Right now, in this stretch of days, my life is particularly charmed. I'm in my early thirties, in a beautiful city, married to a hardworking guy who never has so much school or work to do that he cannot put his kids to bed every night. And those kids - I'm the center of their world, and we all know how fleeting that will be.
It's easy to feel this way because Jack and Molly are so fun right now. Oh, the snotbrat tendencies are always on full display, but yesterday it was practically noon before I had to break up a fight. I sat at the kitchen table in my bathrobe, trolling the internet, making a grocery list, picking at my breakfast when I realized: hey! No one's screamed in at LEAST half an hour. I padded into Jack's room and eavesdropped on a very intense conversation about how Molly was going to be the mommy and Jack was going to be the daddy and this big baby was going to go night night.
You've asked me how different it is, now that I have two toddlers instead of two babies. I think back to two babies and I can't remember. I remember having one baby and being pregnant with another, which I am still sure is one of the worst situations in which to find yourself. So bad that every second-time mother surely deserves a live-in nanny, or a personal assistant at the very least.
Then I remember two babies and thinking it was a breeze - because the universe has seen fit to give me two shockingly easy babies - until about 8 weeks in, I think, when Jack seemed to figure out he was no longer totally in charge. That's when my discipline angst began in earnest. On and on and on and how long did it take me to figure out he might just be Reacting?
There was the constant Touching - one baby breastfeeding, the other needing to be rocked to sleep. Holding them both. Carrying them both. Constant physical neediness.
And then what I remember is sleep. Or the lack of it, to be more precise. Molly had her frat boy schedule, which wouldn't have been so terrible except that Jack was waking up at six. And she was sleeping in our room which meant no lights on, ever, until we moved her into the closet. And at seven months we finally tried moving her into Jack's room and everyone knows how THAT went. Naps were impossible until I set up the pack 'n play in our room and separated them. Bedtime was impossible, until we started putting her down in the pack 'n play at night and moving her when both kids were finally asleep.
Except for isolated scenarios here and there it didn't seem that hard. You have to realize I'm a Positive Thinker to an annoying degree. I had easy babies. I also happen to be the oldest of five children born in five years. You think two under two is bad - my mom had five under five. How dare I feel sorry for me!
But now... NOW? Did you see the part where I sat around in my bathrobe reading the internet until NOON?
There is fighting (SO MUCH FIGHTING) and silliness and running around all crazypants and two car seats to buckle and picky eating and fighting and refusing to get dressed and jumping off furniture and talking back and potty training and sitting in the corner. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by my discipline failures, my indecision with preschools and playgroups, or often just getting out of the house. The laundry, the dishes, the fatigue, the Rage, the toys in every stinking corner of my house - those things didn't go away. Those things might even be worse.
But my kids, for right now, are best friends. They are two peas in a barely coherent pod. Molly seems a bit lost without Jack when he's at preschool; Jack mopes around waiting for Molly to wake up from her nap. My presence is required to have a good time. Jack's got fifteen months and three weeks on his sister, and you can tell when it's time to play a computer game or count or tell a story or do a somersault or fix a puzzle. But Molly soaks it all in, imitates his every move. They do it all together.
Maybe it didn't seem difficult to me while I was in it, but even I can tell everything is easier now. They're just not babies anymore. I don't worry about carting food and diapers around. They go up and down stairs by themselves. They PLAY by themselves, in rooms I am not IN. They have conversations with me, they give me hugs, they shriek in play-fright when I appear in Jack's room and run screaming into the living room all "RUN, MOLLY! IT'S MOMMY ROBOT! AAAAUUGGGHHH!"
They can eat dinner with us. They go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. Molly still naps and it's clear Quiet Time is a work in progress, but at least the child who is supposed to be napping isn't being kept awake. Oh, and playgrounds - they can PLAY on playgrounds! Without me trying to split myself in two, the better to catch each one when they inevitably fall off the tall slide. We hardly ever use the stroller anymore. I stuff snacks into my purse instead of a diaper bag. They can play in our backyard all on their own. They can take off their own shoes.
The schedule consists of waking up, a nap for the little one around one, and bedtime at eight. That's it. That's IT! And if they fall asleep in the car? Oh well! Did I ever dream I'd be able to say THAT? I was so SO rigid about schedules when they were little. A missed nap would ruin my entire day. My world revolved around getting them to sleep at the same time every afternoon - it was my personal holy grail. But little by little I'm realizing the kids are more flexible, that Molly doesn't flip out like Jack if she doesn't get enough sleep, that we CAN cut nap time short to fit in a doctor appointment, that we can stay out a little longer or leave a little later, that sometimes we can eat lunch in the car. Sometimes I'll catch myself saying, "Well, we can't do that because Molly has to go down at one" or trying to work some family event around not falling asleep in the car, and then it dawns on me, repeatedly, that fudging the schedule here and there does not produce the stressful drama it used to. We can swing it.
Some things are harder (babies don't talk back to you) but so much of it is easier. I feel like me. I worked off the baby weight. I sleep through most nights. My body is mine. They can do more. WE can do more.
I didn't INTEND to sit around in my bathrobe all day, but I was tired and the kids were happy playing with each other and it was a peaceful, uneventful, completely unproductive, fabulous and wonderful day. I watched Jack play pretend preschool with his stuffed animals during nap time, and Molly "read" stories to me tonight while Phillip took a video with his phone. My bedtime hugs and kisses were huge, they call me "the best Mommy" and who cares about school and work drama and preschool tuition and the housing market and the five pounds of Christmas cookie weight I can't lose? It's a charmed life.