It’s pretty much a given that when you go from caring for one child to caring for two, life will get more complicated. No one I know is under the impression that life will be easier or even the same level of hard when they are preparing to welcome their second child to the family. What most people don’t realize, though, is that for a lot of families (ours included), adding the second child more than doubles the work load. It doesn’t make mathematical sense — you’d think that going from one kids to two simply doubles the amount of kid-related work you must do. That’s true, but there’s so much more to parenting more than one child than just doing twice the laundry and kissing twice the boo-boos. For me, there are three areas that have required me to spend significant amounts of extra time and energy on parenting, which simply didn’t exist when I was parenting just one child.
I love watching Zinashi and Elvie’s relationship blossom; they truly adore one another, and for the most part, they get along well. But sometimes Zinashi does something that’s a little dangerous with Elvie, or Elvie will pull Zinashi’s hair without realizing what she’s doing, and pretty soon there are tears and, if Zinashi is the instigator, excuses and explanations. It can take awhile to smooth over what has occurred, to extract an I’m sorry or extract chubby little fingers from curls. I’m pretty sure if we owned a talking bird, it would constantly say, “GENTLE! GENTLE! GENTLE!” Come to think of it, maybe we should get one, and it could offer the reminder so I could save my breath.
There are also tears when both children need something, and I have to choose who gets their need met first. It’s parenting triage, and the child most likely to suffer harm from their situation gets attention first. I’ll be honest that Elvie ends up getting her needs met first the most often. She’s not been with us long enough to understand that if she cries, her needs will be met, so I try to act as quickly as possible to get her what she needs and stave off any rising panic. Zinashi understands that Elvie spent the first months of her life hungry and having to wait to get all her needs met, but it is still hard for her to remember that when she really needs something, too, and I am attending to Elvie first. When I can, I try to help Zinashi first, but those opportunities just don’t present themselves as often as the opportunities for Zinashi to practice her patience skills. Consoling the child who did not get their needs met first takes significant time out of our day.
Finally, there is simply more time spent helping our first child adjust. When we brought Elvie into our lives, we knew that we would have to do extra work to help Zinashi transition, and that is proving too be true. She is such a good girl and a marvelous helper, but she’s also a five-year-old who was an only child for the past two years. In addition, she’s recognized that she can get away with some things temporarily while I am busy with the baby, and that means that when I discover the transgression (which usually involves some sort of mess), we’ve got to fix what’s gone wrong and discuss why it wasn’t a good idea. Depending on what level of mess or broken item has occurred, it might take ten minutes to resolve the situation, or it might take an hour. Either way, it takes some time and a lot of self-control on my part to remember that she is a kid, and this is what most kids do when given the opportunity.
Eventually, I know that some of these things will get better. Others, I’ve heard, will get worse, but I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that. Whatever the case may be, both our girls are worth all the work we do, and seeing them together more than makes up for whatever challenges may arise.
More of Finding Magnolia on Babble:
With Thanks to Elvie for Finally Letting Me Sleep Longer Than an Hour at a Time
Finding My New Mom-of-Two Personal Normal
Mourning the Adoption Experience I Hoped I’d Have, Which Didn’t Happen