I remember when my older child was maybe nine or ten months old. My husband was watching her, and I was drinking wine with my girlfriends (because I could drink wine again! Exciting!). Feeling heady with the wine and with a blissful rush of love for my expanded family, I was waxing sentimental about how great it was to have a baby that age.
"Do you think you'll have another?" one of my girlfriends asked.
"Oh yes!" I said with absolute confidence. By this point, I was past the early "what-the-hell-am-I-doing?" feeling and, at times, terror that I was screwing everything up. Past the 2 a.m. feedings and long sleepless nights. Past the struggling to breastfeed and the guilt at eventually giving it up. We had a routine that worked, she was sleeping and eating well, she was meeting all of the first year milestones. Okay, maybe I hadn't figured out all of the nuances of parenting yet, but I was getting there, I thought. I had a handle on it.
And then, when she was just over two years old, we had baby No. 2. And everything changed.
You know intuitively that having more than one child must be more challenging than having one. After all, there are only so many hours in a day, and as a parent, you only have so much energy. But what you don't realize is, when your kids are little, it's not just harder, it's exponentially harder.
For me, at least, the transition from one child to two was a real shock. Balancing the needs and demands of a toddler with the competing demands of a breastfeeding newborn was tough, and I felt someone was always losing out. As the second baby got older, their interactions were mostly competing for attention (usually mine) and fighting over toys.
That still happens, of course. But now my girls are two and four, and I can see the dynamic shifting again.
As I write this blog post, they're sitting on the couch side by side watching Treehouse. And this morning, when I went to take them downstairs for breakfast, they were both sitting on the floor in my older daughter's room, looking at books together.
It's possible now for my husband and I to have 15 minutes after dinner to just relax as they play together in the family room, before someone inevitably steals someone else's toy and causes a meltdown. They're still pretty constant—Can I have some milk? Where's my puppy? She's not sharing!—but we can leave them to their own devices for a while without always having to entertain them.
When we decided to have two kids, two years apart, we hoped they'd become close. We hoped they'd be good friends. Realistically, who knows what kind of relationship they'll develop? But from a parent's perspective, there are so many lovely things about having two.
Watching them clown around, the older one pretending to fall over and making the other one giggle. Listening to them sing songs together in the backseat of the car on road trips. Seeing my older daughter, who is learning to read, try to read a story to her baby sister.
Like all siblings, they fight and compete, and it's still hard to balance their needs. I know sometimes my older child loses out because her younger sister, at two, is still pretty dependent.
But I can see glimmers of a future where they're more self-sufficient—and, I hope, more reliant on each other. And I can't imagine a world, or my family, without them both.