We just arrived home from a week of “vacation.”* We took an airplane to get where we were going. Luckily, it was only an hour-long flight.
I’m in awe of parents who take babies and very young children on cross-Atlantic flights. Those moms and dads must know some secret I was never told. Or maybe the whole family drugs up on Gravol.
This trip was a huge treat because my husband came with us. I had back-up for a full seven days. I wasn’t outnumbered for a whole week!
Murphy’s Law seems to kick in whenever I take my children anywhere. Apparently going on an airplane is no exception. Here are some of the highlights:
- I purposely booked our Westjet flight for midday so we wouldn’t need to rush to get to the airport on time. My five-year-old son was up at 4:30 a.m. anyways, ready to leave. We ended up rushing around at the last-minute too.
- I gave the kiddies a treat in the airport (popcorn from Starbucks) to keep them from begging for the (super cool, very exciting!) airplane snack the minute we boarded the plane. My 23-month-old daughter spilled the bag of popcorn all over the airport floor and then started eating it. My son asked for the airplane snack the minute his seatbelt was buckled up.
- In a lovely moment of sibling harmony, my son grasped his sister’s hand as we boarded the plane. Unfortunately, she tripped and nose-dived through the door. We entered the plane with a howling toddler, making every other passenger so very excited to welcome us on board.
- I set my son up with headphones and the in-flight TV as soon as possible. The minute he put the headphones on he started yelling at me (without realizing it) because the previous passenger had turned the volume up to max.
- My daughter travelled on my lap. She flies free until she turns two. She is very tall for her age. As soon as we sat down the guy in front of us reclined his seat as far back as humanly possible. We got the last laugh when my daughter started kicking and pushing on his seat later in the flight.
- Both our departing and return flights were in the middle of nap time. Naturally, my daughter waited to fall asleep until the plane landed, giving her a ten minute nap; thus insuring no real nap that day.
- After giving her plenty of run-around time at home and in the airport, my daughter had not had a dirty diaper all day. Of course the lovely incident happened after the plane had taken off and right when the flight attendants pushed the drink carts into the aisle. Any mother who has travelled knows that the “change table” in an airplane is the size of a cutting board and only works for babies who are a month or two old. My husband and I made the very poor decision to “just wait until we land” to change our daughter. Lucky for us, there was another baby across the aisle. The dirty looks we got about the nasty smell emanating from our row? We just shrugged our shoulders, glanced pointedly at the other baby and rolled our eyes. 😉
*Vacation is in quotation marks because anyone who has travelled with small children (and without grandparents) knows it is anything but.
A Facebook friend of mine just announced the joyous news of her first pregnancy. Soon afterwards she asked for advice on which prenatal class to sign up for. That got me thinking…about 95% of what I learned in prenatal class was useless. Motherhood has a wild initiation period and no class fully prepares you for the upheaval your first child brings.
Here is a list of what you really need to know before bringing home baby:
- How to change a diaper on a wiggling, squirmy puppy. If you can do this, you may be able to change a one-year old. Yes, the freaky-eyed, fake babies the nurses bring are good practice for changing a newborn. However, if your baby is like both of mine were, at around 9 months she will realize that it’s really not fun to have her legs in the air and someone swiping at her private parts.
- How to function on 3 hours of sleep per night. Prenatal classes should be held over a long weekend with no breaks for sleep. This might give new parents a tiny idea of how they will feel while caring for a new baby. Sleep deprivation is real and it sucks. Even if you get the very rare, almost-mythical “good-sleeper” off the bat, that is no guarantee that your baby will not turn into a non-sleeper at 3 months or 6 months.
- Never brag about your good sleeper on Facebook. That guarantees you a non-sleeper the next night.
- How to cope during the first few weeks with your baby. Our instructor could have covered the basics of pregnancy and labour in an hour and sent us home to watch What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Actual discussion of the huge psychological changes involved in becoming a parent would be far more helpful.
- Even if drugs are not in your plan, when the time comes, you will want them. Read up on them. The same goes for c-sections. Better to be prepared. My children are five and almost two. I had an epidural and morphine with one and practically no meds with the other. Now that the kids are older, no one asks me about it and nobody cares. You won’t get a badge of honour or special trophy for going drug-free or avoiding a c-section. Do what you need to do to remain somewhat calm and deliver a healthy baby.
- Breastfeeding is wonderful and natural and angels sing when some mothers do it. It also sucks sometimes, especially in the beginning. The nurse teaching our prenatal class actually said out loud to us “Don’t keep bottles or formula in your house. You may be tempted to use them.” We diligently followed her advice…until it was day 5 and my milk hadn’t come in and my son was screaming and starving. We ignored her advice and supplemented the poor child. He survived and he is perfect.
- If you want your baby to sleep in your room, put him there. If you can’t sleep with your baby in your room, put him in his own room if it’s nearby. It is your house, your baby and you need to do what helps everyone in the house get as much sleep as possible. I followed the “rules for creating an independent sleeper” with my son. He slept in his own room until his sister came along when he was three. Everything changed then and no book or sleep expert in the world could compete with a screaming newborn on the other side of the bedroom wall. Now my son is five and he crawls into the big bed every night.*
- Never talk about your maternity leave as your “year off.” It is your “year on.” You’ll see.
*I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 🙂
What do you wish someone would have told you before you had your first child?
My poor, poor daughter gets so many pitying looks from first-time mommas.
The way I parent her is a million times different from the way I parented my son when he was her age.
I haul her around in a hand-me-down, slightly stained blue umbrella stroller. Her brother glided around in a deluxe designer stroller. I, like many first-time moms, gave in and bought the fancy-schmancy ride for my son. Yes, it’s great, but nope, it’s not so great while also managing a preschooler who never stops moving. With two kids in the family, it is rare to have one free hand, let alone two. I need a stroller I can pick up with my pinkie and throw in the trunk, completely assembled.
I had my daughter in the fancy stroller the other day (while scrounging for cheap toys and funky sweaters at Value Village) and a young mom sidled up to me and asked casually, “So, how do you like the Peg?” It took me a few minutes to realize she was talking about the stroller. I guess my children are getting older because I no longer recognize new-mommy-stroller-lingo. 😉
My daughter is often completely neglected at the park. A few months ago I took the kiddies to the playground near our house. As we pulled up, I let them loose from the constraints of stroller (my daughter) and bike helmet (my son). I always feel like yelling, “Release the hounds!” as they run wildly to whatever catches their fancy at our new child-proof neighbourhood park.
Anyways, on this particular afternoon there was only one other child there, a little boy close in age to my daughter (about 18 months at the time). He was accompanied by both of his parents and was obviously their first and only child. The little guy couldn’t take a step without some sort of comment of encouragement from both parents. At every trip or stumble they both jumped to attention. It was sort of cute, for the first few minutes.*
I was busy helping my son strap into a safety swing for 5-10 year olds (?) way across the park and had half an eye on my daughter. I saw her move towards a ladder that led to a medium-sized slide. The look on the other parents’ faces as my daughter climbed up and went down that slide alone was total shock.** She survived. Now, a few months older, she proudly announces, “I did it!” when she lands at the bottom without falling.
My daughter is continually harassed by her five-year-old brother. The other day it was raining and he was bored. I gave him an old diaper box to do something with. He made a “toddler trap,” complete with bait (a soother and a cookie) and chased his poor sister around, trying to drop it on her head.
Interestingly enough, I’m noticing many, many benefits to her being (slightly) neglected. My daughter is fiercely independent. She can say “no!” in a loud, confident voice over and over; a trait that I hope will come in handy when she is a teenager.
She can entertain herself for ages “reading” stacks and stacks of books and magazines.
She finds and gets what she needs by hauling around a kitchen chair or old plastic stool.
But most important of all, she has a built-in hero, confidant and ally in her older brother. A bit of “neglect,” a lot of independence and a best buddy for life.
*I was totally this mom when I only had one child.
**Just so you know I’m not a total slacker…I was running at warp-speed-that-feels-like-slow-motion and got there just as she landed on the soft mulch on the ground. By the way, why on earth do they use mulch at children’s parks? It’s like inviting children to play in a lumberyard and then being surprised when they get slivers.
What is different about the way you parent your second (or third or fourth) child?
When I became a mother five years ago I naively assumed that having a child meant a woman had grown up. Gone would be the petty insecurities, comparisons and judgements that women so cruelly share during the teenage years and beyond.
I was wrong.
Two children, two cities and many play dates and hours at the park later, I’ve made some wonderful mom friends. I’ve also been blown away by the cattiness and cruelty of some women who are permanently suspended in a junior high, mean-girls mindset, even with their own children watching and listening.
The sidelong glances, whispers and blatant online bullying I’ve seen encouraged me to start a conversation with a group of my own mom friends. The stories each woman told me were sometimes hard to believe but they are all true.
- That mom you shun at the park because she’s single and living with her parents? Don’t judge her. She’s going to university full-time to create a good life for her son. In the blink of an eye you could be her.
- That mom who is losing her patience with a screaming child in the grocery store line-up? She had two hours of sleep last night because her children are sick and teething. Don’t roll your eyes at her. Help her out. You will be her one day, guaranteed.
- That mom who puts her five-year-old in diapers at night? Don’t judge her. Her child has a severe illness. Sleep is far more important than night-time potty training. She also has to pour salt on her child’s food to help with kidney function so don’t judge her for that either.
- That mom that picked up McDonald’s for her child on the way home? Don’t judge her. 99% of the time she feeds her child good food. She’s tired. She’s had a long day.
- That mom who took a nap when you were visiting and didn’t cook you supper?Don’t judge her. She’s suffering from a postpartum mood disorder and is just trying to cope and care for her children.
- That mom who lets her kids sleep in her bed? Don’t judge her. She’s creating security and comfort that will last a lifetime. She knows little-kid-snuggles only last for a little while.
- That mom who stopped breastfeeding too soon? Remember when you told her how sad it was that her child would get sick and die on formula? Remember when you told her that she and her baby wouldn’t bond? Are you for real? She had thrush, was on two different meds to increase her milk supply and had multiple lactation consultants. It didn’t work. She moved on and you should too.
- That mom who is still breastfeeding when her child is two? She’s happy. Her child is happy. Leave them alone and stop staring.
- That mom who is too rushed to say hello at preschool drop-off? Her son has a life-threatening illness. She is so focused on his care that she doesn’t even see you. Don’t judge her.
- That mom who can’t get her children to sleep well? She’s tried everything. She’s read all the books and gone to the seminars. You may be an expert on your own four children but you know nothing about her two.
- That mom you judged because she had a C-section while you had a natural birth? Even though you told her she didn’t try hard enough and is a failure, she’s pretty grateful that her child is alive.
- That mom who is too easy on her kids and lets them get away with too much? She grew up afraid of a parent and refuses to repeat the pattern in her own family.
- That mom who had too many kids too close together? Don’t judge her. Her children are happy and loved. On the other hand, don’t judge the mom who only had one child either. You don’t know the reasoning behind it and it’s none of your business.
- That mom who looks after her children 24/7 and (gasp!) doesn’t work outside of the home? Maybe she actually likes it. Maybe she’s doing what is best for her kids. She may even blog about it.
- That mom who struggled with infertility for years and finally got pregnant with IVF? Don’t judge her. You have no idea of the thoughts and pain that go into such an experience.
Things are rarely as they seem. I’ve grown a pretty thick skin when it comes to being judged by others for my parenting decisions. I do my best to accept that everyone makes different decisions for their families. Could you do the same? Most of us are our own worst critics anyways.
Remember, it’s not about us. It’s about our children. Let’s cut each other some slack.
We’re supposed to be the grown-ups.
First published on The Purple Fig (http://www.thepurplefig.com).
Also published on The Huffington Post.
I’ve had two children for a while but we are just becoming a two-kid family.
My son is 5 years old. My daughter is 21 months old. Up until this point, we’ve been a one-kid-and-a-baby family.
I always wanted two children. I grew up with one older brother and was pleased to replicate my childhood “million dollar family” with my own kids. I envisioned all the things we could do that would be fun with two. When I was pregnant with my daughter I was told, “Don’t worry, two is easier than one because they play together.” HA! For me, one child and a baby wasn’t easier. It wasn’t two times harder. It was ten times harder.
But suddenly, now that child number two is approaching the age of two, things are changing in subtle ways. It’s easier now.
I notice it while making breakfast: 2 cups of milk, 2 bowls of oatmeal, 2 spoons. No mushy baby cereal, no breastfeeding or bottles. The only difference is the tiny spoons for my daughter’s little bites. It’s easier now.
I realize it while packing for a morning out: two bananas, two water bottles, two handfuls of crackers in little cups. No nursing cover, no bottle warmer. No pureed carrots, bib, spoon and wash cloth stuffed in a too-big, trendy diaper bag. Just a few snacks, one diaper and a couple of wipes jammed in my purse. It’s easier now.
It hits me when one of my children is upset about something. In the early days I would get so frustrated when my babies would cry and cry and I couldn’t figure out what they needed. Now they tell me and I can help fix what’s wrong. It’s easier now.
I notice it when the kids play. The ring stacker and foam blocks collect dust in a bin on the toy shelf. After hundreds of stroller rides and chewing sessions, Sophie the Giraffe is forgotten at the bottom of the toy box. I’m used to having my son’s playmobil and lego spread around our house. I’m used to watching carefully to make sure my daughter isn’t eating it. Suddenly, there are two children playing with it, fighting over it. It’s easier now.
I see it in the morning. A few times a week I wake up and there is a little bit of daylight peeking through the curtains. I realize that no one needed me all night long. It’s easier now.
It really hits me at the park. “Come on, little sis!” my son urges. “I’ll hold your hand! Don’t fall! I’ve got you!” Two kids, playing together. It’s easier now.
Oh, we’ve still got some hold-outs. The diapers, soothers, fleece sleepers, rocking chair and crib will be around for a little while yet. I’m glad they don’t all leave at once. As the baby things exit the house, I silently say a little goodbye to each one. I remember the precious baby breaths and the marathon rocking sessions with little faces nestled into my neck. I think of all the ups and downs of our years knee-deep in babies.
Last weekend my husband and I both sat down on the couch at the same time while the children played together. Nobody needed us for a full ten minutes.
We’re a two-kid family. It’s easier now. It’s wild. It’s wonderful.
Then the get-her-to-go-back-to-sleep game begins. I turn on her lullaby CD, make sure she has her soother, two dolls and baby orca stuffie and change her diaper stealthily, all without making too much eye contact.
I know the jig is up if she starts yelling “milkel! milkel!” or “book! book!” If I hear either of those words I know it’s all over. She’s up. I’m up. I turn on the lights.
However… if I successfully change her with no shouts there is a tiny chance she will go back to sleep.
I bundle up an armful of toddler, dolls and “bankies” (blankets) and rock her in our rickety old chair. The chair is on its last legs but the reassuring creaks and cracks lull my little one back to calmness.
Her big blue eyes start to flutter a little and I gather her up, ease her into the crib and tiptoe out of the room. I close her door as quietly as possible then pause at my bedroom door and listen. Music to my ears is hearing my husband and five-year-old son breathing deeply in the big bed; still asleep. Most mornings I hear a chipper little boy voice asking, “Daddy? Is it time to wake up? Where’s Mommy? Can I go find Mommy?”
My favorite days are the days when all three are sleeping and there is a chance for a few minutes alone. I tiptoe down the stairs, quieter than Santa on Christmas Eve. The bottom step is the worst; no matter where I step, some days it creaks, other days it doesn’t. Once down, I sneak into the kitchen, careful not to turn on many lights.
I flick the switch on the coffee maker. Usually (because Murphy’s Law is always in effect around here) one of the children wakes up the minute the coffee begins to drip. Our coffee maker is so loud that it sounds exactly like the pot full of boiling eggs my grandma used to make when I slept over. If I’m lucky enough to pour some coffee, the three loud beeps signalling that the brewing is finished will most definitely wake someone up and the cry of “Momma! Momma!” begins.
If, by some miracle, no one wakes from the beeps I’ll either knock something over, step on a piece of Lego or crash into the table and break the silence.
The other day I was so eager for some alone time that I crammed my feet into my five-year-old son’s Incredible Hulk socks rather than go upstairs to find my slippers.
Chances are pretty low that the quiet will last longer than 10 or 15 minutes. I admit that I love it when one child wakes before the other. I pour them some milk and have some precious early morning cuddles with them before the sibling rivalry, hugs, yells and laughter begin for another day.
Do any of you get almost desperate for a few minutes of alone time? How do you find it?
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