Having one child was fun – new adventures and discoveries around every corner. It had its challenges, of course. But having more than one is…completely different.
And it turns out you can’t treat them the same when they’re four years apart. Who knew?!
I know it seems obvious, but it’s not. Especially once both children are capable of carrying on a conversation, it’s very easy to unconsciously retreat to standard methods of communication and interaction. When you no longer have to rely on baby-talk or simple sign language techniques that work on toddlers, it’s a huge relief. You can speak like an adult again. And you can! But you still have to speak to the kids in ways they can understand, and that’s not the same for all of them.
I can have long, deep conversations with my daughter, now 7, and I love doing so. But if it’s a topic she’s not interested in, something that wasn’t her idea to talk about, she’ll stop paying attention after too long.
For my son, the problem is similar, but different. You can’t go on too long with him either, but not because he loses interest, but because he’s 3, and he just can’t process and remember that much information all at once.
Yesterday he asked me if he could bring a new toy outside to show his cousin and nearly melted down when it looked like we might say no. So I told him he could bring it outside, show her, then had to bring it right back in. I said it at least three different times and ways to make sure he understood. He agreed, walked outside to the trampoline where his cousin was jumping, showed her the toy, started to turn back toward the house…then got up on the trampoline with the toy. So close… When he came in for the night, though, he did remember to bring the toy in without reminding.
Sometimes I forget that they’re so far apart and so different. They require different amounts and types of information, affection, discipline, and care. When they’re together it’s even harder to interact with them in their own uniquely demanding ways lest one feel slighted. They should be treated equally but differently.
It’s an impossible balancing act, really. But it’s literally my one job for now.