Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Well you did ask

People, friends of mine that have one child and are considering having another, ask me what it's like having two kids. Like my experience and opinion is going to make one bit of difference to their insane evolutionary drive to procreate repeatedly. But what the hell, I humour them anyway. I tell them about a heavy smoker I met many years ago. A psychologist, he told me he had never touched a cigarette in his life until such time as he got a job at an institute for the criminally insane, and by the time I met him, he was up to 40 a day. That anecdote pretty much sums up what having two children is like for me right now.

There are good days, days when the baby eats and sleeps well (he has reflux so these things are far from a given) and Julia happily fits in and around him and we do stuff together when he is asleep and she plays on her own when I am seeing to him. Time flies and before we know it Roberto walks in the door at 6pm to a relatively calm happy scene. We have dinner as a family, bath and put Julia to bed, and catch up on a bit of TV and time together before going to bed after the baby's next feed.

Then there are days, days which I fondly refer to as 'hell,' when, for example, I am nursing him and J is attempting some or other death defying stunt which she just happens to illustrate within an inch of her brother's small head. I ask her calmly and repeatedly to please refrain from whatever craziness she happens to be doing, and she continues and eventually I have to raise my voice. She starts to cry and yell, 'I DO NOT LIKE IT WHEN YOU SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT!,' and because I am attached by the skin of my breast to the mouth of a small and hungry locust, I am incapable of going over to her, cuddling her and explaining why I said what I said, and what it all means. And so she cries louder and harder.

At which point the the baby, distressed by the racket, detaches and starts to cry too - sucking in loads of air which is just great for his delicate digestive system. Still hungry but too upset and sore to latch on, I then have to get up and try and wind him and console him while J continues with her tantrum, and I try very hard not to feel resentful towards her, especially as I know where it's all coming from.

By the time Roberto walks in the door in the evening, I resemble Jack Nicholson hacking through the bathroom door in 'The Shining' - all wild eyed, crazy, and angry as a disturbed hornets nest because he has the audacity to need to pee and wash his hands before taking the increasingly heavy baby off of me that very second.

That evening, the baby has a rough time settling, J throws a tantrum because Roberto wants to bath her and not me, she struggles to go to sleep, meaning one of us is either holding the crying baby or seeing to her. Then the moment she does settle, around 10pm, we quickly tidy the house which has a blanket of toys just waiting to be trod on by a bare foot in the middle of the night, pack the dishwasher, and then wait for the baby to wake up to for his 10(ish) feed. And then hope and pray he settles quickly and sleeps well between that and the 2am and 6am feeds. Which can often be more like 11pm, 2am, 4am and 7am feeds, with lots of bleary-eyed walking in between

Times like this and I become strangely envious of a friend of ours's recent solo trip to Antarctica to bird watch. I hate cold places and have zero interest in bird watching, but boy does that idea suddenly seem like heaven to me.

Oh, and then, because things aren't hard enough, thrown in for good measure is the guilt factor. I feel tremendously bad about the fact that I spend an increasing amount of time telling J off. I'm not a bossy sort of person and giving orders and being an authority figure has never been my thing. Probably one of the reasons I'm repeatedly walked over by people who work for us, but there you have it. So to have to tell someone what to do and sometimes say, 'You cannot do this or that, because I said so and I know better,' feels very strange and somehow wrong as it leaves my mouth. What, I sometimes ask myself, makes me think I know what is better for J then she herself? Yep, I know, the teenage years are going to be fun.

I don't believe in the term 'naughty'. I think it's a lazy blanket term which doesn't address the complex array of behaviours which little people frequently display. To know your child and understand that more often than not they act out because of x, y, or z means you can address the issue at hand and hopefully nip it in the bud or at the very least ensure that the next time it happens know where it's coming from. This seems a lot more productive and far less ambiguous to me than labelling something or a child as 'naughty.'

Knowing this however, still doesn't make it easier. Like, for example, when they put sandwich bags over their heads and call our 'Look at me' cheerfully, your heart stopping as you respond with 'Jesus Christ!' resulting in peals of laughter from said little person. Or when they drink the bath water, drag your pashmina through the indoor flower bed (damn bloody ultra modern houses and their bloody indoor flower beds), or step off the potty after a particularly messy poo and come and sit on the rented suede sofas (which come with the rented house) without wiping their bottoms. Or attempt to touch the face of their newborn brother with the hand that's been fiddling with that unwiped little backside.

All of this makes me sound like the most inattentive mother, but with two, one of which is a babe in arms who requires almost round the clock carrying because lying down means gross discomfort, I simply cannot be there all the time to see what J is getting up to. And so she sometimes does this crazy shit, I try (and fail) to reason with her which means I get angry and tell her off, she gets upset, and so and so and so.

But it's not all bad. We have the weekends, when Roberto is around, and we take the kids to breakfast and the zoo and the park, and the whole thing, this family thing, makes sense. When J says to me as I'm tucking her in at night, 'Sometimes I feel left out when you are trying to nurse Isaac,' or 'I love spending time with you Mummy,' or 'I love you the most after playtime when it's time for bed,' and I respond with my usual refrain (much to her delight), 'Ah, but I love you all ALL of the time.'

And then, much later in the evening, when both of the children are clean, bathed, and safely tucked into their little beds, we laugh and smile during those precious eight minutes and thirty seconds of free time, and agree how lucky we are and how much we have to be thankful for. And indeed we do.

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