Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How to do Two

Recently at Parent Dish, Linda has been blessed with her second child. It has been a lot of fun to read her thoughts as she moved through her third trimester, and begins to adjust to her new life now that her second child is here.

When I found myself rather unexpectedly pregnant with Claire, I did a lot of searching for information on what it's like to have "two under two." I didn't find much. Since Jenny B. is expecting her second, and I'm sure there are other moms out there who are frantically searching for info on "two kids under two years old," I thought I'd start a series on various tips and coping strategies that I've picked up along the way. Not that I'm any kind of expert or anything, but they're both still smiling, so that has to count for something.

Tip #1 - Diapers

Change diapers at the same time. If you don't, you'll feel like you are changing diapers all freakin' day. When the new baby is little, obviously she's going to go through more diapers than the older one, but if you check the older one at the same time, and change her, too, if she needs it, you'll save your sanity.

Tip #2 - How to Get Around

Find a baby carrier you love and use it. Yes, this is going to require some cash. Sorry. See if your friends have a couple you can try before you buy. Mary Grace liked the Baby Bjorn. Claire and I love the Adjustable Pouch from Kangaroo Korner. Different babies like different styles. I'd probably go with an Ergo if I were buying one now. Experiment, find one, and then don't leave home without it.

When you go shopping, never go anywhere without carts. It's just a bad idea. If you must go somewhere without carts, take your stroller. I have a double stroller, and I thought I'd really like it, but I honestly don't use it as much as I thought I would. It seems that one always wants to be held, anyway, and since the single is so much easier to manage, I end up taking it. I can still fit both the kids in the single, too, in a pinch by reclining the seat and setting Claire in the back (real safe, huh?) or sitting Claire on top of the parent tray (oh, chill, I hold on tight). Generally, though, Claire is in the sling and MG is in the stroller, or MG is walking and Claire is in the stroller. I'll bet the double sees more use as they both get bigger and Claire is too heavy to carry all the time.

Anyway, when you go to the store, you get the older kid out and put her in the cart/stroller first. Then you get the smaller kid out and put her in the carrier. When you get back to the car, you do the reverse. You put the smaller kid in the car first, then you take the bigger kid out of the cart/stroller and put her in the car (and then you put your groceries in the car).

This may seem intuitive to some of you, but it baffled me until I got my "method" down. The reason you do it this way is because you can't lift the toddler safely when you've got the little one in the carrier. My method also minimizes the littler one's exposure to the weather. Older and larger kids are better able to deal with temperature extremes, because they have more fat and more body mass.

But what about when you get home? Oprah (who doesn't have kids, I remind you) had a whole show with a bunch of horror stories about what happened when mothers and fathers left their kids alone in the car for 10 seconds and all hell broke loose. She would say, "Never, ever, ever leave a kid alone in the car, not even for a second!"

Well, until Oprah shows up to watch your kids for you, what's a mom to do? And if you have a dog, too, like we do, you're doubly hosed. You're not supposed to ever, ever leave the kids alone in the car. You're not supposed to ever, ever leave the kids alone together. And you're not supposed to ever, ever leave the kids alone with the dog. But those groceries aren't going to carry themselves in, and you can't always go to the store when Dad's home. It's like that riddle where you have to get the hunter, the fox, and the chicken across the river, but you can't leave this one with that one, and blah blah...

Here's what you do - you carry the baby in first (sorry, Oprah, the older kid's just going to have to avoid setting the car on fire for 30 seconds). You put the baby in the high chair with a snack or a toy, and you put the dog outside (either in the yard or on a tie out, whatever you've got). Then you bring the big one in and put her in the playyard (if tolerated) or at the table with a snack (which is what I always did with MG). Then you carry the groceries in as fast as you can, in as few trips as possible, and pray that no one chokes herself, or chokes her sister, or sets the house on fire or gets eaten by the dog or gets kidnapped by gypsies while you're running between the minivan and the door. And you feel pretty stupid doing it, too, but you know that if anything hideous happens you're going to die of guilt and Oprah is going to show up at your house and say, "I told you so!"

MG is reliable enough, now, that I can get her out first and send her towards the door while I get Claire out. I don't have to worry about her running into the street or anything at this point. She's trained. Which brings me to tip #3...

Tip #3 - Train Them While You're Pregnant

There comes a natural point in your pregnancy, at about 6 months in, when it becomes impossible to carry a toddler for more than 3 seconds without severe back, hip, and leg pain. God did this on purpose, because you're forced to put the kid down and let him or her learn to walk with you like a civilized creature, rather than running around like a crazy person. Use this time.

When I was pregnant with Claire I took MG to the park and we would "practice listening." She'd get too far away, and I'd say, "Mary Grace! Practice coming back!" and I'd squat down and open my arms wide. (I must have looked so stupid...) She would come careening across the park and practically knock me flat, and then I'd lavish praise on her little head because she came when she was called. It didn't take long before all I had to say was "Practice!" and she'd come running. I also taught her to put her hand on one spot and not let go until I told her it was ok. This is handy in parking lots.

By the time Claire was born, MG didn't expect to be carried and held anymore, which was good because I didn't have enough hands to carry her and hold her while carrying and holding Claire (although I have, in emergencies, carried the two of them several city blocks. I really do not
understand why I'm not a size 2).

Tip #4 - Training Wheels

When Mom left and Mom-in-Law left and BJ had to go back to work, I was a nervous wreck about being left home alone with the two kids, outnumbered, and with no back up. Fortunately, my friend Jenny B (the one who is pregnant with her #2), was available to come over and be my training wheels. I didn't let her do anything (poor thing was probably bored stiff), but she was there, with her son, to provide emotional support, and so I knew that she was there if I needed help. It worked out so well. By the end of the two days, I felt confident that I could go it alone. Her presence was a nice way to transition into doing it by myself. If you have a stay-at-home-mom friend who would be willing to come over and watch you fumble around for a day or two while you find your groove, I highly recommend it.

Ok, that's enough Two Under Two tips for now. If you have any specific questions or tips, leave 'em in the comments!


Katz said...

Thanks for the tips. We've got the diaper change down, but going to the store will be much easier. :)

Shawna said...

I'm grateful for the tips too. My first just turned two and the second's not coming until June, but I'm still kind of dreading being in charge of both of them at the same time - especially in the early days.

Amy said...

I'm glad you posted this, it's the kind of information that most experienced moms forget about and that newer moms need so much. After a few months with my two (23 months apart) I realised that having 2 wasn't twice as hard as I had feared. Instead, other than logistical issues like the shopping cart, diaper changes, etc. it was actually a bit easier because you've got experience under your belt. Adjusting to the first baby was tough for me- a whole new wonderful, challenging way of life.

I second the baby carrier- I tended to use a sling (over the shoulder baby holder) the most because it was so quick to get on and adjusted, even though I like a wrap or the ergo better.

One tip after baby sits on his own so you can put both kids in the cart: Some store's carts are more friendly to 2 kids in a cart. There's always the bigger kid in the big part of the cart, but then there's not enough room for stuff. (try sticking a basket under the body of the cart for little things) The carts made with two seats out of plastic (like at Walmart) don't work well with a little toddler (they say not under 3!) and the basket portion doesn't have leg holes for a sitting infant. Foodlion has a great cart with a bench seat for 2, plus the usual basket seat. Sam's has a double basket seat that works well as long as the kiddos don't fight.

Sometimes you've got to choose the store based on the cart!

Baths are still difficult for me with a 1 and 3yo.

Do your best to get them on simultaneous naps as soon as possible.

One thing is to get used to one of them crying while you are dealing with the other. You just can't always keep everybody happy, and it won't kill them, but it will frustrate you.

Don't tell Oprah that I've left the both of them asleep in the car while I carry in groceries! Gasp! I think one of the reasons moms don't pass this kind of information along is that there's always some 'expert' saying its unsafe.

Jenni at talking hairdryer said...

I have twins that are 4 and a son that is 8. When they were newborns and 3, I was in a similar boat as you "2 under 2" moms. I loved the train 'em when you're pregnant advice. It SO works! And, absolutely keep them on the same diaper schedule. And as much as possible the same eating schedule, the same sleeping schedule, etc. I also used my son as a "helper" in those early months. He knew where everything was and loved "fetching" diapers, wipes, burp rags, pacifiers, etc. for me. I also spent much of my day on the floor. I could hold both girls, fold laundry, and play a game with my older one all at the same time. The most important advice I can give is to remember to keep your perspective. You won't be able to do as much in an hour as you used to, so lower your expectations. But it is also important to just jump in there and do it! You probably won't get it right the first time, but you'll figure out what works for you and before long you'll be a pro. And remember: "This too shall pass..." Now, my son's in 2nd grade and I only have a year and a half before the girls start Kinder. I don't really remember those crazy first months with fondness per se, and at the time I didn't think we would ever make it to the girls' 4th b-day. But we did, and now I'm just trying to look at these elementary years as a sweet respite before the teenage years start!

Melissa said...

Thank you for this! I have 9-month-old twins and although we've figured a lot out, it just wasn't "intuitive" for me. I had to laugh about Oprah too.

RookieMom Heather said...

These are helpful tips and just reading this wealth of knowledge prompted me to take care of two things I've been meaning to: 1) asking my friends to borrow an ergo and 2) trying to get the high chair repaired.

My question for you is: how do you keep a shopping cart from careening into the parking lot while you load up the baby in the carrier?

I like to leave the kids in the car "talking" to each other while I unload the groceries because I'm more nervous about them in the house than when they're all strapped in.

MamaToo said...

excellent tips, and I remember these well. I recall wearing the sling with my oldest sitting in a grocery cart, just so I could get all of the food in one trip.

I would only add that moms can look forward to the 2nd year - when they start playing WITH each other and Mama gets to sit down (at least for a second). Blessings on your household in the meantime!

Amy said...

Heather - thanks for the comment on my blog. I live in Indiana, where the parking lots are notoriously flat, so I’ve never had a problem with careening carts. A well placed foot should help, I would think, unless it’s REALLY hilly. If that were the case, I think I’d actually put the cart in the “cart corral” (I always park near the corral) until I could get #2 safely strapped in or on, and then I’d retrieve the older kid. Of course, if the cart corral were more than 10 steps away, I wouldn’t do this.

Where do you live that carts careen out of control and hookers run loose? Maybe you could get one of the hookers to hold the cart still for you?

Amy (click through her link if you don't get the bit about the hookers!)

Queen of Carrots said...

I always, always, always parked next to the cart corral. I put baby in a sling and the toddler in the cart until the baby was sitting up well enough to use the double cart. (Man, those are HEAVY!)

I think this post is going to give me nightmare flashbacks. :-P I never was satisfied with the whole transferring kids and groceries simultaneously.

Mine are 3 and 2 now (15mo apart), and it is way, way easier. They can walk inside. They play together for hours. The 3yo goes potty by herself. Plus we got rid of the second car, so now I have to do my shopping on the weekend and DH takes at least one.

Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to handle a 4yo, 3yo and newborn. . .

Chicagoland Mamacita! said...

Keep these How to do Two posts coming - I really appreciate them. I'm expecting #2 in Sept and the logistics/juggling suggestions are great.


Amber said...

Please give some more of those tips! I have a 3 yr. old, 14mon. old and am expecting another baby in Aug. I need all the suggestions i can get. :)

Amy C. said...

I have a 15 month old son and a 1 week old daughter. Any tips on how to help my son adjust to having a little sister? He throws tantrums over everything all day long. And by the end of the day i'm exhausted just from following him around to stop him from doing what he shouldn't be doing. Luckily my newborn is easy and sleeps a lot but on the rare occassion that i need to hold her longer than 10 minutes, my son freaks.

Linda said...

Love this post. I have kids 16 months apart and found this to be a problem too. No info. We are writing a book on this subject: Baby Bunching is what we're calling kids less than two years apart. Check us out! www.babybunching.com

Sara said...

I have 4 months to go and right now my daughter is 17 mths. I loved the advice about training in the park. Right now she thinks it's a game when I call her to come to me, she runs away so I can chase her! So to the park we go!!

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have a beautiful daughter that is now 11 months. We just found out that we are going to have another baby in July 2009. We really just want to know if it is actually possible to to do.

We are very blessed to have 1 and now two.

I think we are just freaking out about money, time with eachother, time with our daughter and raising two babies.

I guess what I am asking for is just positive advice. Thank you RYAN

Lainey-Paney said...

No, you take both kids in together, and see to it that they are safe & secure so that you can bring the groceries in. Or, you go to the grocery store when someone else, or a spouse, can watch your kids.

You figure out a way to get 'em both in, at the same time.

Amy said...

Lainey-Painey - I have to respectfully disagree. My kids are now 3 and 1-1/2, and they both survived it. I park my van in the driveway, which is a whopping garage-length away from the door. They're alone longer when I go to the bathroom than they are when I bring in groceries. I'm within ear shot the entire time.

Obviously, if you live in a fourth floor walk-up, my method won't work, but in most homes (especially if you have a garage) it's ok to leave them unsupervised for a few nanoseconds while you drag the groceries in.

They're in carseats in the car - what mischief are they going to get into if they're strapped in? Seriously, it takes 20 seconds to strap the baby into the high chair and get the dog out. 30 at the most. I have a small house. :)