Thursday, March 20, 2008

A post for Tina, the Gallivanting Monkey, on my experience as the dad of two kids

OK, so I was reading Gallivanting Monkey's latest post about weather to have a second kid or not. And in the comments section my friend (and Tina's) John commented that, and I quote,
"Exponentially more challenging, a harder challenge than you can imagine, no SERIOUSLY I'm not just being cute about that, also indescribably wonderful, also VERY VERY HARD."

Well, I had this great rebuttal comment all written out at work, but I didn't submit it for a while and apparently Blogger doesn't like that. Or is all attention-deficited or something. Anyway, it lost it and I didn't have time to re-write it. So then I came home and compared notes with Mrs. Chicken, wrote up the response and decided it was too long for a comment and to post it here instead. So, for what it's worth, here's my opinion on the difficulty of raising two kids as opposed to raising one: don't listen to John. Or, more accurately, listen to him, then listen to me, then make up your own dang mind. Here's our experience:

Having two is definitely not exponentially harder than one. Hell, it's not even linearly harder than one. Now clearly we are lucky: Logan was (and remains) a great first kid - he's smart, he self-entertains, he's secure in his place in the family, and he's generally willing to suck it up. And he was, from day one, excited to be a big brother and we had none of the sibling rivalry stuff. No stuffing the baby in a box and shipping it to Tanzania, no cutting off all her hair, heck, no complaining about having a new body in bed with Mom and Dad. I think this was a combination of who he is, how we raised him for the first 3 1/2 years of his life (co-sleeping, nursing for 2+ years, plenty of snuggling and other positive reinforcement of our love for him), and the fact that, at roughly 3 when we told him he was going to have a little sister, he could understand what was coming and work it in to his world view. It didn't hurt that he had friends in pre-school who also had little brothers or sisters.

Also lucky was the fact that they have genuine affection for each other. They are way closer than I was (or am) to either of my sisters (which isn’t surprising, since they’re 9 and 10 years older than me), and probably get along 80 to 90% of the time. Yes, they fight. Yes, she annoys him and he annoys them. But they work it out, and most of the time they get along great.

All of that leads up to my “not even linearly harder” comment. From day 1 Logan has been Maya’s entertainment. When she was a baby he played with her as a toy, kind of treating her like a stuffed animal (only without the “dragging her around the house by a leg” thing), and as she got older as a playmate. Sure, the first few time she exercised some individuality and didn’t go along with her brother’s grand schemes he’d get upset and break down, but once he realized that she wasn’t a robot things got better.

There is one drawback, at least in our family: the fact that she’s been entertained since day 1 makes Maya much less of an independent player than her brother. So on the days when he’s not around, or when he’d rather be building Legos or drawing comics or whatever, she’s often lost. Bored. Uninspired. In other words, the opposite of her brother who spent the first three and a half years of his life learning to entertain himself.

Which brings me to the final point in the whole thing: Whatever you do, don’t expect kid #2 to be another version of kid #1. If we are in any way typical, he or she will be the exact opposite in many, many ways. In our case, where Logan was quiet, Maya was loud. Where he is generally even-tempered, she can freakin' GO OFF. The list goes on and on. And it’s all good, ‘cause they complement each other well. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t find myself thinking “why does this bother her? It doesn’t bother her brother…”


john said...

Hmm. Nope. Exponentially harder. Way harder.

Course, I am going for #3 anyway.

john said...

Also, I dropped the math distribution requirement at Whitman so I don't reeeeally know what "exponentially" means.

Also, our kids were less than 2 years apart which was hard. They're good pals now.

Scott Chicken said...

Yeah, the age difference is, I think, huge. Such a difference between an 18-month-old and a 3 1/2 year old.

And yes, you are going for the trifecta. Which is where we drew the line, 'cause we didn't want them to outnumber us.

john said...

back to the zone defense.

Tina Rowley said...

Thanks, Chicken Family, this is great. I'm so happy to hear about how things roll with your twosome-foursome.

Clearly, you and John are both right, and who the hell knows how it will unfold for us, but we're going in.

Scott Chicken said...

It's all about the adventure. Which is not to say it's "Allabout Adventure", which would be a movie about the most delicious Girl Scout cookies of all...