We so clearly remember how we felt when Baxter was three, Matt and I. So many things – parenting things – became hugely easier for us around that time. It’s true, I’ve written here before about the sea change in emotional energy in parenting a three- or four-year old. However, to us, having a three-year old meant a greater sense of equilibrium in other ways: Baxter was sleeping well (and therefore we were better rested), he was in preschool part of the time (oh happy days!), was potty-trained, and he had real friendships that we enjoyed watching blossom. We discovered that he was a cinch to travel with, and far more flexible than we’d previously known him to be. I think that we remember these things so clearly because they were our arguments at the time against having another child.
A friend once told me, “It’s much easier to have another child before you’re out of the fog. You might as well stay in the fog until you’re done having kids, because going back into the fog once you’ve been out of it is very hard.” She was right.
I have never envied the early years for parents with kids closer together than ours, but I always saw how much easier things got for them around the time the younger child was 18-24 months old and the siblings played together much of the time. Those parents often seem to be in the fog for a few solid years and then emerge victorious, cheerful, and relieved to be sleeping again, feeling human. Oh, and typically with kids who entertain each other for long stretches of time!
As you know, in the end we did finally make the conscious but difficult decision to step back into the fog, and once Lyle was born we never regretted it. It may be overly obvious, but we can’t imagine our family without him.
On this vacation – which I am now ready to call a vacation because that’s what it has actually felt like – we are suddenly aware once again of being out of the fog. Lo and behold, we have a three-year old who is a cinch to travel with, is potty-trained, and is more flexible. He’ll sleep squished next to his brother on the floor in sleeping bags one night and then in a queen sized bed with him the next. He can miss his nap when visiting friends and not melt down. The contrast between this trip and the same one at this time last year – which midway through we realized had to be renamed immediately as a trip (a time to see loved ones) rather than a vacation – is stunning.
For days, I have silently waited for the other shoe to drop. The night I had a very sore throat last week I was sure I was getting Matt’s strep infection of two weeks ago. When my stomach was off, I had to be getting Baxter’s stomach bug. But no. Granted, Baxter did get sick the day before we were to leave and we had to put our trip off by a day. But, really, in the scheme of things (read: last year), that was small potatoes. Since we’ve been here, we have all stayed healthy, well-enough-rested, and cheerful. The boys’ flexibility has astounded me. We’ve been able to squeeze in every little visit with friends and family that we’d hoped for, because not only were we doing fine, so was everyone else. (I guess everyone’s kids are growing up!) Matt and I have been able to stay in San Francisco for two extra nights while the boys are partying with my parents down in Pacific Grove. We are relaxed and rested, and have had ample time with friends and each other. Oh, and to lie on the couch under warm blankets and read new books!
There are moments when I’m nostalgic for the days when we had a baby or toddler around the house, but the older the boys get, the fewer and farther between those nostalgic moments become.
If this is the beginning of the next stage, bring it on!