Kids. You can’t have just one, amirite? OK, well, you can, and sometimes I wish I had remembered that. Too late now, my friends. I’ have a girl and a boy and we’re just one moderately-sized family living the overworked, over-scheduled dream in an overpriced city. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My life would be easier, I think, if I had just one child. But then I wouldn’t get to have such a hearty chuckle at all the people who say I have to do certain things because I’m raising multiple kids. Because, really, who thinks up this advice?
Take, for example, the notion that we have to deal with an older sibling’s jealousy of their new baby sister or brother. Jealousy is a good thing. It fuels your desire to prove you’re the best. So use that, big kid. Show me how awesome you are by channeling your rage about having to share your parents, while simultaneously learning that sharing is part of life and you won't get everything you want, all the time and to the extent that you want it. (Except, try not to flip the baby out of his bouncy seat in the process, OK?)
If there were truly so many rules when it came to parenting kids, us parents should be subjected to testing before being granted a child to raise. However, we’re left to our own devices; trolling parenting websites and attempting to find a way to learn from our family members. In other words, we're all pretty much doomed. Then again, if you just ignore the following things I'm sure you've heard you have to do when raising multiple kids, you'll probably come out of the entire mess that is motherhood in one decent piece. Maybe. It's a toss up, but I think the odds are in your favor.
Force Them To Be Each Other’s Best Friend…
I tried this for a while. When they’d fight, I’d yell something along the lines of, “When your father and I are dead, all you’ll have will be each other.” It didn’t work, and I gave up.
…Or Even Just To Get Along
The only time my kids get along is when they are conspiring against us, plotting April Fool’s Day pranks or sneaking stale Halloween candy I’ve stolen from them and hidden in my sock drawer. So the less civil they are to one another, the safer I am, actually.
Have Them On The Same Sleep Schedule
We tried this, but it never seemed to work. In fact, getting them to bed at the same time seemed to exacerbate their competition for our attention.
Technically, we still start the bedtime routine at the same time with both our kids, but we switch up the order so, to them, it feels like one of them is getting more attention than the other (at the moment). Older kid showers while we play with younger kid. Younger kid showers while we do word finds with the older kid. Lights out is about 10 minutes earlier for my first grader than it is for my fourth grader. I’m guessing that gap will widen a bit as my older one hits double digits next year, but I’m done trying to make a uniform sleep schedule for both of them. As long as they’re in bed early enough so my husband and I can have some adult only time (even without the adult-only activity), I’m a satisfied parent.
Treat Them The Same
My children may have the same wacky sense of humor, but they definitely have different personalities. My daughter likes to contemplate my questions about her social life, while my son has no patience for chitchat. My daughter is high volume, while my son is sensitive to noise.
There is no way I can treat my children exactly the same way. As a result, I remind them that it’s not about everything being equal in how we treat them; it’s about everything being fair. My 6-year-old son simply isn’t entitled to the same things his 9-year-old sister is, and she isn’t afforded the same lenience as her brother when she “forgets” to put her dirty clothes in the hamper.
Refuse To Play Favorites
Don’t fight this. Your kids want to know — they need to know — which of them you like the best. Everyone says don’t play favorites, but they’d be lying if they said they didn’t actually have a favorite. Go ahead, think it. Admit one of your kids is just better than the other(s). Unburden yourself from the belief that you can’t love one of them just a little bit more. Embrace it.
Whatever you do, though, don’t say it out loud, or text it, or even draw one extra heart on that kid’s note from the Tooth Fairy. If you’re going to play favorites, be prepared to play until the death (of you).
Encourage Them To Play Together
My kids get along best when they play separately. It may start out very sweetly when they start playing a board game together, but how quickly it devolves into a wrestling match. Also, the more kids are playing together, the more of a mess they make. Who needs that?
Help Them Cultivate Their Individual Interests
Look, it would be nice to be able to cater to my kids’ varied fancies but my husband and I both work full-time and employ multiple caregivers to watch them after school. That makes it nearly impossible to shuttle our children around to a bunch of different activities.
They took karate together for the last three years, because it worked for our schedule, even though my older daughter didn’t like being in the same class as her younger brother. This year, they are in a children’s community theatre program, together. It’s just how it has to be until they are old enough to walk places themselves. We managed to find one activity for each kid that specifically speaks to their interests — dance for my daughter, and soccer for my son — but more than that would wreck our lives. We can’t do it all.
OK, maybe not everyone says you need to do this, but by looking at school pictures and holiday photos, I get the impression that a lot of parents are dressing their kids in matching outfits for at least special occasions. There is no way I can enforce that practice with my kids.
My daughter’s signature style is to mismatch, with clashing prints in Rainbow Brite hues, while my son insists on wearing his shirts inside out because he just can’t be bothered. As long as their clothes are clean and climate-appropriate, what do I care what they wear? And while matching outfits are totally adorable, I think I’ll really love looking back on these images of their childhoods, where their true selves took precedence over catalogue-like perfection.
Pack Them The Same Lunch
My partner and I do not serve a variety of meal options for dinner. With both of us working, and me being cooking-averse, we cycle through a roster of “one-size-fits-all” meals that all four of us eat.
However, I do customize my kids’ lunches for them. Since my daughter insists on the same exact meal every day (hummus with pretzels, a fruit and two cookies), hers is a no-brainer. With my son, there are two or three different lunches I rotate. It’s a manageable way for me to pay attention to their individual needs and wants, with a minimal amount of effort. If I had three or more children, though, I don’t think I could do this. Much respect to those parents who can pull that off.
Do Everything As A Family
When my kids were really little, it made sense to keep our family unit intact as we’d move throughout our weekend. It meant we only had to make one set of plans. We are all going to the zoo. We are all eating at the same time.
As my children get older and they start to discover their individual tastes, it gets harder to please most of the people even some of the time. These days, we reach familial harmony by splintering off; I take my son to his soccer game, while my husband stays home with my daughter for her playdate. Taking time off from family time is actually a good thing, as I've come to realize we all need a breather from one another. It also makes the times when we do come together — for our traditional movie night (as in, eating dinner in front of the TV), or for anything Star Wars — that much more enjoyable.
Remember Their Names
My brain is crammed full of extra-curricular events, birthday parties, school functions, check-ups and to-do lists. My children’s names occasionally get buried under all that other stuff.
I just shout in their general direction. They get it.