No-one ever told me that two kids were so much harder work than just one. It isn’t just twice as hard. It is exponentially harder.
If there are two of you involved in the parenting, just one kid is easy. You can adopt a simple man-to-man marking tactic which means that the little one is happy because they get one-to-one attention and the spare adult can get on with the stuff of life. This can be the mundane (going to the supermarket or doing the ironing), the necessary (going for a run) or the indulgent (nursing a hangover or reading a book). Once you have two (or more) you find that you have to adopt a zonal marking system most of the time. Occasionally, when you are both around you can still go man for man but everyone knows these moments are rare. The fact of the matter is that the chances are that the enemy will outnumber you.
At first I could manage zonal marking because Meri, my baby girl, was very easy going. She did the things that babies do but critically she didn’t move under her own steam. Meri is now 11 months old and for the last two has been crawling at quite a rate of knots. Arun, my soon to be three year old, doesn’t walk yet (he has cerebral palsy) but is the fastest bottom shuffler this side of Constantinople. Suddenly, I have two children who will no longer obligingly stay where they are left. I have tried training them but so far to no avail. So whilst Meri is investigating whether coal is edible (turns out it isn’t – who’d have thought?), Arun will be headed for the fridge door. It gets worse. Somehow, the two of them have worked out a telepathic understanding, that would rival Toshack and Keegan, that makes zonal defending very difficult. For example, Arun will “read” the newspaper which involves him ripping it up into little strips, that Meri will then studiously eat.
I have to be honest and admit that there are days when I struggle to keep on top of things. It isn’t just that managing two curious and demanding kids is hard work. It is the other stuff that I really worry about. It gets harder and harder to create special time for each combination of my family. Ideally I would like to spend one on one time with each of them, as well as some time with us all together but it doesn’t always happen. I know Clare and I don’t get enough quality time together and am constantly worried that I am not doing enough with Arun (he has a list of therapies and exercises that we can never get through by the end of the day). Almost every night I go to bed feeling a little guilty that I wasn’t able to do more.
Some of this is down to the fact that there are simply not enough hours in the day. However, if I am honest this isn’t the whole story. Some of it is because I don’t work hard enough at it. I know that if I got a little more organised, thought harder about what I was going to do and was then more energetic about doing it I could get through more. Sometimes, fate intervenes because, being little human beings, they have their own ideas about what they want to do and very rarely have I seen them reading the script but in my heart of hearts I know I could do better.
However, I am OK with this. Part of being a parent is wanting to do better for your family. I know I am not perfect and I will never be perfect but I can be better and I’ll keep trying. The day I stop trying will be the day I stop caring. So, I don’t lose any sleep over it and most days I collapse into bed knowing I’ve probably done alright. And, on the theme of real parenting that DadTalk and netmums are championing, I figure that’s good enough.