughtful and compassionate and curious. I love the person she is and the way she is learning to see the world and her place in it. I love that she would rather look in the boys section at Old Navy for Star Wars or soccer t-shirts instead of the girls’ section for Hello Kitty. Although she did wear a sequined panda shirt today that she recently picked out. I love that she wants to wear matching clothes with her brother and take baths with him. And she wants to be elegant and beautiful and go to royal balls and tea parties and try on makeup. I don’t love the makeup. But I get it.

Part of me cringes at the thought of her sparring, and I wouldn’t let her do it if it weren’t part of the instruction at the martial arts school we love so sparring glovesmuch where they teach you that the black belt attitude is about caring, responsibility, respect, determination, and patience. It’s not about fighting. I imagine the sparring will help build her strength and confidence, which is a good thing for any kid. And you won’t be able to see her manicure underneath the sparring gloves, but her nails will definitely be lovely.

I often think about the parents I know who have a bunch of kids. Three or more is what I consider a bunch. I know a few families with five or six or eight. I don’t think this is good or bad, I just don’t understand how it works. As someone who was an only child until the age of seven, and then a proud big sister of one, and as a mom of an only child for nearly six years eagerly anticipating a baby, having so many children seems like an impenetrable mystery to me.

As it is, I’m having a hard enough time dealing with the transition from one to two even though number two won’t be born for a couple more months. And in case you didn’t know, number two was and is extraordinarily wanted. There is no question about that. And even number one has articulated her desire for a younger sibling for several years. She’s wanted it as much as we have. And even now she hugs and kisses my belly (and her brother) good night every evening. She talks to him and feels him kick and helps pick out clothes and toys for him. You couldn’t ask for a more devoted big sister-to-be.

But what’s proving difficult for both of us is–as much as the size of my belly increases daily–there seems to be less and less of me available to her. It’s nearly impossible for her to sit on my lap, which makes both of us sad. It is sometimes excruciatingly painful for me to sit on the floor with her. Even snuggling with her at bedtime is a challenge. I take up too much room in the bed and it’s difficult and painful for me to get up and down so I am less willing to rearrange, hand her the cup of water, or generally comply with what used to be routine requests.

I have been told by more than one person–both medical professionals and compassionate friends and family members–that she just has to deal. This is just a preview of what’s to come in terms of her having to share me and my attention with her brother. Of course I understand this is true. But that doesn’t make it easy. This is the child to whom I have given my whole heart and my whole self for several years. It seems cruel and selfish to feel like I’m holding out on her. Yes, I understand I’m not actually being cruel or acting selfishly, but that’s how it feels. Do you get that?

I know it will all be worth it and that the joy and adventure of having a sibling will be fantastic for her, and our new family composition and dynamic will be wonderful, however it plays out. But it’s a big freaking change.

Friends keep asking me if I’ve wrapped my head around the idea of having a boy. This is something I was previously worried about, which now seems very silly to me. Now what I’m trying to comprehend is just how different this baby’s existence will be than Zoe’s. Not better or worse, but different. We’ve been invited to participate in a loose group of new and expectant parents, most of whom are first-time parents. There was a lot of discussion about when to have an initial meeting, and several couples said they couldn’t meet until after a certain date when their kids had received shots, or after a certain number of weeks, because they weren’t supposed to be out of the house, or around people. I just had to laugh. Maybe we were the exact same way when Zoe was born. Truthfully, I don’t remember. But this time around, probably when he’s a week or two old, I will be taking this boy with me to pick up Zoe from school, to take her to tae kwan do, and basically anywhere else Zoe needs to go, and just hoping no one sneezes on him. This is reality. And clearly zillions of other parents do this all the time. Most parents in the world don’t have the luxury of cocooning themselves and their babies in germ-free isolation until a specified date. And I’m not asking for that. But just envisioning how much the baby’s schedule will revolve around Zoe’s, perhaps until he’s old enough to have his own schedule, is hard to absorb. I know it will be fine. I know we’ll figure it out. But we are spoiled by what we’ve dealt with for the past several years in just one child. And that’s been complicated enough.

We will probably buy a mini-van. Someday, hopefully not in the too far distant future, we’ll move from our townhouse to a slightly larger single family home. But in the meantime, our kids will share a room. Life will change. And we will adjust. I know there’s plenty of love in my heart to go around. I just wish sometimes that there was more lap.

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