Thursday, 30 April 2015

Things you don't know until you have more than one child

When you become a parent for the first time, there are heaps of things that you suddenly discover. It's like that classic line in a tv drama: "Have you got kids? Then you'll understand." And it's true, you really do understand a few things that you didn't before when you have children for the first time. But there are some things that you don't realise until you have more than one.

That there really is such a thing as too many toys

Or books for that matter. When my oldest son was a year or so old, we had a toy box that doubled as a coffee table. At the end of the day I'd tidy his toys away into it, and that was it. These days I sometimes feel like the whole house has been invaded by a legion of toys, the things turn up everywhere, no matter how well I tidy or even when we have a big sort out and give lots away. Obviously as children get older they accumulate more toys, but when you only have one child, then as they grow out of things you get to pack them away or pass them on. With lots of children there's always another child to keep using the toys, so they just keep multiplying like randy rabbits. I know it's a bit of a first world problem; help, my children have too many toys, but when you've stood on yet another lego brick, or been tripped up by a killer teddy on the way to the loo at one in the morning, then I think you might have a bit of sympathy.

Your children aren't as old as you think they are

When your first child is born, they seem to be much older than they actually are. Of course you don't realise this at the time, but when I look back now at how old my oldest seemed when he was the same ages as his brother and sisters are now, he seemed much older. Which of course means that you end up expecting more of your oldest. I sometimes feel a bit sad that I didn't fully appreciate how young K was when he was two or three, with no point of reference, he seemed so grown up. I'm sure I'm still guilty of it now, at 8, he seems so big, but he isn't really, and I'm sure I don't fully appreciate that. It works the other way for the youngest in the family of course though, they always seem younger than the others did, and you have to resist the temptation to 'baby' them for longer. 

You can cope

I used to be in awe of parents with more than one child, how on earth did they do it. Managing one was such a mission. What they don't tell you though, is that being a parent to more than one child is actually, in many ways, easier than having just one. With your first you're second guessing yourself all the time, you spend half your life thinking that you have no idea what you're doing and the rest just trying to guess. By your second baby you have more idea of what to do, so it's easier, Of course you also have less time to worry about getting it right, so you just get on with it. There's the added advantage that as they get older, they will (some of the time) play with one another so that you can get on with things. Of course sometimes world war three breaks out and you're stuck in the middle, although it's often best to just let them sort it out (if there's no blood).

Some things don't really matter

When K was born, I could tell you exactly how old he was, I knew that he was x amount of weeks or months old. When my littlest A was born, I knew that she arrived at the beginning of June. It wasn't that I cared less, it just seemed less important and I lost track. With K I'd read all kinds of things that told me what I shouldn't do, with A, if it worked I did it, if it didn't make my life easier I ignored it. I went from having a cot to bed sharing over the course of my kids, and this is just an example, my parenting style evolved over time. I worked out what mattered and what didn't. I was less bothered about how much they ate, as long as they did eat at some point. With your first you can't wait for them to walk, talk and hit all the milestones, with later children you often find yourself hoping that they will be happy just sitting for a little longer, just because it's easier and they grow up so fast anyway.

There's enough love to go around

When K was just over one, I found out that I was expecting M. Although I really wanted more children, I was also really worried. How could I possibly love this new baby as much as I loved K? If I did love him as much, would I love K less? Looking back now, it seems silly, but it worried me. For the whole of K's life to that point, there'd only been him, how would we both cope? But you do cope, you do suddenly find that you love this new baby just as much as your older child, and you don't love the older child any less. Your love for them seems to stretch and grow to fit them all in. When you have only one child you don't really get how that can happen, but it does. You do have less one on one time of course, but you can even find ways around that.

Having children is a learn on the job experience. There's heaps to take on board and get used to when you have your first. I remember people telling me that life changes forever when you have your first baby, and it does, and not always in the ways that you'd expect. Life changes and you change, that's just the way it is. But it doesn't end when you have your first, there's still more to learn when you have another child, and with each one that you have, you learn or discover something new. I'm sure if I kept going there'd be still more to find out, but I think I'm happy sticking with my four.

What did you discover when you had more than one child?