Close cousins

We had an amazing family weekend. We took our nephew to the Royal Ontario Museum for his birthday – we’ve been giving experiences as gifts and it has been so much more appreciated by the kids than toys would have been. Our nephew is 3, and Avery is 2.5. we were concerned that the museum might be too “old” for them, but it was a huge hit. They were in awe over the dinosaur skeletons, and there were lots of interactive kids things like a bat cave (that they ran through half a dozen times…), play stations where young kids could run wild and play with toys and dress up in costumes from all cultures of the world, and touch-and-feel stations where they could touch things like a taxidermied polar bear paw (while learning about global warming). The kids were amazingly behaved for all 4 hours we were there – without naps. I think a leprechaun must have sprinkled lucky dust on us to get through such an event without a single toddler meltdown… After the museum we went to my sister-in-law’s house for the rest of the weekend, and Avery got to spend great quality time with both of her cousins.

I’m so thankful she has her cousins to grow up with, and that they’re close, considering we live over an hour apart. However, watching her with her 8-month old cousin, our new niece, makes me yearn to give our only daughter a sibling. She loves babies. She helped me soothe the little one, she strokes her cheek and brushes her hair out of her eyes, she brings her baby appropriate toys and expresses her adoration and love for the little one.

She asks for us to have another baby. I wonder if that will be enough to convince my wife to take the plunge and do this baby making thing with me one more time…

We’re still one-and-done until further notice, but the urge definitely hasn’t gone away for me. However, my wife’s anxiety and very legitimate concerns also still haven’t gone away. Only time will tell….

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Quiet time activity ideas?

Ok amazing online community of parents, I need some brainstorming action.

Avery recently started doing longer days at daycare, and our provider wants her to have quiet time while the other kids nap. Unfortunately, all she offers for quiet time is TV. I don’t want my kid to be babysat by a TV for 2 hours at daycare every day, so I’m trying to suggest good quiet time options for her to try. Luckily Avery is a generally quiet kid and tends to respect the notion of being quiet while others sleep, but I want to come up with activity ideas both to sell the idea of no TV to our daycare provider, and to give Avery something to get excited about for when her friends take a nap without her.

What are your favourite quiet time activities for your kids?

Thanks!

in this new place

We’re still living in this new place of being one and done. Done having kids. Done with the idea of trying to conceive again. We still haven’t told our donor the change of plans because when we start to plan how to tell them, we start to worry that we’ll change our minds again in 6 months.

Technically we’re still open to trying for a second child one day, but we’re not both 100% on board right now so we’re halting all plans for trying. But I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. I jump into whatever I’m doing with both feet, no questions asked, and I make the best of whatever situation I find myself in. I’m a planner, but only once I know a future is inevitable do I plan it out. I feel like I’m wasting mental energy by planning all possible outcomes, knowing full well that only one of those outcomes will come to fruition.

Once I accepted that we were going to stop planning for a second child, I was OK with it. I went through plenty of cry sessions and doubt and regret, but then I came to a place of feeling refreshed… I want to get rid of all of my maternity clothes, all but the most precious keepsakes of Avery’s outgrown clothes, all the baby swings and chairs and stuff. Having them in my closet makes me feel like I’m in limbo still, and it’s uncomfortable. I jump into new directions with both feet.

Since leaping into this one-and-done future, I’ve felt energized in my work again. I’ve even started looking for jobs (to start in 2020 when I’m done my degree). I’ve also been cherishing what I have with Avery to an even more intense extent. I’ve been spending half of the night sleeping with her in her bed just because I enjoy being next to her. I tell my wife I fall asleep in there and forget to come back to our bed, but really, I’m soaking up every ounce of night-waking baby cuddles that I can get before there are no more of those in my life. Avery’s already two and a half. She’s playing with her independence more and more, and now that we’re much more confident that she’s going to be our only baby, that independence brings me mixed feelings. It signals new beginnings for my daughter, and endings for me.

To be honest, I do still cry when I think about my fondest memories of being a new parent: The baby kicks from inside my womb, the life altering experience of child birth, breastfeeding and those oxytocin surges while nourishing a new life and gazing into their eyes, the first laugh, the first steps, the first hilarious thoughts they can articulate with words, the “I love you mommy”s, the bear hugs with tiny arms…. But I can miss it (dearly) without needing to live it again. I think. I hope.

Flip-flopping again on the second child idea

I know I’ve been posting a lot of stuff about baby #2. It seemed fairly real that we’d have a baby #2. But my wife keeps pulling us back to being one and done. Initially, I was the one who didn’t want a second and my wife did. I came around. I got excited. And now, here we go flip flopping back the other way yet again.

I’m not distraught about the thought of not having another child, but I am disappointed. Although today I’m more hardened, I’ve cried at this point before, when my wife announces that she doesn’t want another child afterall. You can’t un-dream the dreams about who that little person would be, how your eldest would take on the role of sibling, how your heart would expand to produce more than enough love for everyone…

But it’s also not always (ever?) possible to know with 100% certainty what your future will look like. There’s bound to be some assumptions about your own future that go unmet. The lack of any givens is a given.

I’m disappointed, but not distraught. I’m able to come up with a lot of ways in which life will be easier. Better, even (we tell ourselves what we need to). If my wife doesn’t flip flop back to wanting a second child, I’m going to need to make peace with the idea that I can miss something (pregnancy, creating and meeting new life…) without needing to have it again.

Good old fashioned pros/cons list

We’re getting close to the time we said we’d start trying to conceive our second child. As early as March, or as late as May, depending on how my work is going. The closer we get, the more wavering we do.

This blog entry probably could have been kept to myself as it’s just an exercise for my own benefit… But there may be people out there who are considering having another child (or who have recently had another child) who can relate. And if there’s a chance someone out there can relate, I’m sharing.

Pros to having another child

  • Another awesome child to love and to watch grow
  • Another source of life-long family bond for Avery, someone to share in family experiences and reminisce with
  • Someone to help Avery deal with her aging parents as we all get older…
  • Someone to help Avery learn to share (toys, mom-time, tv…)
  • We’ll never regret having another child, but we will quite possibly regret not having another one
  • get to experience pregnancy, birth and that squishy baby phase again (I loved pregnancy and birth)

Cons to having another child

  • It’ll be longer before I make an income, longer before we can buy our house from my mom
  • Might have to move to a different house for more space
  • Wife and I will go through another phase of having no time or interest for one another – first two years of child’s life is especially hard on marriage
  • Because I’ll be done school and looking for work when the baby is born, I’ll have to send new baby to daycare sooner and for more hours than I ever had to do with Avery (and it’s hard enough to be away from Avery for 12 hours a week!)
  • Have to go through the fourth trimester with a baby who could be colicky, just like Avery was, or just a typical baby who cries all the time and can’t be soothed… Oh, the stress….
  • No guarantee second baby will be as wonderfully, perfectly, amazing as Avery is. Maybe they’d be a spirited wild child who bounces off the walls and breaks shit and bites and hits and is way too physical for introverted-old-me to handle.
  • Related to above, we’re quiet, introverted people who get worn out from too much noise. Playdates are unenjoyable for us. Two kids in the house together all the time are guaranteed to be noisier than our one who just sits and colours or reads or plays board games with the cats (seriously, she’s the easiest 2 year old).

So there are more cons than pros in this list, which of course isn’t exhaustive because there are too many things to consider all at once. It’s tough to make a pros list for having a second child. It seems like we’re stuck on remembering all the hard parts when we think of what life will be like with a second. We fear having our lives reverted to the difficult early baby days. We fear going through the lack of sleep again. We fear how it will change us. It was so easy to imagine the good stuff when we were childless and planning for baby #1. We didn’t know how tough it was going to be. Now that we know, it overshadows the good stuff as we think about baby #2. I wish there was a magic button to push to turn off the worrying part of our brains and allow us to consider for a moment, unhampered by what experience has taught us, all of the magical, happy, cuddly, squishy wonderfulness that a baby brings to a family.

2.5

Becoming a mother for the first time was life altering. Not just that, it was painful, excruciating at times, completely overwhelming, isolating, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done without question. My experience mothering an infant was difficult, albeit dotted with positive moments and overshadowed in my memory with immense love. Avery was colicky and had numerous food sensitivities, she didn’t sleep well, neither her nor I did well leaving the house, and we were both met with unrelenting social pressures that we were totally unprepared for.

But when she turned 18 months old, life started getting easier (for both of us). She could walk, she could talk, she could digest her food, and she was HAPPY. Like, 99% of the time she was happy, compared to what felt like 5% of the time when she was a baby. And that happy streak has just continued in a linear fashion, and at two and a half years old (today), she is the most wonderful human being I have ever met. Please excuse me while I talk about what an amazing little person my two-and-a-half year old is for the rest of this post.

Avery is kind. So kind. Kinder than anyone I’ve ever met. She compliments people over the slightest things – I have heard, “mommy your hair is so beautiful,” or “mmm, delicious! You’re a good cook, mommy!” and other kind compliments every day for months now. It’s going to start going to my head. She is also very concerned for the wellbeing of others. If she sees someone she loves hurt themselves, she kisses it better and pats their back. She tells us she wants to make us feel better. She tells us she loves us out of the blue. She has mastered the apology, and either she’s going to win an Oscar one day for best actress, or she feels empathy, big time. Her apologies are mostly unprovoked and sincere.

Avery is helpful. I’m sure most toddlers go through an “I help you!” phase, and Avery is no exception. Whether I’m washing the floors or chopping vegetables, or her Mo is fixing something with her tools, Avery bellies up and offers whatever she can to help in the process. She will walk away from Paw Patrol or whatever toys she’s immersed in to help me wash dishes or cook dinner, and she is actually a good helper. There was a learning curve with most tasks, obviously, where it took me a lot longer to get everything done, but it paid off. She can literally wash [non-glass] dishes to an acceptable degree all on her own. I post pictures of her helping out around the house on TinyBeans (a private photo sharing app) and my family crack jokes about it being child labour; but she loves every minute of being helpful. I hope I always remember the sound of her tiny voice saying, “Avery help you, mommy.”

Avery is freaking smart. Smart to the point where onlookers (including her daycare provider) ask us what we’re going to do to challenge her academically when she starts school. She knows all letters and numbers up to 20 inside out and backwards, she can write a few letters with a pencil and can spell a few words on the computer. She can do basic addition and subtraction (and I catch her sometimes adding and subtracting with her fingers as a game). She loves colours – identifying them and mixing them to make new colours. She likes to tell me what colour backpacks all the daycare kids have, by memory, and goes into detail like, “Raya has a dark pink backpack with aqua polka dots, Carter has a light blue, dark blue, and white back pack, etc.” She impresses me to the point where my jaw drops on a daily basis.

Avery is emotionally intelligent. She has a grasp on her emotions that I never had as a kid, and am only just starting to develop. When she’s upset, she takes deep breaths and tries to calm down. If that doesn’t work and she still needs to cry, she tells me she’s sad and needs to cry. She tells me why. At daycare when she gets upset she tells her provider that she misses her mommy and it makes her feel like crying. On the flip side, she uses a lot of super positive words to describe things around her, like “that’s awesome!” or “my drawing is beautiful” and it makes me smile. She also RARELY has tantrums anymore, since she turned 2. She can get upset about not being allowed to wear sneakers in the snow or about having to go to bed when she really doesn’t want to, but she can somehow cry and have a discussion with us about what she’s feeling at the same time. We can always work it out without too much drama. The terrible twos never  materialized for us. It has been more like the tremendous twos.

So the punchline of this Avery update is that all the early struggles were SO SO SO worth it. I wish I could spend every waking moment with her, soaking it all in as she grows, learns, and loves. 2.5 is an AWESOME age.

I love you with my whole heart, Avery May. My heart is bursting with pride in who you are, and I hope you’ll let me bask in your glory for the rest of my life.

Parent preference rears its ugly head again…

For the past couple of weeks my wife has struggled with our daughter’s bedtime routine. Or I should say, our daughter has started to struggle with having her other mother do bedtime.

I’ve always been the preferred parent, and it has been hard for my wife. When we weaned and Avery had to get used to bedtimes with her other mom (we started doing two nights of mommy and two nights of Mo), there were lots of nights of horrible tears. But then it got great! Avery loved her Mo nights, and would excitedly cheer on her way up to bed that “it’s Mo’s turn!” But now, once again, she pleads and cries herself to sleep: “Avery miss mommy. Please go get mommy. PLEASE. Avery need mommy. Mommy’s comfy. Avery loves mommy. Avery no love Mo.”

It’s heart wrenching. I can’t imagine how heart wrenching it is for my wife.

I’m sure this kind of thing happens in all families, and we’re not giving in because one sign of weakness on our part will only make it worse. We don’t want to be stuck in the old ways where I was the only one who could put her to bed. So we just have to stick it out…. It’s just so hard to listen to her pleading for me until her voice fades into sleep.