Today we walked down the street--Lucy on her tricycle, me carrying Julia in a blue polka-dotted sling--and visited a little park a few blocks away. We all wore hats. The sky is crayola sky blue today, and we heard a dove coo, and Lucy pointed out every single flower color we passed: ivory morning glory, orange bird of paradise, pink impatiens, red nasturtiums.
We passed a house, where a thin, middle-aged man paused as he walked through his garden.
"Hello," I said.
"You look like you have your hands full," he said.
I glanced down at my girls; my hands pushing Lucy's trike, the blue polka dot fabric binding my baby to me, and nodded. "But it's good," I said.
He smiled. "You look happy," he said.
It's funny, people keep asking me how life with two is. And I keep saying how much better it is than I expected. How much, much better. I'm really grateful, all the time, for these girls, for the chance to parent them, to witness their wonder, every day, to figure out the puzzle of their personalities, and to plan how to show them kindness and teach them the bad and the good of this world as gently as I can. To learn the names of flowers and birds together.
I'm grateful for second chances at things, and for the grace that comes with doing something long enough to get better at it. Because to be honest, motherhood the first time around did not fit easily on my shoulders. It felt big and awkward and confining. And this time around--with a baby of a similar temperament, and with some good bouts of sleep deprivation--it seems tough, but in the way that exercise is tough. I feel my muscles of compassion and patience and creativity forced into something resembling strength. Not just my back muscles, with that blue dotted sling.
We walked, and strolled under old gnarled trees, and caught glimpses of the rippled mirror of the sea. Lucy ran down a long pathway ahead of me, just out of sight. I watched her, joyful at the exuberant swing of her arms as she ran. And there, nestled close to my heart, was this second daughter, small and slight and still enough that I didn't have to think about her being there. Except for the soft down of her head brushing my chin, and the soft, chubby fingers grazing my neck, and the gentle warmth of her body, kinder than any sunshine.