Well here they are. My two boys some years ago, on a boat someplace in Germany. This photo is probably 20 years old; it's from one of many wonderful trips covering territory all the way from Israel to Hawaii. Each was an adventure, enriched by the presence of these two little (and later bigger) boys, as were all our days. Most visitors to the baby shower know that I'm the sentimental one - not able ever to be as arch and irreverent as many of my sister bloggers. SO CONSUMER ALERT -- this is mostly a riff on the treat it is to watch your two kids grow, change, interact, fight, become real friends, care for one another and grow up to travel together and meet up to go to concerts.
When I was pregnant with my second son, I was afraid that I could never love another child. The delight we felt with our first son was so complete that I wasn't sure whether there was room in my heart for another. That summer, as we awaited his brother's arrival, I insisted that our son, my husband and I - go to the beach to have a last vacation with "just the three of us." It was going to be tough to get used to dividing my time so I wanted one more golden moment with just one.
It was the year The Muppet Movie came out, and I remember sitting on the little deck outside the beach cabin we'd rented, my son in my lap, playing The Rainbow Song on the boom box we'd brought with us, just about overcome with emotion. Listen to it - if it doesn't get to you I don't know what will.
"Some day we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreams and me." So sentimental but absolutely perfect for my pregnant, hormonal self.
And then he arrived - this little, amazing, intense infant, and as soon as I saw him I knew all the worry was for nothing. Of course you can't love an abstraction as much as a little blond sweetie who loves Kermit and Ernie and Bert -- and you. Once that abstraction arrives though, he's as real and exciting and mysterious and loving as his big brother. As each of their personalities emerged so did their differences, but each revealed a piece of them. Each individual talent and temperment and allergy and grace reminded us of the unique treasure that each of them was to us. So here are 10.5 thoughts on the question at hand - moving from one child to two:
1. Both kids are crying at the same time: Best advice to me: "Go to the older one first. The baby won't remember and he will." That worked. Of course, you have to use judgment if you think the infant cry is one of instant need, but often a quick drive-by with the older one will settle things down.
2. It just seems like there's so much more to do: There is. A
second child increases things geometrically. Multitask (but you know
that) and compromise. Everything does not have to be perfect: kids
can eat prefab or quickie meals occasionally or watch TV for a little
while when the alternative is madness. The necessity of reading a
story to one while nursing the other has multiple rewards: Cuddling
gets connected to the baby, little one gets twice as many stories, each child connects this sweet time with the other.
3. The baby is taking so much time that you worry the big guy isn't
getting what he needs: I was lucky enough to have a sitter since I
worked full-time so once a week my older son and I would go out to
breakfast on the way to school, leaving the sitter with the baby. If
you don't have childcare often, or at all, make a date with your
husband/partner for him to stay with the baby so you get that time; also if you are not a
single mom, send the two big guys our on their own too.
4. Big kid is really pissed that this baby has arrived: As all the advice books tell us, this is inevitable. So just accept it. They hate the baby? Want to send him/her back? "I know, sweetie, it's hard to get used to. But he needs us to help him etc etc -- fill in the blanks here--- " Acknowledge their anger, find special things about them and their role and then keep going. No point in trying to talk them out of it, rather accept and deflect.
It's also a big help to honor the big sibling role. Presents from the baby on arrival, special privileges only the big kid gets etc.
5. It's so tough to find time for the older kid that you often hire
a sitter for the baby: We did this on Sundays for a while. But it soon
started to feel wrong; he was part of us and so we stopped the sitter
and learned to manage with two whether at the movies, on the subway, in
a restaurant or on our bikes.
6. One or the other child has a problem that really does require
extended attention: Be careful and listen to/check with teachers. One
of my kids is dyslexic and when we learned of this we became pretty
obsessed with figuring out what to do for him. I went to the teacher
conference for his brother and was stunned to be told "I don't know
what's going on in your house but this kid isn't getting enough
attention." It was a tough, horrible message but boy did it matter.
I learned then that a teacher can be a great ally - and is happy to be
asked. If you're not sure about times like this, or uncertain about
any developmental or emotional matter, ask the teacher what's going on at school. It can be a real help, particularly in sibling issues that
your child may not share with you or even be aware of.
7. "Mom he (fill in the blanks - hit, bit, stole my bear, tore my homework, ate my GI Joe backpack)" This is harder. To tell you the truth I don't think I ever handled this very well. I think in retrospect that with boys at least you have to let them work out some of this on their own - when they're old enough to have some self-control and probably not do any permanent harm. You will find out when they are grown that so much more went on than you ever knew about. Older brother hiding in the closet in a Ninja suit and jumping out to terrify his brother once the little guy had gone to bed. For example. Oh - and they survived.
8. The older kids wants to do stuff the younger one really is too young for - especially movies etc. We gave up and took both of them anyway. Probably a gutless answer but second children just plain learn about things sooner anyway - there's no way out of it. I blush to tell you how little ours was when he went with us and his brother to Beverly Hills Cop.
9. Both of you feel deprived of the company of one child or the other: Split up. It's too bad, since it's so much fun to be all together, but if you aren't a single parent, each spending a Sunday morning with one child or the other has multiple benefits - the largest of which are the revelations that emerge from one-on-one time. Whether it's the way the baby responds to your favorite music or the big guy's take on rhinos at the zoo, it sometimes seems to be more accessible when it's just the two of you.
10. It all seems like too much: Sometimes it is. Find ways to take care of yourself. This is serious. I know that it was easier for me; I was out of the house and built all my social life around lunches while at work. Also got my hair cut then. And nails. But there are ways to do it and if anyone can find them it's the women of the Mommy Blog community. You are some of the most remarkable, creative, inspired, thoughtful, witty, sensible, insane, delightful women I've known anywhere. You'll figure it out.
11. In the end, if you're lucky, enabling a friendship between siblings is maybe your greatest legacy. You can't make it happen but you can make it possible. I recommend thinking strategically about that over time. If they love each other as adults it's a great gift for them and for you.
12. You may, and should, feel blessed to have these two little ones, but, and this I know, your kids are incredibly lucky that they got you.