Several people have asked me recently about the transition from parenting one to parenting two--was it hard, how did I cope with it, that sort of thing. And now that I'm almost 11 months (!) into this whole parenting-two business, I feel like I actually have something to look back and reflect on. It's become second nature to me now, parenting both kids. It's hard to imagine there being only one of them. But there was only one of them, not too terribly long ago. And there was some mess and adjustment involved in figuring two of them out.
Honestly, it was never as bad as I had expected it to be. I talked to a lot of people, pre-Sylvia, who had really rough adjustments from one to two. And mine wasn't. It was an adjustment, make no mistake, and there were rough days and sleepless nights and frozen dinners and a grand overall lack of housecleaning. But it really wasn't miserable at all. And there were very, very few moments of collective meltdown.
Mostly because I got lucky, I think. Peregrine was a very easy two-year-old and Sylvia, while not necessarily a textbook easy baby, was a lot easier than Peregrine, so I was pleasantly surprised by her easiness. If she had been fussy or colicky, or if she had Peregrine's drive to be held (and moved! constantly!) all the time, or if Peregrine had been an easy baby and my expectations had been different, the adjustment would have been a lot harder on me. If she was a newborn now, and I was dealing with the three-year-old Peregrine instead of the two-year-old one, that would have been a whole new level of challenge. But they meshed well. Timing was perfect and generally felt pretty natural.
Also, Sylvia's birth was simple and straightforward, and healing was uncomplicated. I had lots of help right after the birth, and I had very little postpartum depression (beyond the usual round of expected "baby blues"). I stayed remarkably healthy when Sylvia was tiny, and so did she. So we had a lot going for us.
But there's a paradigm shift that happens when you parent two, and I think I'd made it before Sylvia was born. I'm not actually sure when. I think it's built into me a bit, from years of being the oldest of several, of babysitting multiple children at once, of teaching whole classrooms, of taking care of my niece and nephew along with Peregrine when he was tiny, and really, of raising Peregrine, who was neither textbook easy nor textbook fussy, but certainly impossible to keep content. I went into parenting two having already readjusted, and I think the adjustment would have been much, much harder if it was something I'd had to figure out after Sylvia was born.
I think what you have to realize when you parent two is this: Not everyone gets what they need all the time. And that's okay.
That's what everyone asks me, and what I see asked of any number of moms of more-than-one: "How do you juggle all the needs? How do you stay on top of it all?" And I always answer: sometimes you don't. Mostly you do, because you have to (and you do figure it out, and it becomes so much easier with practice), but sometimes you don't, and that's okay.
|Not pictured: Peregrine, not being held.|
|Not pictured: Peregrine, still not being held. He didn't choose to have the not-measles descend upon his family.|
|Pictured in the background: Sylvia, utterly miserable that I put her down so that I could fill up Peregrine's long-awaited water table.|
Plus, there's learning about life. There's learning to cope. There's the beauty of letting other people into your life, messy and interrupting and annoying as they are. And there's so, so much wonderfulness to make up for it all. My kids my hamper each others' singleminded pursuit of happiness, but pursuit of happiness is a poor substitute, in the end, for relationship. They delight each other. They laugh at each other's jokes like no narrow-minded adult ever could. They miss each other terribly when they're apart. They check for each other first thing after waking up. Sylvia adores Peregrine with everything in her, no matter what toy he's snatched from her or thrown at her head. Peregrine protects her with every ounce of being in his little soul. The friendship they have, the bond they share, is worth so many inconveniences. I don't think they would ever choose to give up that friendship in order to have their needs met more quickly and consistently.
|Not pictured: Dinner, not being ready on time. But look at the way they're looking at each other!|
Before Sylvia was born, I wrote about choosing to be family-centered. I still hold that phrase, always, in my mind, and it has been a very solid anchor in the uncertain sea of re-working our family and adding another person. And I think, more than anything, that mindset has helped us all make the transition from one child to two.