Thursday, August 1, 2013

Juggling Babies

I worried a lot- in the months before Amelia was born- about just how I was going to handle having three kids. Two was certainly a challenge enough, but at least with two we had a 1:1 adult-to-child ratio. Amelia was destined to be the boat-rocker; the child who tipped the scales of power decidedly in favor of the little shrieking minions.

As happened with each of my pregnancies, I was so desperate to be done with Amelia's by the end that my fears ceased to phase me. On the rare occasions that my qualms managed to surface again, I comforted myself with the observations that my mother shared of her own experience. She claimed that while having three children was difficult, no doubt, it was an easier transition from two to three than it had been from one to two.

I couldn't really see how this could be true, but I clung to the hope of it nonetheless.

In the end, it's proven to be mostly true. After all, the toughest adjustment in going from one to two was giving up the precious free time that I had during the day when my only was sleeping. The complete lack of schedule typical of newborns put an instant end to that, and even when a tentative schedule was finally established for Michael, it was predictably at odds with Abby's. I rarely had overlapping down-time to take advantage of. The other difficulty was accepting that sometimes only one baby could be attended to at a time, and learning to prioritize and address everyone's needs and concerns in fair turn. Now that I've got that skill down, it's a matter of applying my judgement calls to one extra case on certain occasions. But it all comes down to heirarchies of urgency, in the end- that doesn't change.

I liken Mia's entrance in the family unit to an expanding juggling act. Once we had two balls in motion, it really wasn't too too much of a thing to slip in a third. (It was, however, decidedly a thing.) It just required a little more concentration, energy, triage, and coordination. And of course, it's involved even less sleep. Such is the temporary burden of a newborn, however, even when there is only one child to care for.

Now, we have blown past that newborn phase. Mia has the beginnings of a solid schedule, and Michael has- at long last- aligned his with Abby's. Best of all, on an ideal day, Mia's second nap intersects with Michael and Abby's first (and only), and I can enjoy approximately an hour's worth of midday peace. Of course, that development has led to new problems (don't these types of positive changes always seem to come with caveats?).

You see, when Michael took a morning nap, I felt comfortable leaving Abby alone for a few minutes to get him settled in his crib on days when Tom was not available to assist. Since, at the tender age of two-and-a-half, I didn't (and still don't) trust Abby with Mia, I had to wear her in a wrap while propping Michael on one hip and then clumsily plop him down to sleep (praising God every time that we had weaned him of his reliance on being rocked to sleep by that point). It was awkward, and difficult, but it worked out. Once that was done, I was free to put Mia down for her first nap of the day.

Now, I have two toddlers running amok in the playroom straight through to lunch time, and Mia still needs a morning nap. So far, Abby has never given me trouble in the brief time that I've had to leave her unmonitored (especially if I set her up with an episode of Curious George beforehand), but Michael is another story entirely. He gets up to an impressive amount of trouble even when I am around to try to keep him out of it, and he will not be deterred from his mischief by a TV show. I can't leave him down there to- quite definitely- not only find trouble himself, but lead his sister into it, and I certainly can't expect him to ride quietly in a wrap as I work to get his little sister down. It's a dilemma, and one I have not yet found a solution to. I've been blessed to have Mima and Nana pinch-hit thus far on days that I am alone and hold down the fort in such moments when I need to get away, but I feel uncomfortable with the fact that I have no system in place to be a solo caretaker for my own children for the course of an entire day.

I keep hoping that Michael will calm down a bit soon, but I have a feeling that mayhem is just written into his personality. I may never be able to leave him alone like I do his older sister until he is well past toddler-hood, which means I'm going to have to get creative about finding another solution.

As for his older sister, I'm beginning to doubt her trustworthiness as well. Just this morning, she turned to me and said, "Mommy, can you go to the bathroom so I can stand on the desk and chair?"

At least she hasn't perfected the art of deceit just yet.