I remember being asked about two years ago if I had kids. “Oh yes,” I replied “I have a daughter”. “You don’t have kids, you have a kid” the guy replied. I was a bit taken aback by this and was left wondering how someone could make this distinction, if you had gone through the trials of the first six weeks, run the gauntlet of dirty nappies and midnight feeds how could someone say just having one child somehow puts you in another category. It doesn’t, of course, but the difference between a house with one and a house with two or more children are vastly different situations and the arrival of my son has raised some interesting challenges for me as a father.
When two parents are in charge of one child, you get breaks. Necessary little five minute ‘time-outs’, which I used, to compose myself and return to the calamity with calm and enthusiasm. For dads like me who do not have built in maternal instincts and just want to problem solve, it is important to be able to take step back and assess if problems need to be solved or left alone. When baby number two arrived all bets were off. We were both in there, hammer and tongs, feeding one, bathing the other and passing each other by.
Having one child is much like getting a pet while having two is like going for your zoo-keeping license and not all animals get treated the same way. As a father I did not expect my parenting style to differ so greatly between my two kids. My daughter runs rings around me while my son generally brings at my inner disciplinarian and my wife finds it the opposite way around. This is also true for friends of ours and they too worry that they are not giving their children equal attention or love. Men want men to be men, women want girls to be little darlings and hence we bring up a generation of daddy’s little angels and mommy’s boys.
My wife and I may not agree on all fronts when it comes to parenting but we both agree that the leap from no children to one child, as life altering as it seems at first is not as great a leap as from one to two. From finding friends to babysit, to late night dual coughing fits it can be quite a shock to the system of someone who thought they knew it all. But however difficult it may be, you now have two beaming faces smiling up at you in the morning and two sets of laughs to melt your heart. The good completely outweighs the bad and when you make it out of the mists of the first few months of ‘double trouble’ and you look down to see two little friends holding hands and trying to push each other over a pot plant you realize that you don’t know what you did without them.