Let us assume by the toddler years, you’ve assimilated the child into the household, and life is more or less under control. This means if you have two under two (or as in my case, four under four), there are going to be times when at least two of them are crying at once. First of all, don’t panic. All you can do is calmly take care of one child at a time. It sounds too simple, but it’s true and sometimes it’s not easy.
I used to dither around both of them, not doing either one any good, until I discovered this truism. You have to make a judgement call about which one needs the attention first (exactly like triage at an accident site), then do it. Nurses call it critical thinking.
We have several pithy sayings from Lloyd’s Army days and the most pertinent for this discussion is, “Piss on the highest flame.” But in this case our response needs to be more nuanced. For an example, babies need to eat NOW (remember pregnancy?), but it takes a while to feed them. If there is something quick you can do for the older child, like put on a band-aid and kiss it better, do that. But if comforting is going to take longer or he needs more attention, start feeding the baby and then let the toddler snuggle up against you and read him a book. Just remember like a mantra: FIRST ONE, THEN THE OTHER.
There’s another truism I’d like you to put up on the refrigerator. One evening when my oldest girls were two and three and my son was a baby, I was trying to fix dinner. I was shuffling around the kitchen with a little girl hanging on each ankle, and a baby crying in the bedroom. Lloyd came home, took in the situation at a glance, and said these unforgettable words: “You don’t have to suffer like this!” Then he put both girls in their room, told them to stay there and play until we called for dinner. He put me in a rocking chair, brought me the baby to feed and said, “Now tell me what else has to be done about dinner.”
From then on I remembered these immortal words: YOU DON’T HAVE TO SUFFER LIKE THIS, and acted accordingly. I fed the baby before starting dinner, then carried him around in sling which left my hands free. I put the two girls in the bedroom and told them to stay put while I fixed dinner. Side note: it helps to have a golden husband both to help and to put things into perspective.
Several years and five children later, I was having the same dinner-hour problem when number eight was tiny. This time, using the resources at hand, I sat in the kitchen feeding the current baby while the four oldest children took turns fixing dinner under my supervision. An added bonus here is that today my kids are all great cooks.
Whenever you feel yourself start to tense up, feel overwhelmed, ready to fling children right and left, remember, “You don’t have to suffer like this!” Then figure out an alternative to the situation. Maybe you just need to step away for a while, or make them all go to their rooms, or whatever, but there are almost always alternative, non-traditional ways of doing things. (I’ll discuss other creative solutions in a later blog.)
Next time: Keep them Safe