I have found that the level of difficulty ebbs and flows according to a number of factors. Age of child is probably the most important one. 0-4 months is very difficult, 4-9 months is easier, then it gets difficult again as the child gets mobile, with the level of difficulty peaking around 18 months - 2 years of age, particularly if said child is what I like to call a "runner." In my experience, things start to get calmer around age 4, and after that, I can't tell you. I'm still living it.
Having two children only further complicates things, as you are dealing with different ages, and different levels of difficulty, at the same time. My kids tend to yo yo off of each other in terms of who gives me the most trouble. For a long while there it was Braden (see post about his hitting phase) - he gave me a serious run for my money for a year or so, until he slowly became cooperative, accommodating, and the most loving kid in the whole world (see post about the sweet nothings he whispers into my ear). Casey, on the other hand, was our "angel" baby, until he wasn't anymore (see post about his transition from angel child to slight terror). He hasn't yet grown out of this "terror" stage, and his terror is now, sadly, directed at other children who dare to come within two feet of a toy he has claimed as his own. But generally, he is getting more manageable. He is no longer a runner, he sometimes follows direction, and overall he's just a joy, so I can ignore the other stuff.
The boys' first official day of school was today. It was anticlimactic, really. No tears. No separation anxiety. Just hugs and goodbyes and anticipation. Their new schedule means that I have my mornings to myself - from 8am-11am. Three whole hours. It is the first time in five years that I haven't had anyone to answer to for a regular, set time period. To say it is freeing is an understatement. I can go to a doctor's appointment without worrying about child care. I can watch the Today show. I can get some work done. I can play the suburban housewife and shop at Target and get my nails done. Or I can just lay in bed for a couple of hours. The luxury of it all!
The day before they started school, I took them to the zoo. Just the three of us This may seem straightforward, but for me, it was a huge deal. Taking them to the zoo by myself, voluntarily? That never would have happened a few months ago. Not because I couldn't do it, but because it was all just too complicated and stressful. The snacks, the diapers, the meltdowns, the chasing of children in crowds. But this time, I wasn't daunted. I knew they wouldn't run away. I knew they would listen. I knew they would tell me if they had to go to the bathroom. I knew they would get along. And most of all, I knew we all would enjoy it. And we did. And it was easy.
I feel like I am getting over this parenting hump, that I used to fantasize about, but never knew if it really existed. The kids sleep well, and are in bed by 8pm every night. I don't have to watch them 24-7, and in fact, most of their time spent at home is in our downstairs playroom playing together. I can hear them from upstairs as I do my own thing, and usually what I hear is laughter. When I hear the occasional scream or cry, I generally just yell downstairs, "Work it out," and they do. They both are potty trained. They both can ask for what they need. When they do get sick, I take it in stride, dish out the motrin, and go about my life. Lately, every night the two of them do a "dance party" and engage in synchronized dance to Cee Lo, Kelly Clarkson, and Pitbull. They have me in stitches watching them, and I find myself thanking God, the universe, whatever, for the most amazing children that I get to hang out with on a daily basis.
My "career," if you can call it that, is also getting back on track. I am teaching my second online class at a local university. I have some regular freelance work. And I am still loving writing my blog. I feel like I have useful things to do, which I enjoy, and I am actually bringing in some money. As my children gain more independence, I am finding myself again, albeit in small ways.
I have, in many ways, reached a parenting "sweet spot." It is getting easier...
Ahhhh, but wait. Are you a regular blog reader? If so, you know everything is about to change.
Baby Boy #3 will be here in T minus 11 weeks. And when that happens, life won't be so easy.
It's funny- I think in a general sense, there's a small window by which people want a third child. I was in that window, for sure. Back in March, when I got pregnant, things weren't so easy. Both kids were difficult and required tons of attention. They were both in school, but at different times, so there were no breaks for me. Casey was still in diapers. Adding a third kid to the mix would make things harder for sure, but life was hard anyway!
But if I had waited to have a third... until things got easier - even easier than they are now.... Who knows if I would have done it? I have friends who have two children, who are older, and they echo these sentiments. Can they really go back and start it all over again? Do they really want to?
I've done this all before, and I know what's ahead. Sleepless nights. Shifts in routine. Explosive poops. Constant nursing. Cutting blueberries in half. Baby proofing electrical outlets and corners on coffee tables and oven doors. Separation anxiety and first days and the hitting phase and eating dirt and small objects. Falls and fevers and rashes and learning not to drown.
But I also know the joy that is going to come.
The fact is, I am in love with this job of mine. I am a better mother than I am lawyer, writer, or anything else. I am better at it because I love it more than anything in the world. Even through the hard parts, and in my lowest moments, I am still able to glean the bigger picture. And it's not that I'm so talented or amazing, it's that my kids are. They teach me to be a better person, to appreciate the small things, and to put things in perspective. They teach me that I don't have it all figured out, that I still have so much to learn, and that I should never take one minute for granted. On a regular basis, they bring me joy that brings tears to my eyes. I honestly think I cry happy tears on a daily basis.
Often, I find myself smiling at them in a way that I remember my Grandma smiling at me. It's such a sincere, grateful smile. I never understood that particular smile when I was a kid. But now I know.
This baby will not make my life easier. Not at all. I will be starting over again, from scratch. My easy life and leisurely child free mornings will be put on hold for another three years or so.
But this baby will make my life fuller. He will give me happy tears, feelings of awe, and moments so beautiful that words could never describe them. He will teach me things I never even knew I needed to learn.
He will make me a mother, one more time.
He will make me a mother, one more time.
How could I not want to do this all over again?
My leisurely, child free mornings can wait.