by Jon Worley
My youngest son Sam is now five. My wife always finds our children's birthdays to be bittersweet. They keep growing up, and each day is an inexorable step toward the inevitable. But that's not really the point.
Wiser folks than me have observed that two kids are more than twice as difficult to handle as one is. This is particularly true of young kids. Max finished potty training two weeks before Sam was born. And while that gave me two weeks to rue the renewed onset of Diaperville, it also meant I only had to worry about wiping one butt after Sam's arrival. That's a good thing. I don't find changing diapers disgusting, but rather more of a pain in the ass. Still, an annoyance is an annoyance, and I like to avoid such things when I can.
The advantage of older kids is that they're more independent. On many weekend mornings, Max makes breakfast for himself and Sam. Sometimes that breakfast includes the occasional dessert item, but nonetheless, Max does like to cook. Both Max and Sam know how to fold clothes, and they're pretty good at raking leaves as well. I don't think of my sons as implements that reduce my workload--they need to learn all of these things, and more--but if that's the practical result, I'm not complaining.
Of course, older kids also present the classic struggle of independence vs. parental restrictions. We're already well into that with Max (who's not quite eight), and Sam isn't far behind. I suppose the mental battles are more taxing than the physical ones, but I mind them less.
Another of the reasons two are so much more difficult than one is that the second child is completely different from the first one. I've met a few mild exceptions to this, but not many. When you've got one kid, you might have the notion that you know how to be a parent. Once the second one arrives, it's almost immediately apparent that you know nothing--and never will know anything.
Our two kids are almost polar opposites. Max can be moody, while Sam is rarely anything less than ebullient. Max takes an intellectual approach to problems, while Sam simply tries to physically destroy anything in his path. Max leads by being the person in the middle of the circle. Sam leads by assembling the congregation and then preaching.
I'm not kidding about that last one. I've seen Sam on the playground at his preschool. He's often got three or four classmates sitting in front of him while he paces and gestures like someone speaking in tongues. After a few minutes, Sam has his friends rise, and then they all take off running. Most often, the prescribed activity has something to do with cheetahs.
I've often told people I wouldn't have known what to do with two inactive kids. That's never been a problem. Both Max and Sam prefer to be in motion. Max is partial to controlled motion, while Sam isn't particular at all. He just likes to be moving.
This makes for a kinetic household, one that has only sped up in the five years since Sam's arrival. Not only do we have a plethora of activities (soccer, swim lessons, basketball, baseball, biking, etc.), but even unstructured time tends to have a bit of a manic feel to it. Watching Sam play solitaire makes me realize what it must have been like for my Grandma to play cards with me. Every single card is delivered with maximum force and intent. Oh, and Sam talks trash during even the least competitive of situations--while playing solitaire, for example. We're working on that.
Two's enough for me. I'm happy that my boys are growing up. I don't mind, even now, that there are facets of their lives that I know nothing about. That's part of the process. It's their job to push us away. All we can do as parents is try to keep them close enough to make sure they have what they need--skills, attitudes and a modest bit of wisdom.
It will end all too soon. Sam starts kindergarten next August. Max graduates from high school in ten years. That time will pass faster than we expect. Which is another reminder that our time will pass faster than we expect as well. In truth, when we as parents mourn the relative youth of our kids, what we're really doing is realizing just how far away we are from those halcyon days of yore. I suppose I'll always pine for the age of fifteen until the Royals win the World Series again.
We all need something to live for, after all.
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