This past weekend we took our 3-year old son for a ride on the Polar Express and left his 14-month old sister at home. As much as I would like to say it was a difficult decision to leave her behind, it really wasn’t. Mostly because she operates as if she slammed 5 pixie sticks followed by a Mountain Dew chaser as I discussed here. But also because moments where both my husband and I can be with AJR solo are completely nonexistent. It’s hard to say whether we were more excited to lavish our undivided attention on him or simply enjoy outnumbering our kids for a few hours, but either way it was a delight.
Our trip made me think of the many friends / people I know of that are expecting their second and are still in that warm, “we’ve got this figured out” place of tag-teaming one kid. I, for one, am super super pumped that the world is about to be populated with so many adorable kiddos. However, I’m slightly terrified for them as the jump from one to two kids is hold-on-to-your-seat-this-is-going-to-be-a-bumpy-ride-and-you-will-need-all-the-wine-and-coffee-always.
I am barely surviving with two kids that are spaced two years and two days apart so perhaps I’m not the best person to bestow any wisdom. Wisdom this is most definitely not. I would more or less call these “realizations I came to the hard way” or “warnings” to those parents out there getting ready to double down on carseats.
You had it easy with one. So frigging easy.
Parenting is hard in general. But you will quickly realize that what you thought was hard is actually quite easy and manageable. You will pine for those days of single child parenting and stare longingly at moms with their one son or daughter enjoying an afternoon out and about where the ratio is perfectly balanced at 1:1. Not you, my friend with two. Your head is constantly on a swivel trying to keep track of them. You start more conversations than you finish. You live your life drenched in sweat and panic. Someone always looks like they were miraculously churned out of a tornado (spoiler, it’s mostly you). Life with two is a shitshow wrapped in a chalupa shell of chaos.
Add 20 minutes to however long you think it’ll take to get you and the kids out of the house.
Make your peace with never ever being on time again. Getting out of the house with two kids will take FOREVER and be so stressful that you’ll wonder why you do it in the first place. Then you realize that coffee and adult interaction is a powerful motivator and you’ll be more than to wrangle two children trying to run in opposite directions as well as making sure you have their water bottles, their snacks, their diapers, wipes, changes of clothes, and of course a water bottle for you because you’re dehydrated beyond belief as you never stop moving.
People who have more than two kids have to be out of their f’ing minds:.
It took all of 3 minutes within Joe going back to work after paternity leave for me to think this. Maybe other people have kids that sleep/listen/eat/behave/exist better than my kids but holy heck. You are willingly choosing to be outnumbered?? How do you keep track of all of them? How do you look so polished and put together? Are you using an electric fence at home? Teach me your ways as you look at me with my two kids and mutter “amateur”. Slow clap for the parents with more than two kids but I could never do it. My children have broken me and my egg are over here like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings screaming out to my husband YOU SHALL NOT PASS!
Survival Mode is the only mode
This is the best advice I received. There is a grace period (Lord knows I’m well past mine) where no one gives a flying F how you parent because you just had a baby and you have a toddler too so you do what the hell you need to do to get through the day. Fruits snacks for breakfast? DONE. Letting the baby cry for a few extra minutes because seriously you can’t even right now – girl, you do you. Screen-time during all the waking hours of your toddler’s life? You go on with your bad self. The bar is set so incredibly low that you are automatically on the Mom of the Year ballot for simply keeping two children alive. Embrace it and enjoy it.
Putting kids down for a nap at the same time is a hell like you’ve never known.
Naps are the bane of my existence. Between 12:30 – 2:00 I am running back and forth between bedroom to bedroom trying to beg/threaten/soothe my children into sleeping. Literally there are days where I’m closing one door and simultaneously reaching over to open the other to tell that kid to go the F to sleep. With only approximately 5 inches of drywall separating my kids’ bedrooms, they hear every single flipping cry / noise / shout / scream the other makes. Both sound machines are cranked so high that it sounds like they are living inside of a vacuum and it still doesn’t make much of a difference. One always drops off faster than the other so the total time where they are both sleeping is usually right around 15 minutes. And don’t think you can let the one that woke up roll around for a little bit. Silly parent, rest isn’t for you. No, you have to SPRINT up the stairs and grab them hissing “shhh shh” in the most malice-ridden voice before they disrupt their siblings. Lukewarm afternoon coffee is the stuff of champions, I tell you.
#2 totally gets the shaft. Accept it. Then justify it by saying it will make them a stronger, more independent person in the future
#2 gets the shaft starting in utero. You may have already noticed, pregnant with #2 friends, that this is not a relaxing pregnancy where you can fantasize about the baby growing inside of you and who he/she will look like. Toddlers are loud, demanding creatures that don’t care about exhausted, pregnant moms or needy newborns. Babies, when they’re not hungry or sitting in their own crap, are usually (hopefully) chill. As a result, you end up spending a lot more time entertaining and catering to the banshee than the sweet little cherub that looks at you with big eyes saying “how about a nap on your chest?” Also, things that you cared about before like germs, regularly sterilizing pacifiers/bottles, organic food, not going out in public until the baby is 6 weeks old, etc etc etc goes out the window. You will be carting that 1-week old baby to whatever activity your toddler is involved with. If they spit out a pacifier and it falls to the ground, there is zero effs given as you pop it back into their mouth and let people that haven’t sanitized their hands touch your baby.
Guilt is back. With a vengeance.
Oh, you thought you had mom guilt before? That’s cute. This is a guilt that attacks from multiple directions. Why? Well, see above for starters. Someone is ALWAYS getting the the short end of the stick (spoiler alert: it’s always you too, but you’re a mom so this is quite simply your way of life) . This is why my perfectly capable of walking 3-year old ends up being carried on my other hip when he sees me holding the baby and asks me to pick him up too. I feel too guilty most days to tell him to walk. Silver lining: I am really really good at opening doors with my foot.
You can parent like a totally confident boss.
Yes, every kid is different and you’ll quickly find that what #1 liked, #2 doesn’t, which is always fun. That said, you stress much much less about it. You diaper change more efficiently, you realize that your newborn’s head isn’t going to snap off if you don’t handle it like a rare Faberge egg, there are less calls to the pediatrician, and there isn’t that all encompassing panic when the baby starts crying and you can’t figure out why in 0.5 seconds.
You will love #2 as much as #1. Promise.
I was deep in the “how can I love another kid the way I love AJR?” pond, to the point where I was in tears on the way to the hospital to deliver Olivia. However, when I saw Olivia for the first time my heart grew three sizes that day. Each kid brings their own special brand of crazy to the table that you can’t help but love. I may not like my kids every day (see: naps), but I love them both equally and fiercely.
You will be breaking up sibling arguments earlier than you thought
Ugh. I seriously thought that I had many years before this was even a thing. But take an emotionally unstable three-year old plus a baby that is determined to wreck everything that is near and dear to his heart and shit is going to hit the fan. REPEATEDLY. Every time I see AJR neatly lining up his Hot Wheels car in a row I cringe because I hear the pitter patter of Olivia’s feet coming to Godzilla her way through that OCD line. This scenario usually ends up with one or both of them in tears as AJR’s retaliation is swift and fierce.
Those moments are annoying and frustrating…but, it’s all worth it because:
Watching the two of them together will make you melt into a puddle of your own tears.
Despite the bickering and rough housing there are so many incredible moments that make you say “this is why we had two.” From the small way that AJR hands Olivia her milk cup when she’s reaching for it at lunch ; or how she visibly relaxes once he wakes up in the morning and comes down to play ; or AJR saying “teeny tiny, come here” as he reaches out to hug Olivia; or the conspiratorial giggles I hear while I’m in the other room. They love each other. And it is so sweet to watch.
Parents with #2 on the way, it’s too late for you to turn back. But fear not. Even though you will have more laundry, garbage, and dishes than you ever thought possible and less sleep to function on than you every thought you could, life will be twice as good. I promise.