Life with Two Kids? More! As I referred a friend to my first post on this topic, I realized that I hadn’t ever, you know, updated those thoughts. Apparently my pearls of good sense ended when Elliot hit about 6 months old. I soon came to realize that the majority of my intelligent advice centered around having only one mobile child and when that ended, I was pretty much screwed. With the exception of Elliot’s weight gain issues, months 6-13 weren’t really that bad. He was slightly mobile and Zach mostly ignored him. I observed Elliot watch his brother (and his brother’s friends) with a supreme focus, looking forward to when they would play together like the BFFs I just knew they would become. Ha- still waiting. What no one told me was that parenting a 4 year old and a 2 year old makes the newborn/2 year old phase seem a bit nirvanic. Certainly I can attribute a lot of that to the delusion of sleep deprivation (which doesn’t end, by the way), but the rest has to do with the division of stuff and attention. See, an immobile Small Person is no threat to the currency, aka, The Toys.
It is going to be different.
Oh, and how. My oldest Small Person is a cautious rule-follower, while my youngest Small Person is a cunning deviant. First of all, 2-year-old Zach didn’t test my edicts very often. He heard “hands are not for hitting” and didn’t hit. Much. Two-year-old Elliot hears “hands are not for hitting” and uses his teeth for biting instead. See, technically following the rules. Being that Zach wasn’t a biter (remember, but my first didn’t do that) I was mostly horrified, especially when he bit kids that are not of my loins. Then once Zach realized that biting would get his baby brother in immediate and serious trouble, he started lying about it. Ahh–lying. Yet another developmental milestone, significantly less baby-book-worthy than, say, the first word.
Where Zach doesn’t really like excessive physical contact, Elliot likes to ambush you with a body slam. Where Zach would hear “no” and stop, Elliot hears “no”, chuckles and repeats whatever-it-was again.
Now I hear this. A lot.
“Yeah, you didn’t like that did you?”
“I Am O–kay”
“Yeah, you didn’t like that did you?”
Silence followed by a loud wail.
“Mommy, Zachary (hit, shoved, pushed) me.”
I don’t always (often) know who started the fight, who had the damn car first, or who snatched the one toy from the other. I will not spend every moment of my day watching them (though, for culpability purposes I did want to install a nanny-cam. JB shot that down as an invasion of privacy). They are two very different people who have to learn how to live, like, and love each other. The first time I saw Zach puff up and yell, “you can’t hit my little brother” to one of his friends, I just about cried. Nevermind that Zach had smacked the snot out of Elliot not even 2 hours prior– no one else is allowed to hit him. See, that’s family.
Strangers give me a lot of raised eyebrow looks for what I let Elliot get himself into. Fair enough–he’s a small kid, and if you didn’t know him you might think he’s a 16 month old. But he is fearless in a way that is just outright amazing. I’m honestly proud of his daredevilry, because it makes me feel better about his teeny-tininess. He’s like Scrappy from Scooby Doo.
Give yourself a break.
Still repeating this to myself, everyday, often with a glass of conciliatory wine. Or a loud whine to my husband. Or both. Personality differences? Oh yeah. Nature versus nurture– who cares? All my oldest Small Person sees is that the younger Small Person seems to receive more lenient sentencing (being he doesn’t remember that we weren’t that hard on the 2-year-old him). Suddenly my rule-follower became a rule-breaker, and once there were two of them, I was the target of a mutiny.
Once they realize the advantages of their teamwork, you are outnumbered.
That first time they worked together against a common enemy (me), I realized that, despite their diminutive size, I could actually be outsmarted. That the mushy lump I lovingly referred to as my brain, once filled with like, some really complicated stuff, was useless against the tireless assault of the Small People. Why? Because when they team up it’s like being waterboarded by the sound your own voice. You get tired of constantly saying, “please stop”, “please go”, “please don’t”, “it’s not okay to” and suddenly you are signing a contract agreeing that strawberry jelly is a dinner vegetable. Or you skip the niceties all together and just find yourself screeching “NO”, “HURRY UP”, and “JUST GET IN THE CAR”. You kind of hate yourself for losing control and sounding like a shrew, and they kind of hate you for having to leave the park/play-date/what-ever-other-fun-was-being-had. Win-win?
The New Reality
I was a reasonably self-confident person before I had children. Okay, I was supremely arrogant. I could BS my own capabilities, yet rarely crash and burn. I knew exactly how long I could procrastinate, yet still be punctual. I could smile graciously, with seeming sincerity, to some of the biggest douches on the continent. For serious.
My new reality is that I spend my day surrounded by Small People who have exactly 7 Important Things to worry about, while failing to recognize that those 7 Important Things don’t overlap at all with my 1000 Important Things. My new reality is that I recently spent the better half of a weekend separating 100 matchbox cars, using my Santa-gift of a label-maker, to make teeny-tiny Z or E labels assigning ownership. Because none of my 1000 Important Things includes remembering that the black hot rod with the red rims is Zach’s, while the black car with the green rims is Elliot’s. My new reality is that I will second-, third-, and quadruple- guess my decisions, all while trying to remain consistent to their faces.
My new reality is that my 4 year old will provide the distraction so that the 2 year old can execute some plan they’ve hatched up. My new reality, sadly, still doesn’t include consecutive hours of sleep since they each have their own version of the boogey-man, and most nights one (or both) of them end up in our bed.
You might be, in theory, more intelligent. They have more time.
Acceptance and Expectations
That my attitude can be effectively smashed by two people with a collective weight of 62 pounds is both humbling and embarrassing. My ability to be consistently punctual is just gone. And, for shame, the more often I see you, the less likely it is that I will be on time . How can one factor it taking 10 minutes for two Small People to walk a mere 15 feet? And even if I could/did manage to factor that into my departure time, they would then take 20 minutes. Otherwise, I’m screaming at them to hurry, hurry, hurry up. Nowadays, I save those moments for doctor’s visits and planes. You know, places or things that will either charge, or leave me if I’m late. I should feel worse about my punctuality problems, but I had to lower expectations somewhere.
I try not to be the yelling mom, I really do. However, I’ve come to realize that the y-chromosomes in this house are seemingly deaf to my gentle, calm voice. I top out at exactly 5’4 inches tall– I’ve spent my whole life yelling to be heard by Tall People. I assume that those Small People will eventually be Taller Young People. Y-chromosome + Tall, what’s the point in not yelling again? I’m calling my loud voice a character quirk and moving on.
My house will never be the spotlessly clean and efficiently organized refuge of my once-fantasy. Long ago I accepted that the effort required to maintain spotless floors was not worth the resulting despair of watching a bucket’s-worth of sand pour out of two pairs of tiny shoes. Or the toy-vomit that is the result of any successful playdate. I vacuum enough to not be able to rake dog hair off the rug (usually), and sort enough toys to prevent the WWIII of “that’s my car”, otherwise, screw it. I have better things to do with my free time, like surfing the internet and playing with my kids. Or watching them, on those rare moments, when they play–nicely–with each other.
Now instead “Never fear, soon the newborn will be a toddler and the toddler will be a preschooler and you’ll think—I thought this was going to get easier” I think, “Never fear, soon the toddler will be a preschooler and the preschooler will be a kindergartner– then it will be easier.