“I know from reading the stories of others that year three isn’t going to be magically easier. We’re going to have the terrible twos to deal with. There’s the frankly scary prospect of potty training. This time next year the girls will have abandoned their high chairs (that will probably happen quite soon) and in all probability, their buggies. We’ll have to think about turning their cotbeds from cots to beds. Their daytime nap will become a thing of the past (and will be greatly missed)”
Two days before the girls’ third birthday and I’m in a reflective mood. I wrote the above passage a year ago on the eve of their second birthday. If I were a box ticking kinda gal, I’d be feeling pretty pleased. Potty training? Completed by October (2yrs10m). Highchairs? Junked in January (2yrs1m). Buggies? Phased out over the Summer (2yrs7m-ish). Our Nipper Double and single Maclaren Volos sit forlornly in the cupboard under the stairs, gathering dust. I don’t quite feel ready to part with them yet. Moved into beds? Done in (ahem) December (2yrs11m), although, with bed guards we should have done it a year ago. Daytime nap? Sadly dropped in May (2ys5m) and much missed by both of us, although they sleep (touch wood) very well at night, generally.
I realised something a couple of weeks ago. Choosing to have a second (third, fourth, fifth, etc.) child isn’t just about providing a sibling or creating a larger family. It’s also an opportunity to make up for the mistakes you made first time round. When you have a baby it’s a bit like playing a new computer game. Level 1: pregnant. Ooh! Jump over the vomit! Don’t slip over on the ice with that bump! Level 2: newborn baby. You have to look after an infant while fighting off uzi-toting zombies hurling poo and food at you. The first time you play you’re crap – still trying to figure out the controls, wondering if that thing wonder towards you is going to give you a hug or kill you. Second time round, you actually know stuff. You know that three button clicks after killing the zombie with the machete you’ll find a pot of gold. There are things that we would do differently if we had more children but as we’ve decided that R and G are our one shot at this parenting thing, we’re not going to have the opportunity to put this theory into practice.
As for the ‘terrible twos’, closer inspection of the girls’ instruction manual (we have a poorly photocopied Welsh language version) reveals that they actually start when the child is two and a half and usually last for a year, so that means we’re half-way through them. OHMYJESUSCHRISTGODONASTICK WHEN WILL THESE INFERNAL ‘PHASES’ EVER END? We had a tough time with R a couple of months ago (she still has her moments/breakdowns though) and are currently having a difficult time with G because she lives in Grace-world, which sounds like a lovely place but frequently clashes rather horribly with the real world, where she actually has to DO STUFF.
“I’m looking forward to having proper conversations with the girls. To explaining concepts and ideas to them. I’m even (god help me) looking forward to the interminable ‘WHYYYYYYYYY??’ questions”.
Ok, so this is quite fun and the conversations we have are hilarious but whenever R asks us to explain something, we’re treated to THE LOOK (a.k.a. The Ruthie Stare), which says “You are talking utter codswallop. That’s clearly not the answer. Why am I stuck with these imbeciles?” Last week I was asked where snow came from. I rooted through my brain and dredged up a bit of knowledge, which I imparted to R. She put her head on one side, gave me THE LOOK and replied “That’s WRONG Mummy”. I felt 6cms high. I asked her what the proper answer was. She didn’t know. I felt better.
So, year four. We’ve completed most of the milestone stuff now and the only outstanding thing is night training. I wasn’t ever very fussed about doing this before their 3rd birthday. The received wisdom is that most children aren’t ready until their fourth year to be fully night trained – you can try before that, but you’ll spend A LOT of time changing wet beds and I don’t know about you but I’m rather fond of sleep now I can have some – so I’m happy to follow the girls’ lead. G wakes up with a dry nappy roughly half of the week and R always wakes up with a wet nappy so there’s no rush.
I think the thing I’m really looking forward to is teaching them more stuff. I actually had a conversation with dh last night about teaching the girls to read. That’s pretty exciting. I want to take them on even more day trips. We might even think about going on a proper holiday.
Year One was physically and mentally exhausting. Year two was full of change. Year Three has been intellectually demanding on top of everything else, but it’s been my favourite so far. Let’s see what year Four brings.