A Toddler & A Baby: Best Friends Forever
And then you had your first kid, and you ended up eating at least 80 percent of those words - at least.
But then there's that last 20 percent left over. The things you said you'd never do, and you actually didn't do them. You held tight to your convictions and stood strong when you said you'd never give your kid a cookie, or gluten or sugar or whatever; that you'd never co-sleep; or that you'd never introduce the pacifier before 5 weeks, and even then only in the most dire of circumstances.
You're all like, "Look at me, look at me! Being a mom isn't that hard! My kid was sugar-free for the first year of his life!"
But then, oh ho hum, baby number two graces you with their presence and wham, bam, that 20 percent that holds all your pride as a parent?
Gone like the wind.
Sugar? Sure, you're only five months old and haven't had any solids yet, but I see you drooling at the sight of the ice cream in your big brother's hand. Here, have a taste baby. Good, isn't it?
Co-sleeping? Heck yes. You are soft and warm and I am tired. Why wouldn't I do this? Plus I can't have baby making a peep and risk waking the toddler-dragon in the next room.
Pacifier? ALL DAY, EVERY DAY IS A DIRE CIRCUMSTANCE. Nurse, baby is five hours old, I need that pacifier, STAT.
Life with a baby and a toddler is like being a Stretch Armstrong doll in the hands of two six year olds. Because as much as you want to be, you CANNOT BE ALL THINGS TO ALL TINY PEOPLE.
Your baby cries for food, let's see, about 17.5 billion times a day. I think that's pretty accurate. And your toddler does too, they've just managed to turn that cry into a whine, mixed with a few words, like chips and cheese and raisins and cheerios. Why can't they ever ask for veggies? Like, just once, ask for broccoli and I would give it to him in a heartbeat!!
All your time and attention is split. It can be easy to ignore the baby, because the baby can't cling to your leg and force you to drag all 32 pounds of them as you try to prepare dinner, or do laundry, or go to the bathroom. But you don't want to give your baby the shaft just because they happened to be second in the birth order, so you spend your days trying to involve them and the toddler in everything you do; camped out by baby's bouncer, racing cars around her head along with your toddler, or trying to teach your toddler to tickle the baby - gently, NO, NOT THE EYES AGAIN!
It never really works.
You try to leave the house at least once a day, but usually it just ends with a huge meltdown. Maybe it's the toddler because you brought his blue car and not his orange car. Or the baby wakes early from their nap and is crying and rooting around for food when you just fed them an hour ago. Or maybe it's you because you can't for the life of you figure out how to fit all the groceries you need in a shopping cart that's filled with a carseat and a toddler. LIKE, SOMEONE ON SHARK TANK JUST INVENT A NEW SHOPPING CART - I GOT MONEY TO SPEND.
You're working on implementing a schedule, but it's pretty much impossible with a newborn that thinks day is night and night is day, and a toddler that thinks it's The Best Game Ever to hear how loud his voice can get when a room is dark and quiet and warm and preferably a baby is sleeping in it.
Your day pretty much looks like this: Get up and feed the baby. Feed the toddler. Get the baby down for a nap, feed the toddler, feed the baby, nap the baby, feed the toddler, feed the baby. Baby down for a nap. And FINALLY ... Toddler down for a nap.
You feel real good about yourself at this point, the only sound you hear is the buzz of two sound machines. You've made it through over half the day without dad. And I mean, you kept two babies alive until Double Nap Time! You're more inspirational than Oprah! More of a fighter than Katniss Everdeen! More brilliant than Hermione Granger!
You run and brush your teeth for the first time that day, put your hair into a more presentable top knot and unload the dishwasher.
15 minutes later ...
The baby's awake.
25 more minutes later ...
The toddler's awake.
All hope is lost.
WHEN WILL DAD BE HOME?
It's hard to have a baby and a toddler. You're up, you're down, you're needed here, there and everywhere. It can feel like you're just a plain hot mess all day and you can't keep anyone happy for more than 10 minutes.
Oh, but then.
Out of the corner of your eye, while you're picking the pb&j up off the floor for for a little mid-afternoon snack for yourself, you see it.
Your toddler reaches out to hold your baby's hand and says, "Sister!" And then he leans down and kisses that little newborn head.
You melt into a puddle on the floor right next to that pb&j. Everything that was ever hard or frustrating of difficult from the day fades away until you have no more memory of it and that moment of love is all you can remember.
And then you start to notice more things:
Your toddler attempting to share their toys with the baby, their "friend."
Your baby smiling as the toddler shows them their stuffed monkey.
Your toddler reminding you that, "Baby comes too?" as you're packing up the car.
Your baby giggling when the toddler trips over his own feet.
Your toddler requesting baby sits, "Righ' here," as he points to the spot right next to him on the couch.
Your baby lighting up and cooing every time the toddler passes in front of their blurry, terrible vision.
Your toddler asking to hold baby and as they do, they couldn't look more proud even though the baby is slumped in their lap with their neck cranked at what seems to be an impossible, and definitely uncomfortable angle. The toddler is putting absolutely no effort into it or providing any support, but still. They are willingly, happily holding the baby.
And each time this happens, you, you become a mess of sappy, nostalgic tenderness over the love they show each other that ---- can't even.
It lasts for just a moment and quickly it passes, morphing into diapers and crumbs and needs and needs and needs.
There are so many moments with a toddler and a baby when you just want to throw in the towel, wave the white flag and say, I can't fix this. I can't make you both happy. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO. It can be so overwhelming when both kids are crying, the house looks like a primary-colored bomb went off in it and you just want a moment of peace.
But then there are those other, bright, promising moments when you see the magic. When time stops and in that moment you are so thankful for two kids that love each other. Needy kids that love each other, yes. But what matters is they love each other.
In those moments you know, you just know it's going to be awesome to watch them grow up together. You pray they'll always remember and keep this connection, this blood bond. You imagine them playing together a year from now, getting on the bus for school together in a few more years, and driving to get ice cream after a game in high school. You see them tease each other through college, stand and dance in each other's weddings and hold each other's babies.
This having your kids close together in age thing, it's good. It's worth it. And if you work it right, encourage it and pray them through it, hopefully, just hopefully they'll end up just as good of friends as they started out under your watch, as a toddler and a baby.
It can be easy to feel alone in this. That you are the only one overwhelmed and strung out. That you are the only one that is counting down the minutes until dad gets home and even then you just can't quite wind down.
But remember, we're together in this. All the moms, no matter the number or spread of their kids, we're all fighting for the same thing: A family that loves each other, sticks together and has each other's backs. And this dirty-trench work we're doing, it's worth it for the long haul. This is just the beginning. They will become less needy in time. But right now, the need is good. The need is working itself out. The need is building a foundation for that very thing we're fighting for.
So stick those magic-moments in your back pocket and remember what they say, the days are long but the years are short. Even just two years into this parenting gig I know they are right. That the day they grow up and leave my nest, I'll give anything to have them back in my arms as my chubby-cheeked toddler and my chubby-thighed baby. The very best I can hope and pray for is they leave it the same way they came into it, loving each other and calling the other their friend.
That, and maybe learning some manners and not asking for food quite so much.
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