Not too long ago (actually, what felt like a microsecond), I shared with you my thoughts about what it was like to welcome your 1-year-old. After reading that over tonight, those feelings are so different from what has transpired over this past year.
My son is 2 years old today. It is 4:50 a.m., and I just put his newly-out-of-the-womb 18-day-old little sister to bed.
Since I am juggling life with two kids, I remind myself to take a step back from my newborn and focus on my toddler. I was at the playground with him this week and watched him play with a mindful amount of undivided attention. It took just a few minutes for the tears to roll down my cheeks and for my heart to pound for this little guy. He just seemed SO grown-up. Just like that.
As he was running to catch a ball, I noticed how his little body was moving. His bouncy run and flapping, chicken-bent arms were coupled with his little squeal of delight as he headed for a deflated and abandoned basketball. He was just too excited to bring it to me. I know that one day, he may not want to engage me in any of his activities at all, and that excitement will fizzle out. The attention towards me will be given to his smelly pals. The chicken arms will morph into muscular ones. And that squeal, that just squeals for simple joys, will be gone.
I share with you how my second year went, and some advice:
1. I believe that as the (somewhat) new parents that we are, we need to give ourselves a break, and give our kids a break, too. They just got here, and we (as parents) just got here, too. Just like the learning curve that goes along with settling into college, or a new job, or a new relationship, it can take time to feel "good" at something. So before you go into year two, don't be so hard on yourself -- or on your toddler, either. It is a learning process.
2. Don't compare your child to someone else's. Enjoy your child and all he or she brings to the table. As Theodore Roosevelt wisely said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."
3. In that second year, you learn to pick your battles a lot quicker and sooner. You won't be researching the smallest detail anymore, as you might have for your baby. You will go with your gut. You will gravitate towards those who have given you sage advice, and ignore the rest.
4. Your relationships will continue to evolve and get better. The exhaustion that has fueled most of the tough times in Year One has faded. You will lean on your mommy friends more than ever; the relationships that seemed to have quieted during Year One may continue to grow quieter, and you are OK with that. You have an inner circle of friends who will be there for you when crisis hits, and vice versa.
5. You will leave generous tips when you dine out. One day, you will be able to eat out in a restaurant in a civilized way. Eating out can feel like a big hassle during Year Two. Your toddler just doesn't have the bandwidth to sit still and wait for food. You'll find yourself tag-teaming with your partner to get the food on the table, and taking turns eating before your toddler spills everything on the floor. You will get a mixed bag of sympathetic servers and servers who won't even look at your child throughout your visit (gasp!). You will figure out when it is worth going out and when to call it a day.
6. You pick up and carry your child, even if you are exhausted. With their little hands reaching up for you and their big eyes bulging out, it is hard to say no. And this is OK. If all your child wants is to be carried around, for now, take advantage of your physical connection. Smell that baby skin and enjoy having access to kisses... even if you are tired. We all know that eventually, they won't want to show any affection (at least not publicly)!
7. Your child's sleep will change, and your philosophy might change, too. At least, this is what happened for me. During that first year, it felt like there was so much pressure to train or not train your child to sleep, and everyone weighed in on how to get your child to sleep. During that second year, you just deal with the changes in naps and the changes in sleep. It is almost like a week-by-week adjustment, so get ready for a change in your sleep game. My advice would be: To the best of your ability, have your child nap and go to bed at the same time every day. This will help you out immensely.
8. Things can wait. Be present as much as possible. I have found myself looking at the clock and wanting bedtime to come soon so I can finally get a break. But I know that I love and adore how my little guy backs up and into my lap and brings me the books he wants me to read. I have to remind myself to unplug and give him that little bit of me at the end of the day. I know that from the time he goes to sleep, I'll be able to unwind; while he wants my attention at bedtime, I want to give him undivided time.
9. You will see your child's personality emerge. You'll see a new sparkle in their eye when they discover the things they can do for themselves. Soak all of that in, and try to remember those awesome times when you feel like you have given it your all, but gotten nowhere.
10. Your child's temperament will change and challenge you. Remember, kids need guidance and boundaries. Lead them, and to the best of your ability, be mindful that they can't communicate what they need. It was described best to me when it was explained that it's like toddlers are learning how to drive in this world. But you can't expect them to drive without stop signs and stop lights. They need guidance and they need boundaries to feel safe. Be there for them.
11. You will be bombarded with questions about whether or not you want another child, and you will find the answer within yourself. You find a way to politely (or not!) change the subject and move on in the conversation.
12. You will enjoy how they start to use words and adorably mispronounce things that you won't dare correct.
13. You will start finding your pre-mommy self again. You will have more rest this year than you did during the first, and you will be able to leave the house more successfully than you could with a baby. You may not always be on time, but you will get the hang of leaving less frantically in Year Two.
14. You will get unsolicited hugs, and this is awesome.
Good luck, mama. As they say, the days are long but the years are short! I purposely didn't mention the "terrible twos" or tantrums, because I believe we can navigate this year without having to think negatively of new behaviors. I try to just follow the belief that they are having "big emotions" when they act out, and leave it at that.
Remember that your child still needs you more than ever, and they need boundaries, guidance and love. Before we know it, they will be off and super independent, and all these early years and sleepless nights will be in the past. Don't rush this age, and don't be hard on yourself. You've got this, mama!