Bill Cosby famously said, “You are not really a parent until you have a second child.”
While a father to one, this quote bothered me tremendously. Thanks to last month’s birth of my second son, I understand what the five-time father meant by it. Nonetheless, I still do not agree entirely with it.
Of course, you are a parent if you have an only child. I would even say you are a parent if you have a dog or a cat or any other kind of pet that’s dependent on you for everything. There’s the same parental nurturing and protecting and innate sense of responsibility and accountability associated with both.
However, there’s no question having two kids makes everything regarding parenting different. It’s really not something you can prepare for, it’s just something you have to experience first hand and adjust accordingly along the way.
In not so many words, a friend of mine, we will call him Buxy, a father of three, basically warned me of this. Acknowledging this column during a casual conversation, I got the impression he didn’t think I should be writing about parenthood until there was more than one little one running around my house. He was not that frank, but my intuition told me he was thinking something along the lines of, “this guy has no idea what parenting is about yet.” He and Cosby appeared to be on the same page.
On another occasion, after eating breakfast last winter at Dr. Unks in West Ocean City, a friend, we will call him Tommy, a father of two, shouted from behind the wheel of his ride (a minivan, of course), “Steve, just wait, just wait until there’s two of them. There’s no more zone defense. It’s all man-to-man. It changes everything.” Later, I talked with Buxy about this analysis, and he said his preferred defensive play call for his life is the “prevent”, alluding to the little girl and two boys under his roof.
It’s been seven weeks of man-to-man coverage around my house, and I admit it’s quite different than being able to play zone. I would never call parenting easy because it’s anything but that. However, having two children under the age of 2 has made my previous life with my toddler look like a cakewalk. Parenting one child is never easy, but it’s surely much simpler.
I realized this the first couple days after our newborn came home, but my first prolonged bout of a kid double team last week reinforced the point.
My wife is the shopper in my family and she took an extended pardon last Sunday from the house to knock out some items on her list. Rather than tag along with the kids in tow, I was happy to stay home with the boys.
It was an interesting day for all of us. What struck me the most was the juggling act that’s constantly being performed. I was essentially keeping my head on a swivel all day. While I was playing with Beckett and showing him what was atop the refrigerator (for some reason, he was getting quite irked on this day when I would not lift him up to see), I was peaking over at Carson to see if he was stirred by his brother’s antics.
For the most part, everything went well, thanks largely to the fact Beckett took a lovely two-hour nap in the afternoon. As luck would have it, he was asleep when Carson needed to be fed.
It’s during the newborn’s feeding time when some of the problems arise with two kids, particularly if you are alone. Beckett has developed a minor case of jealously with Carson in the house, but he usually keeps it in check. That’s not possible when it comes to bottle time for him.
Whether it’s the lack of attention or the quest to grab the bottle out of Carson’s mouth, Beckett can become quite testy. Although I was fortunate in the early afternoon, thanks to the well-timed slumber, things were not so smooth when it came to Carson’s next feeding because it came around the same time Beckett was to eat. At one point, my oldest was standing in the kitchen, pulling on the refrigerator, while my infant was crying and making the familiar sucking motions. Their charming ways made it clear they both were hungry.
My thinking was I could pacify a hungry infant a little easier than I could a famished toddler. Therefore, I fed Beckett, while holding and rocking Carson and playing the pacifier retrieval game. I was essentially trying to extend the baby’s nap, while I filled Beckett up, figuring that would improve my odds of having a peaceful baby feeding. I was largely successful pulling off that trick.
Just about everything went well throughout the day, but we did have a major meltdown in the afternoon when both kids lost their cool simultaneously after the dogs startled them by howling at the fire alarm for a few minutes. I am happy to report I was able to stave off a daddy meltdown, though.
After reviewing the day once Beckett was asleep for the night, I marveled at my exhaustion. I admit I was more beat after a day alone with my kids than after working all day at the office. It’s just a different kind of fatigue. Being home with the kids is more physical than mental and a whole lot more emotional.
When I finally went to bed after my long day with the boys, I felt proud I was able to calmly handle them for most of the day. There were no injuries to report and few anxious moments to rehash to my wife when she returned.
My satisfaction was dashed somewhat when I suddenly realized in bed that I had gone the entire day without showering. I just knew I was forgetting something.