Luca is turning 18 months next week (although he’s the size of a 4-year-old) and so much has changed since my last update that I thought it was a good time for part three of what is becoming one of my favorite topics to write about: going from one to two kids.
Whenever I start writing about this, I go back to the post I wrote when I was pregnant with Luca about my fears around having a second baby and wish I could just scream from the mountaintops to all moms pregnant with her second kid that it’s going to be ok. Better than ok. So magical and wonderful and beautiful.
And hard as sh*t. I’m quite sure I’ve aged 18 years in the last 18 months. That said, I finally feel like the exhaustion has subsided. It only took 1.5 years!
I wrote about this in my last two updates but it’s worth repeating again that the biggest change is how there are no breaks, especially on the weekends.
Giving them both attention: I’ve realized in the last few months that I had been so worried about Amalia not getting enough attention when Luca was born that I’ve gone way in the other direction and maybe focused too much on her needs and feelings over his. So I’m working hard now to balance that out without making her feel slighted. This, I’d say, has been one of my biggest challenges this summer and fall. She is extremely attached to me and I’m very emotionally entwined with her feelings, but I want to make sure our relationship is healthy and has the right boundaries as I become closer and closer to Luca as he grows up. I’ll report back if I ever figure this out.
Their differences: One thing that continues to shock me is how different my two kids are from each other. From day one they had very different personalities: Amalia is very emotional and dramatic and, well, a first-born daughter, and Luca is pretty happy-go-lucky and goes with the flow, a true second child through and through.
But it goes beyond that. They like different kinds of toys, different foods (Amalia is a carb and fruit gal, Luca is a meat and veggie guy), have different sleeping habits, and love us in very different ways.
And the way we parent them is so different too! I’m constantly worried and aware of Amalia’s emotional wellbeing and feel the same way about Luca’s physical wellbeing as he’s constantly running into tables, walls, tripping over toys, and generally trying to hurt himself 24/7.
Jealousy: I thought that by now Amalia wouldn’t get jealous when we play with or spend time with Luca but she definitely still does in a big way. And he gets jealous of her as well! I’m not sure if this will ever end so we just try to be as fair as possible and split our time with them as best as we can.
They also both get jealous when Anel hugs and/or kisses me and demand to be part of the action.
Playing together: We are just just just starting to see them play together. It’s still very early since he’s so young and they have such different interests but it feels like a little glimmer of our future. His favorite sister activity is to bring her a book, throw it on her lap, scream “book!” and wait for her to read it to him. They also love getting their post-bath, pre-bed zoomies out by running around with each other in circles around the kitchen island. Dance parties are another favorite.
Weekends: We have our weekday morning, weekday evening, and weekend logistics down now. Luca takes one nap so on weekends we let Amalia have quiet time during that stretch so that we can all chill out for a minute.
But weekends are really hard. By Sunday night we are toast. Amalia has a ton of activities like soccer games, gymnastics, play dates, and birthday parties so Luca either gets dragged along (he loves it) or stays with the other parent at home or running errands. He definitely likes to get out and do things but it’s physically challenging because of his obsession with trying to run into traffic and/or jump off of anything in sight.
I wish I could say we’ve gotten used to it but not really!
1. For the first few weeks/months, how did you survive with a toddler and newborn? It helped a lot that Amalia was 4 when Luca was born. This sounds insane to say because it wasn’t easy, but the first few months might have been the easiest part of the transition just because. he slept so much during the day and we had a lot of one-on-one time with Amalia and I could nap/rest when Anel was spending time with her.
I’ve seen my sister go through this transition in the last few months but her oldest was only 16 months and it’s a very different story. Amalia could understand a lot more, help with things like handing us a burp cloth, and could also entertain herself easily.
I also asked for a lot of help. My in laws would come up almost every weekend and Amalia was in daycare during the week so even though I was exhausted, I had a lot of time to rest.
2. How do you manage the varying personality differences between the two kids? It’s actually great that they’re different because what is challenging to parent in one kid is a breeze with the other and vice versa. I also very much relate to and empathize with Amalia’s personality and Anel feels the same way about Luca so he often consults me on how to talk to Amalia about certain things and I ask him his advice on how to handle situations with Luca.
3. Is there a noticeable shift with less free time? It’s one of my biggest worries! I hate to worry you more but yes. But you really do get used to it. Just like you did the first time around. And it’s way less of a shift than going from no kids to one in my opinion. I also found in our case that the less free time shift wasn’t terrible until Luca started napping less and when he starting moving. So for the first three months, it was a slower ease into it.
4. How did Amalia deal with a new brother and any tips that helped? Because we know how emotional and sensitive she is, we put a lot (maybe too much) effort into making her feel comfortable, loved, and focused-on when Luca was born. We worked hard to make her feel like she was helping and that made her feel like a big cheese.
5. How do you handle solo bath and bedtime? We almost always give them a bath together which helps a lot. And Amalia is old enough that she can play alone in the tub while I get his PJs on in the next room. I can still hear her if she needs me but she knows how to be safe which is a huge relief. After Luca is all ready, we all go to her room and he’ll play with a toy while she’s getting her PJs on.
Luca goes to bed first so I let Amalia watch an episode or two of Bluey (or whatever she wants, but usually it’s Bluey) while I do his bedtime routine. Luckily he only takes 5-10 minutes and is super low maintenance at bedtime. Then I’ll hang/play/color with her and put her down.
Easy peasy! JK it’s not easy at all and took a while to nail down but at least we have some semblance of a routine.
6. I experienced PPD/PPA the first time. What can I do to prepare for the second? I also had PPA the first time and experienced ZERO the second time around. It was a completely different experience, I’m happy to report. I wrote about it in part one but will say again that I think it was a mix of being medicated this time around, being in constant contact with my therapist, and knowing more of what to expect with a new baby.
7. How did you handle going out and doing things with the older child around the nap schedule of the baby? With the second kid, they learn to sleep anywhere! Amalia took 99% of her naps at home because we were so anxious about her sleep but Luca was carted around to her activities and would sleep in the car and his stroller. And at the very beginning when I was still in pure exhaustion mode, I would often just stay home with him while Anel took Amalia out and about.
8. Was it equally hard for both you and your husband? I would say that in my experience the transition from 0-1 was harder for me and the transition from 1-2 was equally hard. Anel is very hands on and while it definitely isn’t 50/50, we split parenting as best as we can given our schedules. Despite that fact, it was a major change for both of us to have less free time. We used to do things for ourselves on the weekends. He might golf one afternoon and I might go get my nails done. Now there is none of that!
But an even bigger change is bedtime, bath time, mealtimes, and anytime we’re all together at home. There’s no sitting down to rest for 10 minutes. We are both on the whole time which is really nice because it feels like we’re all one big family unit more-so than before if that makes sense. It’s less you do this I’ll do that and more we’re all in it together!
9. How to handle toddler tantrums while also managing a newborn? One of my favorite pieces of parenting advice is that when you have a crying newborn and a crying toddler, always go to the toddler first (as long as the newborn is safe) because the toddler will remember that and the newborn won’t. So we really tried to follow that rule. Obviously that couldn’t always happen so we just did our best. It’s important to give yourself some grace during this time. You won’t be the perfect parent and that’s ok.
Again, because Amalia was 4 and not 2 or 3, she had minimal tantrums which helped. If you’re thinking of having kids 4+ years apart, this is a good argument for it!
10. What is one thing you miss about having one kid? THE FREE TIME! So much free time. And I didn’t even know it!
11. How has this affected mealtimes? If you only knew… Mealtimes have been a hot mess disaster dumpster fire for the last 18 months. I tried to continue our family dinners where we all sit together at the dining table but it just hasn’t worked out for us that way. I’m giving into it and going to try family dinners again when he turns two. I made the giant mistake of cooking Amalia her own meals because I was so anxious about her eating for so long. Don’t follow me down this path, I promise it’s not worth it.