Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Other Shoe

We so clearly remember how we felt when Baxter was three, Matt and I. So many things – parenting things – became hugely easier for us around that time. It’s true, I’ve written here before about the sea change in emotional energy in parenting a three- or four-year old. However, to us, having a three-year old meant a greater sense of equilibrium in other ways: Baxter was sleeping well (and therefore we were better rested), he was in preschool part of the time (oh happy days!), was potty-trained, and he had real friendships that we enjoyed watching blossom. We discovered that he was a cinch to travel with, and far more flexible than we’d previously known him to be. I think that we remember these things so clearly because they were our arguments at the time against having another child.

A friend once told me, “It’s much easier to have another child before you’re out of the fog. You might as well stay in the fog until you’re done having kids, because going back into the fog once you’ve been out of it is very hard.” She was right.

I have never envied the early years for parents with kids closer together than ours, but I always saw how much easier things got for them around the time the younger child was 18-24 months old and the siblings played together much of the time. Those parents often seem to be in the fog for a few solid years and then emerge victorious, cheerful, and relieved to be sleeping again, feeling human. Oh, and typically with kids who entertain each other for long stretches of time!

As you know, in the end we did finally make the conscious but difficult decision to step back into the fog, and once Lyle was born we never regretted it. It may be overly obvious, but we can’t imagine our family without him.

On this vacation – which I am now ready to call a vacation because that’s what it has actually felt like – we are suddenly aware once again of being out of the fog. Lo and behold, we have a three-year old who is a cinch to travel with, is potty-trained, and is more flexible. He’ll sleep squished next to his brother on the floor in sleeping bags one night and then in a queen sized bed with him the next. He can miss his nap when visiting friends and not melt down. The contrast between this trip and the same one at this time last year – which midway through we realized had to be renamed immediately as a trip (a time to see loved ones) rather than a vacation – is stunning.

For days, I have silently waited for the other shoe to drop. The night I had a very sore throat last week I was sure I was getting Matt’s strep infection of two weeks ago. When my stomach was off, I had to be getting Baxter’s stomach bug. But no. Granted, Baxter did get sick the day before we were to leave and we had to put our trip off by a day. But, really, in the scheme of things (read: last year), that was small potatoes. Since we’ve been here, we have all stayed healthy, well-enough-rested, and cheerful. The boys’ flexibility has astounded me. We’ve been able to squeeze in every little visit with friends and family that we’d hoped for, because not only were we doing fine, so was everyone else. (I guess everyone’s kids are growing up!) Matt and I have been able to stay in San Francisco for two extra nights while the boys are partying with my parents down in Pacific Grove. We are relaxed and rested, and have had ample time with friends and each other. Oh, and to lie on the couch under warm blankets and read new books!

There are moments when I’m nostalgic for the days when we had a baby or toddler around the house, but the older the boys get, the fewer and farther between those nostalgic moments become.

If this is the beginning of the next stage, bring it on!


Shan said...

It's good to read this, because, as you know, we are one of those couples who decided to stay in the fog and have then 2nd baby when the 1st was, well, still a baby--for the very reason your friend mentioned! And I'm very glad we did, because I can't imagine re-entering it, as you say. But at any rate, with a currently 1-year-old and 3-year-old in the house, the fog is still thick in our household, and we haven't had a vacation since, um....???? Because there's no such thing with tiny children. So, it's nice to know that such experiences WILL come!

It's especially nice to hear that because, despite the fog of exhaustion, I am so, so glad I have two children very close in age--we wanted it that way, and planned it as such--, and it's hard to watch the babyhood months and years pass by forever. So every now and then it's good to be reminded that the older-kid years might be even BETTER. Not least because we'll be less tired, they'll be more independent, and everyone will be able to be more flexible.

Maybe we'll even take a vacation!

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

We feel this, too, now (with Scott over 6 1/2 and Jane over 3 1/2) and it was one of the reasons (and still is) why we have agonized about having another child. I have friends with kids close in age and I just found it so overwhelming, but the flip side is that the kids play together and are both happy watching the same shows and stuff.

I do think you get to enjoy each child a little more with some space, but who am I to say? The fog is just beginning to lift around here. Which is partially b/c of Scott finally maturing (his issues have made this a little different for us).

Niksmom said...

Well, as you know, we only have the one but we're still in the fog! I do see signs of clearing every once in a while.

Really just wanted to stop by to wish you and your guys a happy new year. Your photos of SF make me miss CA so much (we lived in Contra Costa County until 2005). Sigh...

Special Needs Mama said...

Oh I am huge fan of the latter preschool/school age years. They are my favorites, and so far, with kids 10 and 7, I have yet to see the other shoe drop. Enjoy it all, puberty arrives soon enough. Sigh.