Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Parenting two kids ages two and under | The good, the bad, the ugly

I've been a mom of two kids for just over a month now, and it's been a roller coaster ride of emotions, frustrations, adjustments, and abounding joy.

Having kids close in age is somewhat of a necessity for Victor and I: we got married when I was 28.5 years old, and at the time we thought we wanted four kids. I don't really want to be pregnant/giving birth after age 35, so that meant if we wanted our family of 6 within the next 7 years, we needed to get crack-a-lackin' on the baby making soon after getting hitched, and we'd have to pop them out every couple of years.

So far, our plan has worked. We were blessed with our two beautiful babies--first Max, and then exactly two years and two days later, Louisa joined our family. We're so elated that we have two healthy kids, and we consider ourselves lucky that we already have "one of each," although we'd of course be happy with two boys or two girls. I'd be lying if I said we're still on board with having four kids though; this season of life with two young kids is quite challenging, and we're pretty set on waiting until Louisa is two years old before deciding whether or not we want a third. We might decide that we're done at two, but I'm not ready to make that call yet.

Two kids two and under is, in a word, UNPREDICTABLE. There has not been one moment in the past 6 weeks that I haven't been "on." Even when I'm sleeping, I'm "on." I suppose this was true with just one kid, but at that time there was only one little human with the ability to throw a kink in the plans. Now we have two finicky little beings with way too much power.

Example: we were supposed to go to a friend's son's first birthday party a couple of weekends ago, but we couldn't leave until Max woke from his nap (Max + lousy nap/no nap = epic tantrums; I don't like to tempt fate by not letting him nap!), so we already got a late start. Then, every time we put Louisa in her car seat, she would scream bloody murder, which wasn't typical for her, so we thought something might be wrong. I nursed her, burped her, changed her diaper, all to no avail; she still wailed each time we strapped her in. By the time we were finally able to get her into her seat peacefully, it was already 2 hours after the party had started. Now, this was a Portuguese party (they last at least 4-5 hours, and that's being conservative), but with the 45 minute drive, we would've needed to leave fairly soon after getting there to be back in time to make an appearance at Victor's cousin's going-away party before bedtime. So, we never made it to the birthday party. We were so bummed.

Another example: Louisa slept for 5 hours straight overnight about a week ago, her longest night stretch EVER! But I couldn't even enjoy the uninterrupted sleep because Max has been waking up at least once a night lately, so I had to go in to him to settle him back down during that glorious stretch. Thankfully, we had another 5-hour stretch from Louisa last night AND Max slept through the night, so they both got extra kisses from a well-rested-ish mama this morning.

A third example: Max all of a sudden has some wicked separation anxiety when it comes to being away from Mama, which is likely why he's having a tough time sleeping lately. He wakes up for the day/from his nap/in the middle of the night crying for Mama. He's always keeping tabs on me, even when there are other people around to entertain/help him. I buttered some bread for him at dinner one night last weekend and left him at the table with Victor and his parents while I went to nurse Louisa. Max came to find me a few minutes later to ask for more bread, even though 3 other people were right next to him to help. He's also become too good at whining (which is like nails on a chalkboard for me). It's a tricky and at times exhausting phase that we're in. I'm hopeful it passes soon.

I'm sure that as Louisa gets a little older and more prone to a schedule, our day will be more predictable and less chaotic. Right now, the only consistent events we have in our schedule are wakefulness, hunger, noise, and sleepiness. I have to be very strategic to fit in a shower, chores, and errands each day. I haven't had much time to take care of me beyond a quick shower; my eyebrows need some serious maintenance and my toenail polish has been chipping for a week now. Forget working out and losing these last 8 pregnancy pounds!

At this point in my "parenting two young kids" journey, I don't think I could survive without having the TV on for at least a couple hours a day--not for me, but to entertain Max. I encourage/require playing with toys/looking at books as much as possible, but sometimes I need to turn on the tube in order to get 20 uninterrupted minutes to either shower or get something done around the house. He's just not independent enough yet. I have big goals to set a schedule for Max to get some educational activities in each day, but it's just not in the cards yet.

Thankfully, I have been able to run errands with my two kids, so far without incident. I was incredibly nervous to make just a quick trip to the grocery store with both of them for the first time. I know people do errands with multiple kids all day every day and I shouldn't be so dramatic about it, but I have my reasons for my trepidation. For the last couple of months before Louisa was born, Max was super difficult on errands: he would fight getting into the grocery cart, he would try to climb out of the cart, he'd throw tantrums, and if there was no cart, he'd be a flight risk/wouldn't always hold my hand. It was difficult and nerve-racking when I only had him to worry about; I didn't even want to think about how it would be with a newborn in tow. So when it came time to hit the grocery store for some essentials, I was expecting the worst but hoping for the best. I am so incredibly grateful that Max has been the picture of perfection during all of our errands so far (and by "perfection," I mean he didn't do any of those things I mentioned earlier. He still exhibited some undesired behavior, but it was peanuts compared to the other stuff). My most proud moment was conquering Costco last week with both of them. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw this photo on Friday.

It probably seems like I'm doing a whole lot of complaining in this post, which isn't my intention. I'm just telling it like it is. Parenthood is challenging and busy and stressful and wonderful. With any kind of change comes uncertainty, adjustment, and the need to persevere. I know it will get easier...and then it will get hard again, but in a new way. I've overcome many challenges in the two years I've been a mom (sleep training was a HUGE one, as well as transitioning Max to his new room/bed). I've survived it all and have learned a lot in the process. This, too, shall pass.

Each season of life with these littles will come with its own set of obstacles that we will need to navigate and overcome. There's that old saying, "Nothing worth having ever came easily." Max and Louisa are the greatest blessings I've ever received. They are worth the sleepless nights, tantrums, spit-up-stained clothes, squishy belly, sticky floors, messy house, sacrificed experiences, and gray hairs. They are my world, and their mere existence enriches my life more than I ever could have imagined.

To quote an old favorite country song by Darryl Worley, "I love this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life."

It really is awfully beautiful. Maybe we will have that third kid...

Below are links to some articles I've read recently that really resonated with me, all applicable to this season of life I'm in:

What we mean when we say we need a break. "[Needing a break] means I need a moment to feel like a human being in the midst of a relentless life where I don't belong to myself anymore; where I give my love and energy away, every moment of my existence, and can't figure out how to keep any for myself."

20 things that sent me into parent burnout. Numbers 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 17, and 20. For realz.

How to help a parent in the midst of an epic public meltdown. "Parenting isn't easy. Parenting in public definitely isn't easy. It's not easy, but it is much more manageable when instead of seeing a stranger's look of disdain, you are met with a reassuring smile."

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