The Tao of Two: On Having More Than One Kid

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I wasn't always sure I wanted two kids. I'm an only child, and I can't remember a time when I sat around bemoaning my loneliness, thinking how if I just had a brother or sister everything would be so much better. If anything, I probably would have been horrified at the notion of sharing my ever-growing collection of Breyer horses and original Xavier Roberts dolls.

I wasn't just an only child, I was an only grandchild. My Christmases were epic, is what I'm saying.

My husband, however, has a brother, and even though they're more than five years apart, he can't imagine growing up without a sibling. They weren't especially close when they were young, but they have an amazing bond now. Why, I can set my watch by my brother-in-law's daily phone call, which always happens right as we sit down to dinner.

(EVERY NIGHT, JOE. I LOVE YOU BUT JESUS CHRIST.)

Anyway, about a year and a half after we had our first son, we started talking about having another. Or more specifically, my husband started trying to convince me, while I explained via a series of colorful phrases and pie charts that if he wanted to gestate and birth the child, he should feel free to go right ahead.

Eventually I came around to the mindset that while having another baby certainly wouldn't be easy, there was a certain wisdom in taking it on sooner rather than later. Some time after that (*rotating clock hands, floating ovulation sticks, flapping calendar pages, unusually businesslike sexual intercourse*), our second son was born.

Now that our little household is a foursome, I can't imagine life any other way. On the other hand, I am constantly marveling at how the magnitude of children is like the Richter scale, where despite all logic, two does not cause twice the damage of one. Rather, it is a logarithmic increase of chaos, noise, energy, and need for parental Xanax.

Two was hard from the beginning, when I was the pregnant mother of a young toddler. Remember your first pregnancy? All those naps? The second pregnancy is an entirely different endeavor, let me tell you. Feel like shit? Suck it up, buttercup, because no one cares. You can't take Advil, but perhaps the constant litany of MOMMY? MOMMY? MOMMY? MOMMY? will help soothe that first trimester headache.

Then there was the long dark tea-time of the newborn-plus-toddler soul, which was sort of delightful but, I won't lie, mostly spectacularly awful. I'm not even 100% sure how we survived that period, really. I think my favorite memory of that time was the day about two weeks in when I bent over my preschooler to change his diaper and the weight of the baby in the front carrier strained some integral part of my back, so I was forced to spend the next few days caring for them both while being unable to straighten above a 90-degree angle.

Now that they're 3 and 5, things are much, much easier. Of course, it's sort of like living with—well, you know that whirling tornado of madness and snarls that accompanies the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil? It's like living with that. Only there are 50 of them. And they never stop moving or making noise or destroying the furniture or bending over and shouting, "LOOK AT MY BUTT!"

The utterly joyous part of two, however, is what they mean to each other. For this only child, their friendship is a wonder to behold. They play together all day long, they roughhouse and fight and shout and oh, they drive me crazy, but they are constantly having a blast.

Both boys go to the same gymnastics class together one day a week, and I recently asked my 5-year-old if he had made friends with anyone in the class.

"I mostly hang out with Dylan," he said.

"You know," I told him, "you can be friends with the other kids, too. Not just your brother."

He shrugged. "Yeah, I know. But I like being friends with Dylan."

Soon enough Riley will be going off to school and he will, of course, have friends other than Dylan. I don't know what kind of relationship they'll have with each other a year from now, or 10 years from now.

I have a good feeling, though. I think they were meant for each other. I sort of believe, despite my skeptic nature, that our family was always meant to be exactly what it is.

Do you have more than one child? If so, how did you decide to do it all over again?

siblings, mental health