Friday, November 15, 2013

Two, Three or Not to Three

Mom Said...

Being the youngest of 4 kids has always led me to believe I’d just have a large family, with plenty of kids running around.  So much so that when I met my husband I would not go on a date with him before we laid some groundwork first, discussing the kind of topics that would make most men run (crazy, I know).  Part of that conversation was that that I wanted 6 kids, and if that wasn’t going to work for him, well we might as well not start to date.  He agreed, knowing in the back of his mind I ultimately wouldn’t really want 6 kids.

Fast forward 9 years and 2 kids later, and we find ourselves faced with the question of whether or not to have a third child.  We have gone back and forth since the birth of our second child as to whether this is a bridge we should cross.  I want to say almost immediately after her birth, I told my husband I wanted another (which is the exact opposite of my response to the birth of our first, when I told him one was sufficient). 

Knowing the dynamics of a family with more than 2 children, it is something I want to do for my girls.  Each of my siblings gives me something different that I need in life.  I go to them for varying reasons. We fight, we talk to each other and even about one another. Most days we likely can’t stand each other, but you’ll never hear laughter and raucous like you do when you get all four of us in a room together.

My dad was very sick last year, and the four of us had gathered around his hospital bed to hold vigil in hopes he would get better, made serious medical decisions, and most importantly comforted one another.  This time with my siblings truly solidified my desire to have a third child.

Conversely, my husband is pretty content with just 2 children.  He is the youngest of 2 kids.  He has a supremely strong relationship with his sister and really feels you can get everything you need from that one sibling.  I try to explain the dynamic of families with multiple children, claiming he doesn’t understand what it is like to have multiple people to go to talk about your parents (because let’s be real, that is the most important reason for having siblings).  His retort is always the same, “You don’t understand what it is like to be in a family of just 2 children.”  This, of course, infuriates me.

We find ourselves 2 kids in, living in a city that is ridiculously expensive and in an apartment that is absurdly small. We are at the point where we need to make the decision of whether to add to our family.  I often sit back and think, ‘do I really want to do the newborn routine all over again’.  This is typically followed up by wondering how we would afford the third child, or where we would even put that child to sleep (we put our second in a walk-in closet for the first 6 months of her life).

I always come to the same answer, “we’ll figure it out.”  Isn’t that what all parents do?  Our life is already a juggling act.  Adding more giggles and teeny-tiny pitter patters would only increase the joy (and frustration) in our lives.  Someday, they’ll grow up, move-on with their own lives, and we’ll marvel at how amazing our children have turned out. This gnawing question will seem so minute, borderline ridiculous even, simply because that additional child will have brought so much happiness to us. We’ll wonder why we even toiled with the notion.  I also think that our girls will be so appreciative for giving them another sibling to go to talk about us, what better gift could we give them.  

Stay tuned for the ultimate decision…two three, or not to three?

Dad Said...

I’m tired right now.  My 16-month-old was up all night with a stomach virus.  It’s all part of the job and we all have these nights, so perhaps, what I should say is that I am more tired today than I was yesterday, but I was pretty tired yesterday too.  I have been perpetually tired for as many days back as I can remember (How old is my oldest daughter?).  But that is also in the Job Description.  I’m told I may be able to rest when the kids move out of the house.  Maybe. 

My wife and I have 2 wonderful daughters, ages 4 and 1, and we wouldn’t trade them for the world.  Young kids are so much fun and tremendously rewarding.  They are also exhausting from the wee hours of the morning until late at night.  Sometimes all through the night too.  Their seemingly endless energy is amazing and often tough to match.  We have really enjoyed watching our children grow.  We exhale a sense of accomplishment and relief with every milestone that physically and emotionally matures them.  We have pride for our children’s accomplishment but also thrilled that they are now sleeping through the night, eating on their own, potty-trained, dressing themselves etc.  Sure, a part of me is a bit sad that they are growing so quickly, but then I remember diapers and formula and that first six months after they are born and the thought becomes fleeting. 

When my wife suggested the idea of having a third child, I was vehemently against it.  I summed up my thoughts to her with a simple exclamation, “Aren’t you tired?”  The thought of being outnumbered was daunting.  We barely have a briefest of seconds to ourselves now, what would a third bring?  I have friends and family that have told me that having 3 is not much different than 2 in terms of time and effort.  I don’t remotely believe it. 

I found myself doing the math on my age.  I am 42 and a baby next year means..carry the one..Yikes!  Suffice it to say it will be some time before my wife and I find ourselves alone again and able to go to the bathroom in peace.

I come from a family of four and that certainly shapes my world view of family.  My wife comes from a larger family with 3 siblings.  She has always wanted to ‘fill’ our house and is quick to remind me of the really amazing parts of having babies. The tiniest hands, watching the sit-up, then crawl and walk.  It’s a rush to see them learn and absorb like sponge.  It’s truly a unique experience and it goes so fast. 

My 4-year-old has become so enamored and protective of her little sister and the 1-year-old watches every move her sister makes. It’s a joy to see them like that when they are not crying to beating each other.  What would a third one do to that dynamic?  Certainly change it, but that is not a bad thing.  More changes and more adjustments.  Just a few of the scary things abound. 

If we have a third one, I know it would bring nothing but love and good things to our family.   The other day my 4-year-old came home to tell us about a boy she wants to marry when she grows up.  I thought I had a few more years before all this, but I was very wrong.  It really does go too fast.  It does kinda make one want to do it all over again. I wasn’t sleeping much anyway.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Groundhog Day

Mom Said...

“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today.”  Groundhog Day.

Some days, this is exactly how I feel.  Literally, I feel like I am living the same day over and over again, and it feels torturous.

My day in a nutshell (or at least how it feels in my head): 

Wake up.  Make breakfast for Malini.  Make a bottle for Naya.  Tell Malini to eat her breakfast.  Feed Malini bites of her breakfast while I am feeding Naya.  Make Malini’s lunch for school. Yell at Malini to eat her breakfast. Dress Malini for school.  Yell at Malini to eat her breakfast.  Pack Malini’s school bag. Yell at Malini to eat her breakfast.  Get Malini and my husband out the door for school.  Make a bottle. Put Naya down for a nap.  Sit down for what feels like 5 seconds. Get Naya from her ridiculously short nap. Make Naya a bottle. Play with Naya. Make Naya lunch. Put Naya down for a nap.  Sit down for what feels like 5 seconds. Get Naya from her ridiculously short nap while simultaneously welcoming Malini home from school. Play with the girls. Homework. Make dinner. Tell Malini to eat dinner.  Feed Naya dinner.  Yell at Malini to eat dinner.  Feed Malini dinner. Bathe the girls. Put Naya to bed. Put Malini to bed.  Die on the couch for 2 minutes before I am out like a light.

Wake up, Rinse and Repeat…

I feel this way, meanwhile, my husband shares a lot of these tasks with me because I am a working mom.  I recently started back in the office part-time, which has helped with the whole “groundhog day” syndrome, but I still contract it on occasion.  I have to say, I truly applaud full-time stay-at-home moms and dads because it is the most important and difficult job I have ever had. 

That said, most days, I love performing my duties as a mother.  I love being a mom and work really hard at trying to find new and creative ways to parent my girls (even though the tried and true approaches always come into play!).  But some days, I wake up and internally say to myself (as Malini is yelling in my ear “Mama, let’s get out of bed and play” over and over again):

“I. Simply. Can’t. Fathom. Living. My. Day. One. More. Time.  I don’t want to put the baby down for a nap, bed, or whatever.  I don’t want to tell Malini to eat whatever meal is in front of her one more time.  I don’t want to play with whichever child is in front of me, if not both of them.” 

On those days, I just want to veg on the couch, in my sweats, with snacks, a diet coke and Breyer’s chocolate ice cream. I’d prefer to not talk to a soul for hours and watch old episodes of Felicity.  This is a show that takes me back and provides the fantasy that I am back in college, with no kids, no real responsibilities, and hanging onto every word Scott Speedman has to say with my roomate Tracy.

When this happens, if I don’t take that bit of “me” time, I explode.  Just a few days ago, I had a thermal nuclear meltdown to my ridiculously supportive husband.   While sputtering incoherent phrases, not making any sense, with my hair standing in all different directions, in my pajamas, and not having brushed my teeth, I LOST IT. We’ve been through this before, and he knows what I mean when I finally utter the words, “It feels like Groundhog Day!” 

I know all parents go through this, and we all handle it differently.  My husband doesn’t appear to be affected by the “groundhog day” syndrome nearly as much as I am.  He gets it on occasion, goes for a walk, gets a cup of coffee and it is pretty much done.

Me, on the other hand, I go full crazy.  On those days, he sends me off to the gym to get a quick run in.  At the moment, as I am walking down to the gym, I am saying in my head “what, does he think I am fat?!?!”  Admittedly, a crazy thought.  Meanwhile, as he knows, this immediately calms me down and changes up the order of my “groundhog” day.  I come back with a super red face (because I don’t get to work out nearly as much as I should), a small spring in my step, and a tiny bit of sunshine in my smile. 

My amazing husband then tells me to pick a day to just do something for myself.  Manicure, sit in a coffee shop, he doesn’t care what, just do something so I can stop being a lunatic.  While it seems like he is doing something for me, it is more likely that he just doesn’t want to deal with me as a crazed lunatic any long!  More often than not, I do not take him up on this.  You ask why.  Guilt.  I feel guilty taking time for myself.  First, I wonder why my husband doesn’t feel like he needs “me” time as much as I do.  Second, I feel like I am missing out on some big monumental moment and will regret not being there. 

In all honesty, I am not sure why my husband feels the need for less “me” time, maybe because he goes into the office every day?  I am not really sure.  As to the guilt for possibly missing out on something, I have had to remind myself repeatedly, most days are groundhog days because kids crave schedules.  So, in reality, I am not missing much of anything.  And even if I do, oh well!  They’ll do whatever it is they are doing again, and again, and again, even possibly to the point of annoyance.  I need not worry about missing anything!

What I need to do is care for me and get out of my groundhog day.  I find when I squeeze in some “me” time, even if it is 30 minutes, I am a better mother, a better wife, but most of all, a better me.  As parents, we know when the “groundhog day” syndrome is about to set it, rather than let it get you crazy, find a way to take some time to yourself and change up your day a bit.  It does wonders for you, your family and your home. 

I stand by the saying “A happy mom is a happy family.”      

Dad Said...

“Ned! Ned Ryerson.  ‘Needlenose Ned’, ‘Ned the Head’ …Watch out for that first step, it’s a doozy!”

Everyone recalls that annoying character that keeps popping up in the movie Groundhog Day.  Parenting can feel a bit like Groundhog Day.  We all have our “Ned Ryerson” moments that make us want to tear our hair out.  Most days we can power through the repetition and monotony, but some days…

Our girls are pretty awesome.  I know I’m their Dad, but trust me, they are pretty cool.  As with most kids, though, they find comfort in structure, repetition and familiarity.  For our daughters, things like watching Tangled over and over until Daddy wants to rip his arm off just to have something to bash in the TV with are a common occurrence.   The structure of a day is critical to their happiness, well being, and therefore critical to ours.  For that reason, we not only tolerate the schedule, but gleefully push and promote it.  We were overjoyed when we got our daughters on a reliable napping schedule.  We are still quite proud of the fact that, come 7:30 PM, they are both asleep for the night.  We read the same stories, over and over.  We cook the same foods, over and over.  We play the same activities, OVER and OVER. 

Then, you wake up one morning and realize…you too have a schedule.  Yes, dictated by your children’s schedule, but a schedule nonetheless.  We get up at 6:30 AM and start getting our older daughter ready for school.  Breakfast, a little coloring and getting her lunch made.  Off to school for the drop off, then right to work.  Pick up from school, go home and start dinner.  Feed, bathe, brush teeth and get into bed.  I then get 20 minutes on the couch with my wife before she falls asleep on the couch followed closely by me.  Our reward for such an action packed day? We get to do the exact same thing tomorrow.  And the next day.  And…well you get the idea. 

Parenthood, for all its joys, has its share of tedium.  It is so easy to allow one day to turn into the next, and into the next, until we find ourselves at our wits end.  Sometimes it’s easier to see the wall coming in on your spouse than yourself.  I am often encouraging my wife to take some time for herself.  An evening at the nail salon, a night out with the girls, a few hours to sleep in.  These seem like small things, but have been life savers.  The 30 minutes my wife spends on the treadmill can mean the difference between a good day and a bad day. 

It’s important to take that time for myself as well.  Somehow that’s harder.  I think we are programmed to feel guilty for wanting a little time away from the kids.  Should I feel bad that I often count the minutes until bedtime for an hour or so of quiet before bed?  My kids having a sleepover at the grandparents should make me feel liberated, instead I just spend the time worrying about the girls. I can’t help it.  Before I know it, I am back to running into Ned Ryerson, for the millionth time as our well-oiled repetition machine gears into full swing again. 

There is never a perfect answer for this, but making time, however small, for myself makes me a better father and a better husband.  I remind myself, and my wife, of that constantly to put to ease any guilt or worry.  While the guilt will never entirely go away, the little bit of alone time will give me the recharge I need because tomorrow is a new day.  And just maybe we’ll shake up our schedule and do bath-time before dinner.  We’re crazy like that.     

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When the Grass Seems Greener

Mom Said...

Malini: “Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama.”
Me: “Can you give me one second please?”
Malini: “Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama.”
Me: “I asked for a second, I just need one second, ok honey.” 
Malini: “Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama.”
My husband: “Sweetie, is there some Daddy can help you with?”
Malini: “No, I only want Mama…Mama, Mama, Mama.”

Every parent can relate to the crazed feeling you get when your child says your name over and over again, to the point that you are screaming in your head “JUST STOP CALLING MY NAME!”  Meanwhile, you turn to your child as nicely as possible, and ask them to give you just a single minute.  This goes on until they say it so many times that the scream you are doing inside your head spills out of your mouth and you have thoroughly upset your child.  And then the guilt sets in. 

My eldest daughter probably went a good two years of wanting just me.  She loved her daddy through and through, and they had their own special relationship (which he worked ridiculously hard at getting, so kudos to him!), but when it came to giving her a bath, putting her to bed, feeding her…you name it, I had to do it.  I can remember saying to my husband “I just need 5 minutes to myself, I just need a break.  While it is sweet, you really just don’t understand how it feels to have to do everything and not get a minute to yourself.”  My husband would inevitably respond, “I don’t want to hear it, I work so hard at my relationship with Malini and she doesn’t want me for anything, You don’t understand how that feels!” 

Looking back, he was right.  I didn’t even remotely understand how he felt (and quite frankly he didn’t understand how I felt).  But still, I felt as though not getting even 2 seconds a day to yourself was a way worse position to be in.  Until the dreaded moment came:

Malini: “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”
My husband: “Can you give me one second please?”
Malini: “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”
My husband: “I asked for a second, I just need one second, ok honey.” 
Malini: “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”
Me: “Sweetie, is there some Mama can help you with?”
Malini: “No, I only want Daddy…Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”

The internal conversation in my head that followed this exchange went a little something like this:

“Wow, when did the tables turn?  When did daddy become the ‘go-to’ parent?  The IT man of the house.  I do everything for this child, I work so hard at being a good mom.  I work at being creative, keeping her busy doing amazingly fun things, and now I am just kicked to the curb. She could care less about me.”

At the moment, I was crushed.  I made a vow not to show my emotion because I was never going to be that mom that pulls the “I get no appreciation around here, and I do so much for this family” card.  And I didn’t say a word, not to my husband and not to my daughter.

Until one night at bedtime when my husband was putting her  to bed (she of course only wanted Daddy to put her to bed), and the following conversation ensued:

My husband: “Go say good night to Mommy and give her a kiss.”
Malini: “No, I don’t want to.”
Me: “Wait, WHAT?!?!”
My husband: “Sweetie, that isn’t nice, give Mommy a kiss and say goodnight.”
Malini: “No, I just don’t feel like it tonight.” (as she proceeds to the bedroom)
My husband (as overheard by me outside of the bedroom): “You know, when you’re not nice to Mommy, it makes her really sad.”
Malini: “I just didn’t want to give her a kiss or say goodnight, I wanted you to lay with me.”
My husband: “I am laying with you, but you should say good night to Mommy and give her a kiss.”
Malini: “But I just don’t want to.”
Malini (as a result of getting a look from my husband that said go talk to your mother): “Mama goodnight, I wanna give you a kiss.”
Me: “No, go to bed.”
Malini: “But Mama, I’m sorry, I do want to give you a kiss.”
Me: “Malini, that really hurt my feelings, I do so much for you and work so hard at being a good mom and you couldn’t even give me a kiss goodnight. GO TO BED.”

Malini went right to bed, definitely upset that night, and woke first thing in the morning by giving me a kiss.  Yes, not one of my most stellar parenting moments.  I actually sent my child to bed with no kiss and a ridiculous guilty feeling that carried over to the morning.  The worst of it was that I did what I vowed never to do. I pulled the “I do so much for you” card on a 3 year old.  Parent of the year. 

In my defense, when this little episode occurred, I was in the middle of making homemade mini-pumpkin pies (adorable, but tedious) for her school Thanksgiving dinner the following day, after spending a long day with my teething infant daughter.    I was exhausted to say the least, and just lost it. 

My husband came out of the bedroom after Malini fell asleep and told me not to be so hard on her.  And I found myself saying “You don’t understand.  I do so much for her, and all of a sudden, she hates me.  She actually hates me.  You don’t understand how awful it felt to overhear your conversation with her.  I do everything for that little girl, and now she just doesn’t want me anymore.  I carried her for 9 months and this how I get paid back.  I mean, I can’t imagine how she will be to me in her teen years, she is just going to be awful to me and I am going to have to just sit in our bedroom alone, crying, by myself.”  Not overdramatic at all.

After that night, I finally got it.  I finally understood how my husband felt all those years, working so hard to have a relationship with my daughter and her snubbing him at every chance she got.  But for whatever reason, I truly felt like my husband didn’t understand how bad my feelings were hurt.  But of course he did.  And he actually finally understood how it felt to be on the other side and have to do every blessed thing and not get a second to sit down.  We both had that “a-ha! moment”.

Needless to say, Malini has returned to repeatedly saying “Mama, Mama, Mama”, in unison with my 9-month old crying “Mama, Mama, Mama” and holding her hands out to me.  I find myself wanting to scream “STOP CALLING MY NAME”, and saying to my husband again “I just need a second to myself.”  And so the cycle repeats itself, but now with 2 kids. 

I have vowed not to take for granted their constant calling of my name or their need for me to do everything for them because eventually the tables will turn again and they will want nothing to do with me and will want Daddy for everything.  And more than that, I have forced myself to take a moment and enjoy their sweet little cries of “Mama” because one day the use of the word “Mama” may turn into “Mom” (which it already has begun), and I may never get to hear them calling me “Mama” again. 

So in the end, the grass always appears to be greener on the other side, but I find it prudent for me to enjoy whichever side I happen to be on for the moment.  Enjoy the screaming of my name while I have it or enjoy the 5 seconds I get on the couch when they want nothing to do with me.  Your kids will need you when they need you, and don’t need you when they don’t need, something you truly can’t control.

Dad Said...

Having daughters is really pretty terrific, but they can be rough on Dads in the beginning.  When my first daughter got to the age of being aware of Mom and Dad and could express herself a bit, she wanted absolutely nothing to do with me.   If Mom was in the room, she really had no use for me. 

I consider myself an active Dad.  I spend a great deal of time with my daughters when I can and make a point of being around for all the big things.  (The little things are big to me too.) To say that this was disheartening is an understatement.  I had this grand idea of my “daddy’s little girl” that seemed to be more fantasy than any reality that I was seeing.

This continued for some time.  By the time she was talking she would insist that I leave the room at bedtime to be alone with Mom.  “Daddy, you go out there. I will lay with Mommy”.   While I knew academically that she was just 2 and was in a normal developmental phase, it still stung.   It was starting to wear on my wife. She began to feel as if she had a child permanently attached to her with no end in sight.  She longed for a small reprieve from the barrage of requests from our daughter.  

When Mom was not around, I was King Daddy.  None better.  We had a blast together and enjoyed each others’ company.   As a parent, you know it’s not the right thing to compete with your spouse for your child’s attention and favor, but to be honest, we do a little.  Not intentionally always, but we do.  I had a friend tell me that shortly after his daughter turned 2, a switch flipped and she became a Daddy’s Girl through and through.  I didn’t believe a word of it. 
Sure enough, it did happen; quite suddenly, in fact.   All of a sudden, my daughter wanted me.  Exclusively.  “Daddy give me a bath.  Daddy put me to bed.  Daddy feed me, etc.”   Suddenly the grass began to brown a little bit.  Initially I loved the attention; however, not as much when I could not find a moment’s peace to use the bathroom or eat.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was an amazing time of bonding for my daughter and me.  All that time I had put in was paying off in spades.  I was just very tired. 

The pendulum had swung.  My wife was getting her reprieve and I had my “Daddy’s little girl”.  Good times, right?  You would think so.   My wife started to say things like:

 “My daughter doesn’t like me anymore.” 
“She hates me.”
“She likes you better.”

Admittedly many of the same things that I used to say.  That said, I now had a young 2-year-old attached to me and a borderline depressed wife.  Brown grass.  Everywhere.  I never noticed how great the lawn looked over on the other side.  Much greener than I remember it.  I began to wish for the pendulum to swing a bit more in the middle. 

Eventually it did, of course.  We now have an infant in addition to our almost 4 year old.  For obvious reasons, the infant is largely attached to my wife (literally).  When the pendulum swung back, I began to hear things like:

“Just give me a second!”
“Ask your Father to do it with you”
“These girls are stuck to me!” 

The woman, who just a couple weeks prior was complaining that her daughter hated her, was now complaining that she didn’t.  Fun times.

In recent weeks, we seem to have found more of a balance and we are in a great groove.  For now.  It’s hard to not take these swings personally, but we need to constantly remind ourselves that our kids will continue to need different things from each of us at different times in their life.  That is truly what we are here for.  They are little people with moods, needs, opinions and irrational behavior.  It takes a while to realize that the beauty of the grass was always there.  With a little patience and understanding, you’ll see it.