Thursday, March 03, 2011

a balancing act

Tuesday was a bit of a rough day.  Quinn was being pretty high-demand, which meant having to tell Donovan "no" over and over... "Sorry, I can't play cars with you right now..." "Sorry, I can't read you a book..." "Sorry, sweetie, I can't get you a snack right now, give me a few minutes..."  We had two synchronized meltdowns, with both kids in tears at the same time and me unsure of what to even do.  Then it was nap time, and D asked me to read him The Lorax (which is, you know, kind of a long story).  I suggested reading only part of it, because Quinn was already starting to fuss.  But D got upset (understandably) and insisted on reading the whole story, and I just couldn't tell him no yet again.

So I laid Quinn down in his bed (there was no way I would've been able to hold him and read the book at the same time), shut the door, and listened to him cry as I quickly read through The Lorax with Donovan.  By the time I got back to Quinn, he'd finally settled down and even, just then, fallen asleep.  And I, of course, felt awful.

Parenting two kids, I'm finding out, is a constant balancing act.  It feels like someone is always getting their needs or wants ignored, pushed aside, waiting for "later."  And right now at least, almost 99% of the time that "someone" is Donovan.  Why? Because he's older.  He can understand the situation.  He can understand that when I ask him to wait 5 minutes for me to get him a snack, that I will (eventually, probably) get to him.  Quinn doesn't even yet understand that I continue to exist while not in his line of sight.  And, Donovan is patient.  He has been incredibly patient, able to wait his turn and occupy himself with his toys (and, when needed, a DVD) while I take care of his more demanding, zero-patience baby brother.  That he has been so patient and understanding is wonderful, and also a curse at it means he does get ignored so much more of the time.  If he were more demanding himself, I'd probably split my time more evenly ("the squeaky wheel" and all that jazz).  I worry that all this wears on D, that one of these days he'll snap or feel resentful of his brother who takes up so much of Mommy's time.

Over the past year or 2 I've been more drawn to the "Attachment Parenting" style of parenting, which, at its core, is about responding to your child's needs as much as possible.  That was easy enough to do with one child. I don't know how to do it with two.  I figure it'll get easier when they're both a little older, when they're both a bit more independent, when Zach and I can take the kids out individually on "dates"for more one-on-one time, etc.  But then again... will it?  I hear parents of 2 (or more) older kids and they seem to still have a lot of the same struggles, in slightly different but perhaps even more complicated ways-- multiple children who each have very different desires that each need to happen at the same time.  I guess at least once Donovan starts preschool there will be that much less time that I have them both to myself, which will help matters, too.

I think I hear Quinn, guess nap time's over....

6 comments:

  1. Thats the thing about attachment parenting, it sounds like such a great thing to do for 1 kid but once there is more than one it seems like setting you up for failure because you simply can't be in 2 places/doing 2 things at once.

    I guess I would console myself with the fact that many of us were raised in 2+ kid families and we turned out just fine, I have no memories of being ignored or long lasting trauma from having had a little brother a few years younger than myself

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  2. At story time, I frequently will lie on the floor on my side to let Ellowyn nurse while I read to Mira, who sits near my head and holds the book for me. It works really well. Just something you could try the next time you are in that situation... if you think it will work for you.

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  3. The great thing about attachment parenting is that you can make it what it needs to be to fit your family. In their book, the Sears say this over & over again. They say, here is what we did and here is what other parents we know did and you can make your own model as long as it is based on being as responsive as you can based upon your circumstances.

    For instance, due to the adoptions (and the health reasons that led to us adopting), I was unable to breastfeed. Most people would consider that the cornerstone to attachment parenting. The Sears even devote an entire chapter to that alone. However, I was still able to use the tips in their book to feed my children the attachment parenting way through holding them close, giving them lots of direct eye contact and so on.

    Also, I really think that too much attention focused on any one child is not healthy for either the child or the parent. No wonder so many children seem to believe the world revolves around them! But choosing not to make your child the center of your universe does not mean you are not following attachment parenting!

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  4. Easier said than done, but stress a little less, my friend. My daughter was 26 months old when little brother was born. She struggled a bit at first, then got her needs/wants ignored frequently during those first four months and watched a lot more shows than I even like to think about now... but then life settled a bit and the 3 of us became a unit and all of a sudden I realized that she had grown into her new role as Big Sister. She loved having a little brother that she could teach things to. She loved learning to take care of herself in ways that she hadn't needed to learn before baby bro came along. It was growth in all the right ways. When our routine got straightened out (at around 4 months after baby) I made sure that Emmie and I did things together during baby's naps: read, sew, craft, cook, whatever. You WILL find the balance. It will come. Give yourself some time.

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  5. I have three, so far, and practice attachment parenting, consensual living, gentle discipline-the whole crunchy schlemele. I don't know that I ever feel balance and I doubt I would however I parented. It is what it is with multiple needs. It seems more like a bundle of chaotic love and torture (hoping to err more on the love with just a handful of torture.) Mom guilt stinks, whatever our parenting label that we subscribe to. No matter what, our kids are loved and we're modeling what we can. It is a good thing they're born so forgiving.

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  6. Anonymous8:20 AM

    When I had baby #2 I actually took more time to be with the first child. It was easier to put the baby down and meet my older son's needs. I thought, the baby isn't going to be hurt if she has to cry for 5 -10 minutes while I get a snack or help my son. Often my daughter would just fall asleep and I realized that her fussiness was just a need to be left alone and take a nap.

    Now, I'm expecting baby number three. I now know it won't be easy all the time but it also won't be hard all the time. It's "a balancing act" as you stated and hopefully I'll have patience with myself when things get hard.

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