Next week Ted will be 21 months old… when George was this age, we also had a 3 month old Esme. This realisation has got me to wondering… what the chuffing hell were we thinking?! And how the hell did we do it?!?
Toddlers this age are mental! Like the Duracell bunny on speed, pumped full of e-numbers and running life to the beat of happy hard core 90’s rave music!! How did we manage to keep one of those alive and devoid of separated limbs at the same time as meeting the relentless demands of a newborn?!
If I’m honest, that phase of our life is something of a blur!! Esme was a very chilled out baby (how things have changed!) and was more than happy to sit and watch the world go by but life with 2 well under two was fairly full on. We moved house 8 days before she was born and Jon was working in Manchester at the time, leaving for work at 7am and getting home between 8 and 9pm! We coped because we had to but I remember a few days when ‘coping’ was borderline!
One day Tesco delivered a ‘big shop’ on the same day Esme had had her jabs and screamed relentlessly from 2-7 in the evening… having told the delivery driver to just abandon it by the door over the sound of my babies wails, toddler George then proceeded to unpack every single item of shopping onto the floor of the kitchen and hallway. By the time I cracked and called my mum for reinforcement, there was a conga line of groceries snaking through my house, an exhausted red faced baby glued to my boob and significant eye leakage on my part!!
Going anywhere in those early days was hard. My first trip out with both was to the bank- I strapped George in the pram and had Esme in a sling (my one and only attempt at ‘slinging’- I hated it!). George escaped from his entrapment and proceeded to run riot around the place while I chased him round but could basically do nothing because I was encumbered with a baby strapped to my chest, (who incidentally had started screaming for good measure!) I confessed to the lady in the room where we were trying to set up an account that it was our first outing together. She responded with ‘it’s not gone very well has it?’ with a sympathetic head tilt that said ‘I’m so glad I’m not you right now’!
Ted right now has no sense of danger- for all the bonkersness of our big two, I can trust them not to run off or not to run into oncoming traffic or not to eat slug pellets (and/or the slugs themselves!) Toddlers under 2 have no such regard for their personal well being and attempt self assassination approximately 5 times an hour for all the waking hours of the day! Trying to leave the house and keep an eye on a toddler intent on self destruction while manning a newborn in a pram led to many days where I’d think leaving the house was too much hassle; only to remember that being cooped up at home intensified the feral and god did time at home stand still!!
But now they are older, I do feel like the initial pain was worth it! It was easier to plan days out as they both had similar interests and attention spans. They can play together and seem to enjoy each other’s company (when they are not trying to murder each other!) We also hadn’t got out of the ‘baby phase’ when Esme came along so it didn’t feel like such a big adjustment to life whereas she was 3 when Ted was born and we’d forgotten about sleep deprivation and covering up plug sockets and constantly protecting the top of the stairs!!!
People often ponder what the ideal ‘gap’ is and having had a 18.5 month one and then a subsequent 3 year one I feel like we’re in a position to see the pros and cons from both sides. I suppose we also have a 4.5 year gap between the boys to throw in the mix as well.
It did feel easier to manage a new born with a 3 and 4 year old in tow compared to a mental toddler- they were not exactly independent but they could be left to their on devices for 10 minutes in front of the TV or colouring in (without fear they would switch their attention from the paper to the wall or dog!) or eating their dinner while I fed Ted or changed a nappy. Out and about was more straightforward- the big two didn’t need prams and could climb into their own car seats, I could trust them to walk alongside me or sit by the car while I got the baby out without fear they’d hot foot it across a car park. Obviously it was harder because there were three of them and not 2- I officially had more children than hands- but managing a baby in the mix felt much more manageable and I don’t remember any tears at the enormity of it all! It’s also possible that by the third baby I actually knew what I was doing which also made it feel easier!
But… It is increasingly tricky to find things to entertain the 3 of them at once. The big two love trampoline parks and bowling and riding bikes and the cinema. Ted is physically incapable of doing these things either through size or concentration span and therefore either has to be left with a willing grandparent or we have to miss out altogether. We have now entered the never ending cycle of extra curricular clubs that Ted just seems to get dragged around to! He seems to have crossed the threshold from ‘sweet and cute baby brother’ to ‘annoyance who messes with my stuff and stops me doing whatever I was trying to do’ in the last few weeks. The novelty lasted much longer than I expected but having a baby brother in tow has definitely lost some of its sparkle! He is also at the age where they go into free fall meltdown if you stray from their routine (remember those pre-parenting principles you had- the baby will live by MY routine, none of this ‘living life round afternoon naps’ business!) The afternoon sleep is an absolute must and that puts a block on the activities that we can all do if we are house bound for 2 hours each day- something the big two are starting to resent!
So the perfect gap?? I’m fairly sure it doesn’t exist! Having an older more independent child at home when the baby is demanding does make life easier but managing the varying interests and activities as they get older is nigh on impossible! I have friends who have a 5+ years gap and would advocate that they were able to dedicate time and energy to each child more fairly as the older one had started school but the same friends are usually ones who feel like they have to split themselves in 2 to meet the needs and interests of their offspring. Likewise I had days with a small gap where managing life just felt insurmountable- George at 3 and Esme at 18 months was a really tough stage! Both still toddlers really, and both at that age when they genuinely believe the world revolves around them and them alone! My wine uptake definitely increased around this time! Pros and Cons… Swings and roundabouts!
Maybe stick to one?!?!