October 29, 2013

Tips for parenting two children under two!

In the last few weeks of my second pregnancy, I remember thinking one constant thought. When this kid comes out, I'm going to have two kids under the age of two running around on this earth. And the idea of that immediately wall-slammed me to this thought: I wonder if there's a way to keep this second one in my belly a bit longer, at least until he's on solids.
Unfortunately, our ObGyn said this was not "advisable."
So, when he came out a week shy of forty, husband and I hit the ground running with our pre-planned ideas of how to parent two children under two while trying not to go Cuckoo Clock bonkers in the process.
Contributor post: Tips for parenting two children under two by Drinking the Whole Bottle via Cropped Stories

Take moments when you can
Being myself a second child, my first focus was on how I did not want our son, the second child, to fall ill with the Marsha, Marsha, Marshas. I thought about ways I would spend quality time with him to give him the same attention I gave our daughter. When he came, I realized that I was crazy to think that because some of it just wasn’t Godly possible no matter how much I wanted it to be. So, I had to do some rethinking. I didn't need as many moments; I just needed to make our moments matter. My 6 month old son wakes up a bit earlier than my 2 year old daughter. I use this time as our "us" time. I sweep him up out of his crib, snuggle my face into the folds of his neck, breathe in his delicious baby smell that for some reason reminds me of red Swedish fish, and load him up with kisses. I feed him his bottle in the quiet corner of his room, just as I did with our first and, for that moment; we are only us. He doesn't have to share me. I get to sweet baby love on him. I get to give him my undivided attention without worrying why it's so quiet in the rest of the house because my daughter has gotten into my makeup again.
Be aware that equal isn’t always fair 
As a teacher, you hear this a lot. You come to realize quickly that not everyone is on the same playing field. Some students need more time to process. Some students need less support in math. And some students reverse their letters while others have been reading Ulysses since they started the gifted program for 3 year olds at the finest private establishment. Parenting is the same. This isn't so much physical advice as it is mental guidance.  Try to start again, the second time around, with the knowledge that you acquired from the first. This time being flexible and knowing that what worked with one may not work with numero two.
With that being said, that doesn't mean they won't be the same too
Don't get hung up on the “all kids are different” soapbox that you don't remember the “this parent is the same” spiel. I was aware not everything that worked for my first child would work for my second, but I also had to be open to the idea that not everything had to be different either. I decided to trust what worked for me in the past. 
Our daughter did a good job sleeping longer through the night until she turned 6 months and then decided, in her own version of an inside joke, to wake up in the middle of the night again. After a number of sleepless nights, I convinced Husband that we needed to take a look at the Cry It Out Technique. (Warning: Point Detour.  I think this is far too ominous of a name, and it should be renamed to something like Allowing Child to Talk Himself to Sleep Technique.)
Our daughter has slept like a hibernating bear ever since. At 5 weeks, our second child slept from 7pm to 3am. At 2 months, he had a few nights where he slept from 7pm to 5:30am. At 5 months, he slept a handful of nights in a row from 7pm to 7am. This kid was the Michael Phelps of sleeping. Then one night he woke up at 1:30am. The next night, 5am. The following night, 3am. Then back to 6:30am. We knew that he would eventually understand the crazy notion that sleeping through the entire night was awesome, but we also thought that a little push might not be a bad thing. Allowing Child to Talk Himself to Sleep Technique had worked for us before so, we revisited it and it worked again.
Kids can be different, but sometimes they're just not
I am happy to report that both kids (a two year old and a 6 month old) are sleeping from 7pm - 7am. This means that both parents (ages not included) are also sleeping through the night. Mostly. I wish I had advice for looney moms that still find it necessary to check on their kids to make sure they are breathing. (Shaking my head.)
Routine, routine, and did I mention routine 
From the beginning of my second pregnancy, Husband and I agreed that continuing the routine we started with our daughter would be crucial to Mommy and Daddy's sanity. Our daughter's schedule worked so well for her (and us) that we decided to work on getting our son on that same schedule. Our two big MUSTS were the sleep times: nap at 11:00am and bedtime at 7:00pm.
From the day we got home from the hospital, we tried to make sure when our daughter napped at 11:00am, our son did too. When we started our Triple B (bath time, bottle time, bedtime routine) every evening with our daughter, our son was also Triple B’ing it. I'll be honest that the groundwork of a routine is a bit more work upfront, but the outcome reaps rewards you couldn't imagine as a double header parent. Most afternoons we have at least an hour or two to nap, clean, read, drink a warm cup of coffee, or fill in the blank. Every night, we have both kids asleep by 7:00pm and can have a conversation, eat a quiet dinner, watch a movie, attend a yoga class, play volleyball, or fill in the blank. With the amount of energy that two kids under two exude, some well deserved rest time needs to be part of a parent's balanced diet.
Don't get lazy
Second children get the shaft. Be honest about it. Own it. Now let go. No matter how good your intentions, you now have to split your time between two children. This means less quality time, less attention all around, less organic food making, just less. I, too, didn't want that to happen to our second child, but it did.  And because it does, it’s usually not through fault of your own. Here's an example. I took out my camera the other day to snap some shots of our son who I have fewer pictures of than my daughter. I placed the camera on the table to sit him up, and when I turned around my daughter was holding the camera. She was holding it well, like a professional which makes me proud, but I digress. I took the camera, and she allowed me to snap three pictures before trying to grab the camera back from the lens. Now I'm on the floor wrestling with my toddler, trying to regain control of my camera and the situation. I decided, as I had her in a headlock, that it was easier not to take out the camera ever again. So my poor son has significantly fewer photos than my daughter and will continue to have fewer photos. Because when she was a baby, no one tried to murder me for my camera.
But here's the don't get lazy advice. It will be harder to do for two what you did with one, but choose the things that matter and do them. No excuses. Those hundreds of pictures that I took of my daughter went into monthly photo albums. Each month, I would scroll through, sort, edit, crop, and choose pictures to put into one of those online albums that would make a photographic keepsake of each month of her first year. It was so much work that, at three months, Husband advised, "You might want to consider making one album every three months. Otherwise, when the second baby comes you are going to have to make another 12 photo albums." Even then we were thinking of the Marsha, Marsha, Marshas. I, being the new I-am-Supermom-Hear-Me-Roar, decided that both my children would get a monthly photo album of their first year, 24 albums in total. I may not have as many images of my son, but the ones I do have are perfect and are in his album. I am now working on month 17.
In hindsight, maybe I should have listened to Husband on that one.
Shut up, mommy guilt, I'm working here
It is inevitable that mommy guilt will rear it's ugly head. She finds us all, and with two kids under two, she has double the chance of finding you. Add in the second child guilt you already carry, and you could bet your sweet a#@ that you will fight mommy guilt a few times a day. So I want to make this short and sweet. Punch that mommy guilt bit#@ in the face and move on. You have two kids under two. You don't have time for that nonsense. You're doing just great.
Drink the whole bottle
The day to day struggles are many. My son spits up on all of my clothes (that's what I get for having thought that moms only carried burp cloths to accessorize their mom-ness). My daughter sasses me everyday with her trifecta of no's, as if one no doesn't get the point across. I come out of the bathroom to find my daughter has kindly, and without my permission, unpacked my entire purse and is now putting on my red lipstick on the little dip above her upper lip. I roll my son over because he seems bothered to be on his belly (and by bothered I mean he's screaming and crying) only to have him roll back onto his belly and continue to scream and cry. But kids will grow faster. They will grow faster than parents can appreciate moments. So please listen carefully because This. Is. The. Hardest. Advice. To. Take. Are you ready for it?
Drink it all up, and try to enjoy every last drop even though you will not be able to. It’s laughably impossible because they will drive you so insane-asylum-bonkers that you will think you are on a Bloopers show called Parents Gone Wild. But I encourage you to try.  Try to laugh, smile, play and be silly more. Try to laugh at the moments when older sissy rides "horsey" on her little brother instead of scolding her for it. Or smile when your child says sh@# instead of sit. Or play kitchen instead of cleaning your real one. I have found the moments I remember most, in the last 6 months, of having two children under two are the small ones that I didn't see coming.
I write this to you from the other side, and I know for sure these tricks have worked for us.  I am still alive, no crazier than before, and sleeping through the night. And dressed. Dressed is always a sign of a good day.
Contributor: Jennifer from Drinking the whole Bottle via Cropped Stories

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  1. My girls are 16 months apart. My older one is now four and the younger will be three years old in a few short weeks. This article nailed it what it is like to have two kids under the age of two in your home. God do I remember it well even though it was only a few short years. Thanks for the tips and know that many others can totally and will totally benefit from it!

    1. Thanks Janine! It is a beautiful time that can be filled with moments of frustration and craze. I hope others can read this and beefit from it or at least have a good laugh.

  2. This is such an HONEST post. I often think about if there will be a number 2 for me in the future, and I struggle with these same feelings. ROUTINE is so important - even with just one kiddo! Thanks for sharing with Time For Mom on Tuesday! Hope you join us again tomorrow!

    1. thanks for the compliment, Krystal. Routine is not for everyone but it was and is a HUGE benefit for us. Nap time and sleep time... ahhh. Wonderful moments!


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