Last week, The Hammer turned two!
The last two years have moved pretty quickly, but a lot of that is probably because I’ve spent most of that time sleepwalking half-awake through my life. The baby phase is over and the toddler phase is in full-swing, so if the terrible twos actually arrive on time (Detective Munch didn’t get terrible until he became a threenager), I’m about to be awoken very abruptly.
In order to save my sanity, I’ve started indulging in some second kid slacking.
For one thing, your lifestyle has already been changed by baby number one. You’re used to functioning on no sleep, you’re used to trying not to swear so much, you’re used to dragging the kid to restaurants and dealing with babysitters. It’s definitely “more” with a second – everything is more – but your mind is at least somewhat prepared to do it all again.
For another thing, the impact the new baby has on your home is mitigated by the fact that the place has been broken-in already. You probably still have a lot of the stuff you needed, and didn’t even know you needed, the first time. We had a five-year gap during which we weren’t even sure we’d go for another, and we still managed to hang onto the stroller, the crib, the high chair, countless clothes, and more.
Mostly, though, the novelty is gone! You’ve been through the newborn phase and the toddler phase already. You’ve experienced the fun firsts and you’ve survived the terrible twos. It’s old hat to you now! Maybe not as old as if you’ve had three or five or ten kids, and those first are still fun and the twos are still a garbage fire, but they’re not new anymore. Been there, done that, got the spit-up stained t-shirt.
That fact, and the fact that there is another kid around demanding your attention, are probably the two biggest factors that impact your parenting of the second kid. This time around, you’re definitely more chill and you’re probably more distracted, and that stuff is bound to impact the new kid’s personality, in only in the way that he’s forced to fend for himself more than his older sibling, whose arrival was a game-changing, priority-altering, life-exploding miracle.
The second kid is just more headache. And joy too! But mostly headache. Because not only does he spend most of his time screaming for attention, his older sibling does too. Because suddenly there’s less of it to go around. In order to save your sanity, it helps if you do a little second kid slacking.
A few years ago, just before he was born, I wrote about being curious to find out what The Hammer’s personality would be like, and how it would compare to his older brother’s. It’s still in the very early stages, but already some differences are manifesting themselves – more independence, less give AF – and some of them are likely being spurred on by our increasingly lax parenting.
Because, and I say this with love: WE DON’T GIVE A SHIT.
Adding another kid to the mix definitely brings more stress, but your experience as a parent helps limits your anxiety. You’re a veteran now, and while you’re always aware that the worst things can still happen, you’re much less worried about the small stuff. And that lack of worry is reflected in the way you don’t micro-manage kid number two. By now you’ve hopefully discovered that parents are overrated, that your kids are probably going to be fine, or at least not fine in the same way everyone’s kids are, and that you don’t need to lose your mind over every little thing.
You want to watch TV with your brother even though it’s way beyond your age range? Go ahead, just be quiet.
You want to eat some potato chips? Whatevs, just stop screaming.
You want to run around on the playground with your older brother and his friends even though it means you’re gonna get ping-ponged around like a pinball? Wake me when you need a cast.
You want to play violent games on the iPad? Knock yourself out, I’m gonna take a nap.
Obviously some of this may end up having negative long-term consequences, but in the now? It’s a win-win! Especially now that we’re at the point where we can send The Hammer off with Detective Munch and go back to sleep. Sure, this requires us to let a 7-year-old decide what’s best for his much younger brother, and that often means he gives him food and shows him things that are decidedly not best for him, but hey, if it buys us a little extra sleep, so be it. We’ll be better, more well-rested and patient parents when we’re awake!
I’m totally rationalizing away some poor parenting that could result in plenty of negative consequences down the line, but what do you expect? I was the third kid in my family. I’m lucky to be alive.