It took a hurricane, where I have been mandatorily sequestered by my job, to be able to write a blog post since having a second child.
That sums up life with 2 kids.
The experience of upgrading to a family of 4 is different than I anticipated. I expected virtually no sleep. I expected chaos. I expected some emotions– lots of emotions. I expected to feel guilty and that I would be unable to handle it all at times. I expected lots of frozen pizzas, Publix subs and Paw Patrol.
And all of the above occurred.
Months before having my second baby, Troy, I did my usual over-preparation. I read all the books/blogs/Google posts the Internet offered. I interrogated every mother of multiples I know. I spent plenty of quality time with my first born. I went to Washington D.C. with my husband on a mini-getaway. I made lasagnas and enchiladas and casseroles for the freezer. Lastly, I completed the proverbial Costco trip, where I stocked up on paper products and poultry for the first 8 weeks.
And while all that was somewhat helpful…. Here are a few noted differences that Google didn’t offer….
Type A to Type Free!
I have this personality trait where I like to manage and control everything. I’m as Type-A as they come. I like to put a positive spin on it—I am leader, dependable, organized. But I’m sure my family and friends would have some other choice words for it. As it turns out, 3 is my limit. Controlling the lives of 3 people is my limit. I could keep 3 people alive relatively well—3 schedules, 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners. Brian, Mason and I. My breaking point was July 12, 2016. I had to give it up. It turns out other people are perfectly capable of cutting off sandwich crusts, grocery shopping and singing Wheels on the Bus. This addition of another tiny human has forced me to delegate and give up control. While this is anxiety-provoking, it’s been a long time comin’. (Did I mention I have to relinquish control of my home and both of my children for an unknown amount of days during a Category 4 hurricane?) So hello, New Traci…. Traci who isn’t in charge of all of the things…. Nice to meet you, you’re better this way.
No More Sacred Nap Time
With my first son, Mason, 2 months felt like 2 years as I adjusted to taking total care of a new human being. With my second baby, I blinked and Troy was 2 months old. I feel that I missed out on his newborn stage. The sweet, snuggly first few weeks of having a newborn were taken in a sense because of the other life I have to take care of—his toddler brother. With Mason, I spent baby’s nap time rocking him for hours while I enjoyed his sweet face and whatever new season of Orange Is The New Black was out on Netflix. With my second son, I spend his nap time trying to keep Mason from coloring the walls, peeing on the floor or touching sharp objects (and when I am lucky I scarf food, drink coffee and shower). I am constantly reminded that my time will always be divided now, and I will never get the same one-on-one time that I got when I had just one child.
I like to think Brian and I did a fairly good job of being teammates when we had and only son. We both work fulltime and opposite schedules, so there were plenty of times where we each had to watch our son independently or complete household tasks. We didn’t know it then, but we actually had plenty of downtime with just 1 child. If, at any point, one of us wanted to selfishly (ha!) go to Target or Home Depot alone, it was possible. There was always the possibility of the other parent being able to pick up the slack so that the other one could “slack.” With 2 offspring, all bets are off. When Brian comes to me to tray and take 2 hours to mow the lawn on a Saturday, I get a pit in my stomach. I beg him to do it during someone’s nap time so that I won’t miss out on his help. He is the best teamplayer, and having 2 kids really gives him the opportunity to shine. Taking on the toddler and the 2-month-old solo is a two-man job, preferably 3. I’m not opposed to a sister-wife at this point… any applicants?
The biggest challenge I have had as a new Mom is helping my toddler understand what his new normal is. My first son was the center of the universe for 2 years and 3 months. When he spoke, we jumped. We woke up on Saturdays and asked him what he wanted to do, and if he said “go see lions,” we went to see lions. If he said he wanted pancakes, we would go to the grocery store just to get the supplies to make them, with blueberries of course. Brian and and I didn’t do ourselves any favors by treating him like this, because when Troy came, Mason’s world changed drastically. Mommy can’t always rock him in his favorite chair on-demand anymore, and sometimes we can’t go to the park. And sometimes a Grandma or a Grandpa or an Aunt picks him up from daycare, and he doesn’t see his parents for a few days. Sometimes he has to stay in the house all day, and do “nothing,” because that’s how his parents were able to survive the day. In response to these drastic changes, he cries. Or he says his new favorite sentence, “That’s not nice!” Or, he throws toys or tantrums. For me, the hardest part of having a second baby is dealing with the emotions of my first baby, and not feeling guilty about it. I have to remind myself that he’s not starving or without a place to sleep or unloved, and he is fine. He is just a boy learning how to have a brother. (And lucky for my conscience, he won’t remember this time in his life.)
Twice the Love
When I was at the end of my pregnancy with Troy, I would rock Mason to sleep with tears in my eyes every night for the last 3 weeks. I was always afraid that my sweet, second child would steal me away from Mason and I wouldn’t get to say “Goodbye.” I cringe when I think about it, but approximately 2 minutes after Troy was born, I asked to see Mason. I wanted to know where he was and how he was and make sure someone knew what he liked for dinner and where his favorite jammies were. The idea of “splitting the love” between 2 kids was mind-boggling. I was always afraid that I would never love them equally. It’s unbelievable how quickly I have noticed the differences between the 2 boys, and how I appreciate them. The only comparison I can find to describe it is how I love my parents equally and differently. Where my Mom is fun and feisty, my Dad is cool and calm. They are completely different, and I love them both the same.
When I had Mason, I remember right around 6 weeks old, when I reached a supreme level of sleep deprivation and was ready to give up, he smiled at me. I swore I could last another 6 years of sleep deprivation to just see that smile all day. This time around, the smile was great and all, but there is nothing more beautiful than watching Troy SMILE at Mason. It’s as if he remembers Mason’s voice from inside the womb. When Mason runs through the front door and asks to see his brother, shrieking with excitement, it’s the best feeling. Every morning when he wakes up, he asks, “Where’s my baby?” When I look at them, sometimes I catch glimpses of what they will look like as they get older. I think about what our family pictures will look like 10 years from now, or what their graduation photos will look like. I picture them arguing over trucks, or French fries or Christmas presents. I picture Troy starting middle school and Mason walking into school with him the first day. I can see them becoming brothers.
Since having Troy, I often find myself repeating things I used to hear my mother say so often when I was growing up. “Kids are resilient,” or “You kids don’t come with a handbook,” or “I can’t wait ’til you have kids and you see what this is like,” and “Well, I did the best I could.”
My husband and I are imperfect humans doing an imperfect job trying to raise these two perfect boys. And I’m grateful that kids, well, “they’re resilient.”