Tod­dlers on the run

The Calvert Recorder - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Is three much harder than two?

This is a ques­tion I al­ways ask my­self be­fore we watch my niece, Au­tumn. Just adding an­other tod­dler to the chaos, right? We’re al­ready over­whelmed, fraz­zled and per­pet­u­ally on our toes. The house is baby-proofed. We have plenty of milk, Puffs and purees. The DVR holds noth­ing but car­toons (and “This is Us”).

Surely one more kid can’t undo much when there is so lit­tle left to undo.

My sis­ter and brother-in-law cel­e­brated their fifth wed­ding an­niver­sary last week. It’s wild to think that many years have passed since Katie and I planned our nup­tials, ty­ing the knot just five weeks apart.

Life looks de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent (and Elmo-in­fused) these days. We’re for­tu­nate to live close to each other and our ex­tended fam­ily, and Katie and Eric have been a huge help since Oliver was born. I can re­mem­ber af­ter­noons they’d come by af­ter Spence and I had traded a scream­ing Ol­lie off and on all night, and I’d wave mutely while stum­bling up­stairs for an hour of shal­low sleep. Other times they brought food, or cleaned, or sim­ply kept us com­pany.

Eric and Kate have bailed us out, helped us out, and al­to­gether cared for us dur­ing some chal­leng­ing mo­ments. Sea­sons, re­ally. When their daugh­ter Au­tumn ar­rived in 2017, eight weeks to the day af­ter we wel­comed our sec­ond child, I felt guilty that I couldn’t of­fer the same level of help with my own ba­bies at home.

But my hus­band and I have tried to be a re­source when­ever we can. I love be­ing an aunt, and Au­tumn is a de­light.

My daugh­ter and niece spent their first year cel­e­brat­ing all the hol­i­days and many mile­stones to­gether. They’ve worn match­ing out­fits for Christ­mas photos that we’ll break out at their high school grad­u­a­tion par­ties. Their lit­tle per­son­al­i­ties have been ap­par­ent from the be­gin­ning, but are re­ally start­ing to shine. Hadley and Au­tumn have been “in class” to­gether since the sum­mer, at­tend­ing the same day care, and def­i­nitely rec­og­nize and re­spond to each other now.

So with the girls’ ar­rival, Ol­lie gained two play­mates . . . and com­peti­tors. As I re­cently shared, the sib­ling ri­valry is in­ten­si­fy­ing at our house. If our three-year-old and 18-mon­thold aren’t ar­gu­ing over a toy car, trac­tor, baby doll or . . . you know, just the spot­light, it’s prob­a­bly be­cause they’re asleep.

And cousin ri­valry is a thing, too. Hadley has al­ways been ter­ri­to­rial when Au­tumn comes over and takes “her” seat (wher­ever that seat may be), but we try to dis­tract and com­pro­mise. That has pre­vented (most) melt­downs, but we’ll soon be en­ter­ing the ter­ri­ble twos.

Au­tumn ar­rived at 8:30 a.m. Sun­day, smi­ley and brighteyed, and I braced my­self for a day of non­stop ac­tiv­ity. I didn’t bother putting on makeup that morn­ing, and chose clothes solely for com­fort. My sis­ter has watched all three kids on many oc­ca­sions — and how many peo­ple have three, four, five or more chil­dren? It’s pos­si­ble, of course.

Also, I had backup. Spencer and I sipped from full cups of cof­fee, care­fully placed where no lit­tle hands could pull them down. Two adults car­ing for three chil­dren isn’t the ideal 1:1 ra­tio, but it’s cer­tainly bet­ter than go­ing it alone.

Com­pared to her cousins, Au­tumn was the por­trait of seren­ity last Sun­day. I chalked it up to be­ing in a dif­fer­ent place with­out her par­ents. While fig­ur­ing out the lay of the land, my niece was con­tent to watch Hadley and Oliver squab­ble while crunch­ing on Veg­gie Straws. She was think­ing. Bid­ing her time. Then she’d take off chas­ing Ol­lie, or Ol­lie would tear through af­ter her.

By con­trast, my ears were ring­ing from Hadley’s happy squeal. She “found her voice” and has no trou­ble us­ing it, mak­ing all sorts of re­quests and her now-con­stant de­mand: “sit!” She loves to perch where she re­ally shouldn’t. Oliver en­ticed the girls to plunk down in the wagon at­tached to a trac­tor he drives around the liv­ing room, then left them high and dry as soon as an in­ter­est­ing show came on TV.

It was milk, snacks and “A Goofy Movie,” fol­lowed by milk, lunch and “Sesame Street.” I did feel rather ac­com­plished when both girls fell asleep and Spence took Oliver out­side to ride his bike around the drive­way un­der crys­tal blue skies. I had a whole 20 min­utes of quiet be­fore Ol­lie got bored. Bliss.

It wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily harder hav­ing three kids age three and un­der at the house, but it was ex­po­nen­tially more tir­ing. I rarely sat down. Spent all morn­ing and af­ter­noon count­ing the three of them to make sure no one had dis­ap­peared from view. By the time my sis­ter and brother-in-law came back, I could have le­git­i­mately taken a nap be­fore din­ner.

But it was worth it. Just as I hope we’re fos­ter­ing a strong friend­ship be­tween the sib­lings, I’m also hope­ful we’re creat­ing a bond be­tween cousins. The best way to do that is to spend time to­gether.

And chas­ing each other to­tally counts.

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