04 May 2008

Lovable Madness Times Two

I asked my kids, ages 7 and 4 and a half, what it takes to be a good mom to more than one kid.

The oldest answered, "A lot of love and patience."

His younger sister chimed in with, "And gum."

They have a bit more insight into this mommy gig than I thought.

Is it harder, more difficult, to mother more than one child at a time?

Yes, and no.

Yes, you will have to develop more (i.e., new and improved) "Mommy Tricks" for the new addition. You will learn the hard way (at least I did) that each child's energy and personality is different. While you may understand this intellectually and take it to heart, you'll just have to have that hands on experience that only parenting more than one can give. What works for your oldest may not on the next one. Case in point, my first born always needed help calming down. Whenever he worked himself up into a lather, it was impossible for him to come back down without help from me or his dad. What worked for Evan was holding his hands and doing a yoga breathing technique called "bunny breath".

You can imagine my consternation when this little trick failed to calm his sister. If fact, it had the opposite effect: it pissed her off even more. What I had to realize was that she needed time alone to cool off by herself. Now I know just to tell her to "get it together" and she will. The tears dry up, breathing returns to normal, sunny disposition is back, tantrum over.

There will be a period of adjustment. Oh yes. Our first night home with both children was a disaster, then it gradually got better, just as it did when our first was a newborn. Either it got better or we were just beaten down by lack of sleep and trying to keep up with a toddler as well. I tend to be optimistic so I'll say it got better.

But with the gloom (the nit-picky fights, the teasing, etc.) comes the glory. My kids have the ability to cheer one another up in an instant. They developed this system that if one is sad, the other pretends to be the other's favorite animal (a cat, dog, dinosaur, whatever) and lavish the sad child with love and affection. This never fails and they do it instinctively. They protect one another: they've got each other's back, "Flynn don't do that, Mom'll get mad." Sure, they'll rat each other out, that's one of the joys of sibling hood - extortion in the form of love (this is something I experience first-hand with my younger sister, "Don't tell Mom! Here, take this (insert whatever desirable object here)." But their bond is an amazing thing to witness and I give all the credit to them.

Also, make sure to incorporate your older child into the routine of caring for the baby. Give him/her a job to do, like entertaining the baby during diaper changes. And make sure your oldest gets one-on-one time with you. I used to leave Flynn with a sitter and take Evan out for a morning. We'd run errands, go to coffee (he likes a decaf with lots of milk), explore second-hand shops, and end up at Olive Garden for lunch. On the occasional day that he's off school and Flynn's not, we get a smoothie and head for the local nature center for a walk and to sit in the bird room.

So, my advice to soon-to-be-moms of two? I hope you like roller coaster rides, 'cause this one's a doozy (if having one kid's like the Whizzer at Great America [a starter coaster - not terribly thrill-inducing but fun], then the second's like the most terror-inducing coaster you can think of - you'll get puked on and probably puke yourself but it's one helluva adrenaline rush).

And remember to have lots of love, patience and gum (just remember you'll need at least 2 packs, each a different flavor). You'll do just fine. Enjoy the ride.


Mrs. Chicken said...

This is so lovely, and such sound advice. Thank you, friend.

ps - "And gum." *snort*

lbotp said...

Great read. I hope I will get to use this advice someday.

Lavender Lemonade said...

you summed up "having two" quite nicely. and it is definately a whole different ballgame than having one. though i'm still looking forward to the helping each other out part...mine 2yr and 4yrs...are still all in it for themselves.