Dear Dad of a toddler and a newborn,
Congratulations on the birth of your second child! Your life has just changed immensely. I’m sure you assumed that a second child would be no big deal. You’ve already done this, right? Sure, there will be some sleepless nights but you’re a pro now, aren’t you?
When my husband and I were expecting our second child, someone told me that the first child is hardest on the mom but the second child is hardest on the dad. Even if dad is a fabulous supporter, the first baby is mom’s 24 hour responsibility. Especially if she is breastfeeding, mom is the one who is up for hours and hours in the night and mom is (typically) the one responsible for more of the first baby’s care.
When the second baby is born, dad must step up to the plate. Mom is very busy with the newborn so when dad is home, he’s on toddler duty. I’m lucky to have a stellar husband who quickly upped his game when our daughter came along. I have friends who weren’t so lucky.
So dad, here’s a simple true or false quiz to enlighten you on your new role:
True or False: It’s Saturday afternoon and the baby is sleeping so you can take a nap. FALSE. There is still a rambunctious toddler in the house who doesn’t nap and needs entertaining, feeding, wiping and horsey rides.
True or False: You get home from work and decide to put your feet up and check the scores. FALSE. Now that there are two children and your wife is probably breastfeeding, she has hardly sat down all day and she got three hours of sleep last night. Download some recipe apps on your iPhone or dial-up Dominos…you are on dinner duty!
True or False: You come in from a busy Sunday out with the family and head to your man cave for a little time to recharge. FALSE. Your wife has been out all day too and has a hungry baby and a hungry toddler in her arms. Someone needs to make supper and someone needs to change and watch the kiddies. Take your pick. Choose kid-duty once in a while because cooking dinner is the easy job. The man cave must wait.
True or False: It’s finally bedtime and both kids are tucked in. Surely now it’s time for you to relax for a few hours with Netflix or a game on your laptop. FALSE. Sure, it’s worth a try. Get settled in for some much-needed R&R. But don’t forget that your partner needs some too. Earn huge brownie points by being the first to jump up when the cry comes through the baby monitor. Jump fast because now that there’s two kids, the baby will wake the toddler. And then the toddler will wake the baby.
True or False: You made a huge mistake having a second child. FALSE. Don’t worry, your life won’t feel this crazy forever. Things will lighten up in two years or so when your children start playing together. But for now, roll up your sleeves and cuddle those babies. You won’t regret it and your wife will love you even more.
Having just survived the terrible twos for a second time, I’ve had plenty of advice from random strangers about how to raise my toddlers. Don’t get me wrong, there have also been many kind people in the grocery store line-up who have sent an encouraging smile my way mid-tantrum. I’ve learned to develop a thick skin for the people who take it upon themselves to give me their “helpful” unsolicited advice. I polled my Facebook friends to see if they had similar experiences.
Here are some of the best (worst) things my friends and I have heard mid-tantrum:
- “My children didn’t do that. I had a 2-year-old AND newborn twins.”
- “My grandchildren don’t do that. And there’s four of them. And my daughter home schools them.”
- “Wow! He’s really upset!”
- “You should really be more consistent. That would nip this in the bud.”
- “Can I give him a piece of candy?”
- “Keep your cool.”
- “Get that kid to shut the hell up!”
- “She has a very loud scream.”
- “What a shame. He’s so cute.”
- “You are horrible parents for not buying your kid that toy.”
- “Oh my heavens!” (said with a patronizing, disgusted look)
- A friend’s toddler was screaming near a hotel elevator. A woman thought my friend and her husband were abducting their own child. My friends had to scream and get help from strangers to restrain the (elderly) woman who was convinced they were kidnappers!
So what would be helpful for a parent who’s dealing with a screaming child in public? How about:
*An empathetic smile
*”That is a tough age.”
*”Can I help carry your groceries?”
One by one we can support other parents and drown out the dreaded, unhelpful grocery store comments!
Leave your best “things people say when my toddler is screaming” in the comments below. Soldier on, mommas.
The following chart appeared on my Facebook feed this morning. Take a look and carefully read the appropriate chores for 2-3 year olds. What helpful suggestions! Don’t forget to read below for some added tips.
My 2.5 year old loves to “help” too. Her version is slightly different. It goes more like this:
Throw toys toward toy box. Decide that’s no fun and dump toy box out instead.
- One by one, remove books from shelf. Make a tower out of them. Stand on the tower to reach books from higher shelves. Fall over and scream.
- Remove brother’s dirty underwear from laundry hamper and place on head. Dance around the house and sing, “Underwear, underwear, underwear on my head!”
- Collect all the full trash baskets from around the house. Use them to make a tower, with each basket upside down, of course.
- Carry firewood around the backyard. Find some nails and a hammer and start banging. Get a splinter, hammer your fingers and cry.
- Remove all clean wash cloths from the cupboard. Unfold them. Use each one to tuck a dolly to sleep on the bathroom floor.
- Help clear the table after supper. Place each dirty utensil carefully back into the utensil drawer. Throw plates onto the counter.
- Fetch 17 diapers and a package of baby wipes. Wipe each of your older brother’s plastic super heroes’ bottoms with four baby wipes and attempt to diaper each one. (I don’t make this stuff up!)
- Find a water sprayer and some of mommy’s good towels. Drench the baseboards and big picture window until they are dripping with water. Wipe with a white towel. Repeat.
This picture reminds me of the time my daughter “helped” me clean the bathroom:
While roaming the aisles of a big-box toy store the other day, I realized that my 18 month old daughter could care less about 99% of the stuff for sale. I know what she wants for Christmas and it’s not a dolly that sits on the toilet or a pink plastic household appliance. Here’s a list of what every toddler really wants to see under the tree:
- A Kleenex box. The biggest one you can find, with the cardboard piece already ripped off the top. Free reign to pull the tissues out when she pleases, shred into tiny pieces and fling around the house.
- A box of Christmas oranges to dump, line up and move in and out of the box to her heart’s content.
- A toothbrush to chew as much as she wants, swirl in the toilet and poke her big brother with.
- Her own roll of tape. She can rip the tape out over and over with no one saying, “Give it back to mommy, please. Give it back to mommy” and prying it out of her tiny hands. A roll of wrapping paper from the dollar store will also go over well.
- A family sized box of rice to spread over every room of the house, just for fun. She already knows how to do this. She learned it last week in Sunday School.
- A Lego set for her to step on and throw against the wall while laughing with glee.
- An extra $10 to put towards the water bill so she can play at the kitchen sink and yell, “water! water!” as she pours, stirs and splashes joyfully.
- An expensive fabric angel decoration to hug and kiss with spaghetti-sauce-stained hands & face.
- An old plate to take to the cement floor in the garage, lift high over her head, and smash to smithereens.
Ah…the perfect Christmas.
*If you’ve been following me for over a year, you will recognize this post from last Christmas. I can’t resist posting it again this week.
The minute I saw the subject for this week’s weekly photo challenge I knew I had just taken a perfect picture for it. It’s a little blurry but captures the excitement that’s going on in our house now. Ages 2 and 5, my children are at the ideal age to revel in the magic of Christmas. Our neighbours had their lights up early this year, in mid-November, and my son insisted we follow suit ASAP. Of course one string of lights wasn’t enough; we had to stretch out all the lights we could find all around our family room. My daughter (almost 2.5) was right in on it this year. My son is the perfect teacher, bringing her up to snuff on all that is important about preparing for Christmas.
Our local pool has $3 swimming for families on Saturday afternoon. Yesterday was a dreary day, too cool for the park, so we headed to the pool with every other family from our neighbourhood. I love family swim time. I also hate it with a vengeance. Why, you ask?
- The hair on the changing room floor. It was beyond disgusting. That floor hadn’t been cleaned since last Tuesday. It was a land mine of hair. I gave up trying to find clean patches to step on and resigned myself to coming home with some deadly disease plastered to the bottom of my feet. On the flip side, I love that my bathroom floor looks pristine and practically magazine-worthy in comparison.
- The shivering, whining waiting to get into a family change room. About eight tiny change rooms lined up down a long, narrow, floor-hair infested hallway. We waited and waited for a door to open up so we could change into our suits. It reminded me of a game-show where you don’t know which door is going to open next. We were competing for an open door with ten other families so every time a door opened, the mothers nervously glanced at each other, evaluating which family had been waiting the longest for a room. I was flabbergasted when a door finally opened and out came mom, dad, little girl, other little girl, little boy…they just kept coming, like people climbing out of a Volkswagen beetle in the commercial. Just when I thought it was safe to enter, grandma came out too. That group took “family change room” seriously I guess. On the bright side, the change room made the bathroom in our 1966 home seem huge in comparison. I won’t complain anymore when our whole family is clamouring in there together in the mornings.
- The screaming. Release one hundred kids from the confines of home and school and chaos ensues. Children were shouting, splashing and thrashing around. A week’s worth of forced-quietness at school or daycare was unleashed in two hours of madness. Dads weren’t dads anymore; they were hungry sharks. Moms let go of the rules and leaned back into the water to breathe, if only for a moment. The look on my own children’s faces was pure joy. I’ll put up with the shrieking and yelling any day to see my two in such bliss. They were so worn out when we got home that the bickering and picking and poking at each other disappeared, for a few hours at least.
- The pee in the baby pool. Baby pools scare me. Does anyone else remember the signs at hotel pools in the 80s that said, “This is our OOL. Notice there is no P in it?” Great idea except babies can’t read. Both my children bee-lined for the baby pool, even though I tried to convince them otherwise. My two-year-old daughter decided that she was very, very thirsty. She defiantly scooped up that pee-water and drank it by the handful. Every time I asked her to stop she gave me an evil grin and lapped up even more. But really, aren’t I always trying to get my children to drink more water? Gag.
- The post-swim sleep. As a parent of young ones, life is all about sleep. Our days and activities are planned around naps and bedtime with one goal in mind: getting our children to sleep as much as possible. After our wild weekend swim, both children slept. My son, typically ready to rise and shine at 5:00, slept in until practically noon. That’s what 6:15 feels like when you are used to 5:00. I thought my daughter must have been in a coma, as we didn’t hear a peep from her until after 7:00.
We’ll be there next weekend so I hope to see you too. First I need to make a quick stop at Target for a family pack of flip-flops. 😉
Late at night when the house is still enough to hear the whirring of the refrigerator and the buzz of the odd car on the road beyond the high trees, there is a stirring. The groaning of a mattress spring, the creak of small feet on hardwood and the click of a door are hardly noticeable to anyone unfortunate enough to be awake in the late, late hours of the night.
The hasty thump thump of small steps on the carpeted hallway flee the horrendous monsters under the bed; monsters now locked in the bedroom with no one to frighten.
The door pushes open and a small shadowy pyjama-clad figure bursts in quietly. He is stealthy. His heart is racing. He is holding his breath. The monsters have lost their power with his arrival. He is safe.
He creeps up on the Big Bed, his stuffed doggie clutched in his right hand. He climbs up to the special pillow in the middle. Momma on one side, Daddy on the other, he slides his feet down into the comforting warmth of his safe place. His small hand reaches over to rest on my cheek and his doggie tucks under his chin. He exhales and shuts his eyes, asleep in seconds.
We followed all the rules when he was a baby. “Train him to sleep in his crib, in his own room” the book said. “Don’t let him get used to sleeping with you” the expert warned. He slept like a darn by himself and loved his own bed dearly, until he turned three and the monsters of his vivid imagination took over. The bedtime wails of his newborn sister didn’t help.
Now he is five and a half and eyebrows rise when I mention our little visitor who enters in the darkest hours of the night. A few years of parenting under my belt and I don’t care what others think. He is young and he is afraid. He is my boy and I am his momma.
I’m sure our nighttime ninja will be gone as swiftly as he came, older and stronger and independent. I won’t miss the odd kick in my side, arm flung across my ear and 5:30 wake ups. I know I’ll miss the running steps in the hall and the quiet, grateful hand on my cheek.
This week we are moving for the fourth time in four years. You can imagine how that’s going. Just for fun, I wanted to update and re-post some Murphy’s laws I wrote last year about packing with young children. When I wrote the original post I had about 17 followers for my blog. Now I have a few more than that so here goes:
1. Unless you immediately seal up a box, your toddler and preschooler will unpack as fast as you pack.
2.You’ll pack up the rarely-played-with toys first. The very next day your child will demand to see those toys, even though he or she hasn’t touched them since last Christmas.
3. As you prepare your old house for a showing, your 4-year-old will spill a box of Cheerios and half a jug of milk on the kitchen floor. Your toddler will walk through all of this, slip, fall and start screaming just as you hear the realtor’s key in the front door.
4. The biggest box will become a spaceship (last year) or a pirate ship (this year).
5. Your children will each try out the tape gun and permanent marker. Hide the utility knife or they will try that too.*
6. At least once, you will leave a pink bra and some Buzz Lightyear underwear on the bathroom floor during a showing.
*Update: Yesterday my husband set up our big white screen (from our movie projector) to sell to a guy. Quick as a wink, my two-year-old daughter grabbed the black marker and scribbled a beautiful picture… ALL OVER THE WHITE SCREEN.
I promise you, I don’t make this stuff up. Stay tuned for an updated “Moving With Young Children” later this week.