Carlos and I recently made the transition from being parents of an only child to taking on the full-time tag-team wrestling challenge of having two children. At the end of February, we welcomed Ruby, and made Rockford a big brother. The first week was a blur, and the second week was like watching the landscape fly past a train window. Here, a couple days into week three, things are starting to feel like real life again.
Sixteen days in, here’s what I’ve learned in the land of multi-child parenting.
- Say goodbye to sleep. Oh, I still sleep, but the sleep I get now is a sad, Newman-Os for Oreos substitute. It’s a second round of all the best parts of newborn sleeping – the weird noises, the every-two-hours feedings, waking up in a puddle of breast milk, with the added perk of fighting a toddler for space in my own bed.
- The costume changes are constant, except when they’re impossible. Newborn-size diapers are too small, size 1 is too big, and the result is the same either way. Is that mud on the big kid, or poop? The only difference is how urgently the pants need changed. Why do I keep smelling sour milk everywhere? Oh, it’s me. Again. How many kinds of jam are OK on one toddler t-shirt? Doesn’t matter – there aren’t enough kinds in the house to either convince the kid to change, or to obscure the demonically-smiling face of Thomas the damned Tank Engine.
- I never was in control. The aforementioned Thomas t-shirt? It was the second blow to my carefully constructed Thomas-free zone. Yeah, he knew that Thomas existed, kind of, inasmuch as PBS Kids plays the show. But we don’t watch it, we don’t know which train is which, we don’t know anything about that little world, and intentionally so. It’s often thanks to shared Thomas-hating that I reveal myself to other parent as, well, kind of a commie pinko. Except, all that is ruined, now, thanks to one interactive pop-up book and a stupid t-shirt.
- There’s no shame in defeat. Yeah, we’re all wearing some component of pajamas to the grocery store, but hey, we’re out of the house! Rockford doesn’t live here anymore, you say? Fine, does Thomas the “helpful blue engine” want to eat his dinner? Oh, and you’ll only go to sleep bundled up on the couch? Fine, as long as you go the hell to sleep.
- Take what you can get. I will absolutely let the toddler put himself to sleep on the couch, because a winning scenario for me is one in which he, y’know, sleeps. And yeah, I will put him down in his own bed, knowing full well that he’ll be in mine by morning, because I can’t give up that sliver of grownups-in-bed-alone time.
- The first kid is the hardest part about having a second kid. Sleep when the baby sleeps: yes, except who’s watching the toddler? “It’s NOT Ruby-size, it’s Rockford-size!” Luckily, Rock is a quick learner, and only had to attempt to put on one newborn-sized outfit before he was convinced that Ruby-sized was a real thing. Some parents worry about every little noise waking their baby; I worry that the baby’s noises will wake the big kid.
It’s not all doom and gloom and sleep disruption, though. Rockford insists that he likes Ruby, and she likes looking at him (when he gets close enough for her to see). Having a baby in the house is helping Rockford embrace the transition to big kid. Toddler attitude makes me really grateful for baby-scale problems.
Finally, some things are only remarkable in how little they have changed. Remember how Carlos is an excellent father? A creative, compassionate, solver of problems and swaddler of babies – he is still all of those things, and more. The satisfaction of feeling a tiny person cooing and snoring is exactly as rich the second time around. The laundry – still never-ending. The sudden, catastrophic hunger of breast feeding: yup, still sneaks up on me.
It’s a whole new world, the same world that we’ve been in all along. As ever, I am incredibly happy to share it with the people that I do, and I’m delighted to add Ruby to that list.