Parenting: What to do with two?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

I am crazy about my son, but he is a handful. A darling moment on the playground can easily turn into a battle of wills. Sometimes brushing teeth or diaper changes can turn into mini wrestling matches. And even when all is well, he needs constant supervision, lest you miss the moment he decides to investigate a wall socket or jump off a ledge. All of which makes my mind spin when I'm asked the constant question: "So when are you having number two?"

As we contemplate it, I can't help but wonder how I would handle two little handfuls. I find myself watching other mothers with infants and toddlers, even sometimes sidling up to ask their advice. "It's hard," they always start. "But you figure it out."

In fact, as I started to look for advice for this column, I found this reassurance: In some ways Baby Two is easier. Mothers who were hyper and crazed with the first one, reading everything about labor and parenting, often take it easier the second time around. They get that life will be off schedule for a while, they don't expect to be perfect, and they let things slide. And often Baby Two is a better sleeper and of easier temperament than Baby One, all because Mom doesn't come running at the first peep.

But that doesn't mean you won't find yourself in a daily fire drill, especially in the early days. So what to do?

Involvement seems to be key. The website Baby Center is yet again a great well of tips here: If you're giving baby a bath, ask him to soap the legs. Ask him to fetch diapers or toys for baby. Ask him what baby should wear, or to entertain baby with a song or story while you get the infant dressed.

The British site adds in that with two, ask for help and be specific. While you might have wanted to shut the world out with your first, this time around accept the offers when friends say they'll babysit or wonder if you need them to pick something up. Let folks know a quiche or pasta sauce would be really helpful. And set your house up so it's convenient - perhaps diaper stations upstairs and down, a bucket of toys for toddler next to where you breastfeed- even if it makes your house look a little messy.

But with two, you will have the inevitable breakdowns when both kids want your attention. Sometimes your toddler, so long the recipient of your undivided attention, will have to cry it out. But Gurgle recommends you sometimes make a point to pick toddler's needs first and let the infant - as long as it's in a safe seat or place - be the one to fuss. This lets you preschooler know he still rates as a priority. In fact, if you can, try to make regular time, even if it's just a story while infant naps, where it's just you and your toddler doing something special.

I'm not sure we will go for two, but if we do, it was helpful to see I wasn't alone in my concerns. And that whether it was in learning to balance two kids while feeding, getting two kids down to sleep, or making it through the water park of bath time, it all works out.

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