Two Under Two
by Kait Burgen
I became part of a new club recently, the “Two Under Two Club.” My daughter, Emilee, was born on April 7, only 18 short months after my son David entered the world and I now have two kids. The most popular comments I get contradict each other. Some people say “Two kids are only half the work of one,” while others recognize how busy I am and say “Two kids are more than double the work of one.”
I don’t know yet which one, if either, of these theories is true. I suspect it’s a combination of both. There are a few things, however, that I do know for sure.
Sleep, for example, is highly over-rated. I’ve learned to function moderately well on very little. In fact, it’s worrying me that I’d rather tidy or cruise Facebook, or even write this article, than get some sleep. It’s now about 5 a.m. and the house is quiet. I know that won’t last very long. I should probably go back to bed but I’m just so darn productive when I don’t have a clingy toddler or suckling baby dangling from me.
And coffee helps.
Before Emilee was born, David seemed to take up all of my time. Now that she’s here though, somehow there is time for both—not to mention everything else that I manage to do in a day, which by some standards, namely those formed Before Kids, often isn’t much.
With my second child, I’m not beating myself up because I don’t read to her every day already. She’s only six weeks old for gosh sakes and she’s not going to fall behind in her development because I haven’t hauled out the board books or alphabet blocks, which are actually still out because David has barely outgrown them himself. With David I found myself making sure he was getting stimulated to the proper degree, whatever that means, in every spare moment. He was listening to Rick Scott CDs at three weeks old. With Emilee, I know that everyday life is often stimulation enough and right now, she isn’t doing much else besides learning.
As a member of the Two Under Two Club, I know that it’s okay if Emilee cries for a few minutes, although it breaks my heart, while I stop dinner from burning. I also know that all the pimples on her face will go away and since she’s exclusively breastfed, a few days without a poop is no cause for concern. I haven’t gone full bore on the tummy time yet either and you know what? That’s okay! She’ll be hitting all the milestones early I’m sure, as she tries to keep up with her older brother who right now, kisses her too much, doesn’t know that he can’t climb into the bassinet with her or that he has to be gentle when he pinches her ears, showing off his expanding vocabulary.
Sometimes I have no idea how I’ll manage a particular task, or even an entire day, until I’m actually doing it. I’m learning how to be in two places at once though and so far, the best part of that is blowing kisses and getting them back from my son because I can’t reach him at that particular moment for a real one. He gets lots of real ones at bedtime though. That’s our special snuggle time. A friend of mine who had a baby at about the same time that I had David in 2007 said in a moment of reassurance, that “everything is temporary … things are difficult right now, know they won’t last forever. Everything is just a stage and it will pass.”
I’ve taken those words to heart and even compressed the time frame they were originally set in. Using teething as an example, instead of a whole stage, I know that every hour, or even half hour or minute of any given day is temporary and if it seems hectic and crazy—which it probably is—it will soon pass.
I know that my biggest survival tool so far has been to embrace the mess that is constant when you’re a member of the Two Under Two Club. I’ll give an Errington-based doula credit for helping me keep things in check and see well beyond the adult order of things. She has three kids under four years old (a club I never want to join) and whenever I’ve seen her, she has been calm and relaxed. She’s my little voice that says, “Does it really matter?”
The answer to which is most often “No.”
It doesn’t really matter if bubble soap is pouring onto the hardwood floor and I can’t do anything about it because I’m nursing a newborn. It doesn’t matter if Upsy Daisy is literally floating in the toilet, that last night’s dinner dishes are still in the sink and David is now spreading dried oats around the kitchen floor with my clean laundry. It doesn’t even matter if all this is happening simultaneously. What does matter is that he thinks he’s cleaning up the oats and he’s having a good time doing it. Upsy Daisy won’t drown and as long as she stays afloat, the septic system is okay. The floor can be cleaned with a broom later and the dishes, well, there are always dishes.
Having two kids under two is forcing me to lighten up, a lesson I very much need and am ready to learn.
The one instantaneous lesson though, something I know for absolute certain, is that as a mother, I have the capacity to grow two hearts when I thought the one I had was already bursting with only one child in my life.
Kait Burgan is a video-journalist with Shaw TV in Nanaimo, currently on maternity leave with her second child. She’s a former columnist with the Nanaimo Daily News and past contributor to Island Parent Magazine.