A mother of two offers parenting advice for newbies

The other day, a friend who is expecting her second child asked me for advice.

I laughed and reassured her that she, her husband and her son would be just fine.

“Seriously,” she said, with her eyebrows arched. “Out of our college crowd, we’re the first ones to have two.”

Sensing her angst, I racked my sleep-deprived and overly stressed brain to say something useful yet encouraging.

Think. Think. Think.


Sleep now. (Nah, anyone who has been pregnant knows that sleep doesn’t happen during the last month of beached-whale syndrome between frequent bathroom trips, kicks to the rib cage and general shortness of breath.)

Don’t stress. (Right, because that’s not possible with one kid, let alone two.)

I smiled at her as my 11-month-old, Gabriella, screamed for her bottle and Amelia happily played with her play-doh.

“Make deliberately separate time for both children,” I told her as I bounced Gabbie on my knee.

“If Gabriella cried while Amelia and I were brushing teeth, I turned to Gabbie and told her it was Mia’s turn right now.” (And then Brent would come to the baby rescue.)

“At the same time, if Amelia demanded my attention while I was feeding Gabriella, I’d say the same thing to Amelia.”

My friend thought it was sage enough wisdom, and I wiped my brow knowing I’d fooled yet another person.

That night, I thought a little bit more about what I’ve learned over this past year with two under 2. Many told me the first year would be the tough, and they were right. But now we’re in a pretty good groove of day care, baths, dinner, tumbling class and lacrosse practice. There’s even enough time for snuggling.

At the same time, my husband and I are celebrating five years of marriage. I know, I know — it’s not an extraordinary amount of time together. However, we’ve crammed quite a few ups and downs into these first five years. And that’s when it hit me. Parenting advice closely resembles marital advice.

Be patient

Easier said than done, that’s for sure. I consider my patience meter a work in progress. There are days when unexpected events are seen as opportunities, not problems. And then there are the other 360 days. (I kid.)

In all honesty, Amelia’s 2½-old tantrums do get the best of me. And Gabriella’s “floor allergy” wears on my tired limbs. When I more closely examine the situation, I know it’s just that my girls missed me a little extra that day. And Gabriella is simply toning my arms for bathing suit season.

That same patience can travel much further when you add in a stressful day for Brent and/or I. Instead of rehashing our office frustrations over dinner, we relive Amelia’s adventures on the playground or her latest craft creation. If one of us needs to vent, we save it for after bedtime. (By then, we’re both half-asleep and don’t really rehash anything anyway!)

Make “me” time

If I miss a run, look out. My sneakers bring me back to center, even during my 5 a.m. workouts. I feel as though I can take on the world, and I know I’m a better Mom and wife for it. Hone in on a hobby or group that speaks to your soul, or at least relieves stress.

Amelia loves tumbling class. Brent hunts and fishes. And we plan to enroll Gabriella in swimming classes during the summer because of her splashing abilities (if only that were an Olympic sport).

Love truly and forgive unconditionally

Amelia is an unbelievable big sister, and puts on her “bossy walk,” as Brent and I phrase it. She shouts when Gabriella is about to put something in her mouth, pats her back when she cries and always tells her that everything is OK. Just the other day, Gabbie was playing with the cupboards. I hear Amelia immediately run over to her saying, “No, no, Gabs. You’ll pinch your fingers!”

And forgiveness molds the rest of love. We’re all guilty of losing our patience, acting out and speaking cross words. That hug at the end of the fight, the tearful apology and acceptance seals the circle of true love.

Pray

When all fails, call in The Big Guy.

Those sleepless, never-ending nights can leave anyone with a case of the crazies. I live and breathe by the happiness and well-being of my family, but they certainly try me.

Without His help, I don’t know what type of relationship we’d have after stomaching all those roller coaster rides.


Laura Burkey is a working mom to 2½-year-old Amelia, 11-month-old Gabriella, 7-year-old Lucy the beagle and wife to Brent.

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