So, this is going to be the easiest post I’ve ever written, because I actually wrote it awhile ago! My awesome friend Nicole of Much Love, Nicole asked me to write a guest post for her blog. Sadly, she gave up blogging for a job that actually pays money. In the interest of keeping mediocre writing alive on the Internet, here’s the post I wrote for her oh so many years ago, when I thought having two children was challenging.
Let’s start this post off with an apology:
To anyone who asked me what it’s like having two kids under two shortly after Bella was born:
I’m so sorry. I know I lied to you. I didn’t mean to; I thought I was telling the truth at the time, but turns out I was wrong. My bag.
Shortly after Bella was born, a friend who was expecting the birth of his second child inquired as to how bad it was to care for two small children. “Give it to me straight,” the poor guy said. My response? “Actually, it’s not as bad as you’d think it is! I thought I’d be going crazy, but really it’s not too bad! Don’t worry!” When Bella was about ten months old, I ran into that same friend at a party. We both had that weary, half-crazy, “I’ve escaped!” look parents get when they leave their kids at home for an evening to attempt communication with other full-grown human beings. I asked my friend how things were going. He laughed a rueful laugh, shook his head, and just looked at me. “Oh, YOU know how things are going.”
And indeed I did.
That apology goes out to you, big guy.
I have two beautiful little girls. They are wonderful, they are precious, they are the joy of my life. They also make me crazy and prompt me to think of creative ways to hide from them around the house while I clean. It’s no joke. If I can sneak upstairs and put laundry away in my bedroom without anyone following me, man oh man, it’s like I’m on vacation. Sometimes I shout to myself, “IT’S MAUI TIME!!!”
When you are the parent of two small children, learning how to hide and evade the kids is key. My husband pointed out once that babies are kind of like little T. rexes: if you stand really still, they can’t see you. If you’re lucky, they’ll pass you by in search of other prey, like floor Cheerios or Grandma. We’ve become so good at this technique that I once witnessed Bella in full distress mode crawl up the stairs and down the hallway, completely passing us by without a second glance. Which is pretty amazing, because I am convinced that kid can smell me from fifty miles away.
My point is this: babies is crazy. All you single-baby having people out there, take heed: there is indeed a difference between one baby and two, and I’m not just talking about the bigger tax break (but man, that is a perk. I’m gettin’ PAID, Y’ALL!). Do I regret having a second baby? Nope. Never. In fact, I’m gunning for a third someday. That’s how mentally unstable I am. I hide from the babies I have now, and can’t wait to hide from another one. But I digress.
Here’s how you get fooled into having that second baby: it starts to get close to your baby’s first birthday, and suddenly you’re feeling pretty good about this parenting thing. You’re past the whole “carry me all day” phase, well into solid foods, and you may even be sleeping all night (who the hell knows? There’s got to be someone out there doing it). When people ask you how the baby’s doing and how you like being a parent, and you tell them, “It’s great! Little Norbert is so much fun now! It’s such a fun age!”, and you actually mean it. Before, it may have just been lip service, but now you’re starting to buy into your own hype. You start thinking you have got this parenting thing down! You hit a road bump once in awhile, but overall, your kid survived that first year, right? You mastered all the little challenges of the first year. This is when you start thinking, “Now that I have figured out how babies work, I could totally do two kids — no problem.”
This brings us to the heart of the problem. Yes, you figured out one kid. That’s the whole challenge of being a new parent: you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re essentially making shit up as you go, and it’s a good thing your little test subject can’t really complain to the authorities or tattle on you to strangers. After awhile, though, you get the hang of it, and everything’s cool. You get lulled into this false sense of confidence. You think, “well, maybe I’m still figuring out this baby, but if I had a new baby, I’d totally know what to do with that baby! I mean, I’ve done THAT before! LET’S DO THIS!!”
Fast forward to your first week home with your new second baby. Things are going surprisingly well. Big sister loves the new baby! Check! New baby sleeps for long periods of time, allowing you to keep maintaining the house and it’s routine like you did before! Double check! You feel ten times more relaxed and confident caring for this newborn, and you know what’s important and what you can skip. Hooray! This is going to work out GREAT!
Then BOOM. Week three hits, and reality sets in. New baby decides to wake up and inform you that they are not, in fact, the same baby you cared for the first time. New baby wishes to inform you of a cold, hard fact: you didn’t master taking care of babies; you mastered taking care of ONE PARTICULAR baby. This new baby is a breed all its own, with likes and dislikes that may be completely different than your first baby. Welcome back to square one. You thought you landed on the ladder square, when really you just landed on that one square near the top of the game board with the big chute that slides your ass all the way back to the first square (and FYI, that chute is bullshit, Milton Bradley, and you know it).
It’s time to wipe that smug smile off your face, soldier, and get to work. This time, instead of trying to figure out how to be a parent in general, you need to figure out how to be a parent to two different kids at two different ages. The real surprise is that being a parent for the second time is just as difficult as the first time, except the challenges are just a little different. It doesn’t mean that it’s worse, or that it’s not any fun: it just means that for the next six months, your house is going to be a constant disaster, just like last time. It means there will be days (again) where you never make it to the shower. It means that there will be days where you feel like you are doing one (or both) of your kids a disservice, and you’ll wonder which one of them will grow up feeling like you didn’t love them as much as the other. DON’T PANIC. While I’m not sure all of these thoughts fully pass, I know from experience that one day, your baby will learn how to sit up on their own. When that day comes, you will be able to plop that kid down next to their older brother or sister, crank up the Nick Jr., and get to cleaning.
And you’ll start to believe again that hey, this isn’t so bad. I think we’ll actually survive this. In fact, I’m starting to think that two babies is actually not so bad. I mean, once you’ve mastered having more than one kid, what’s one more to keep track of, right? The oldest is getting more and more independent every day; she can damn near turn on the TV and make herself a bowl of cereal.