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Trial Run

We’ve finally seen a turn in the
weather; it seems winter is actually here to stay. Undaunted, I
simply bundle my kid up extra-well and head out to the park in
spite of the cold. But the past couple of days we’ve had a
snow threat and so have stayed inside, relying on play dates.

So when my friend Ingrid informed me we wouldn’t be seeing
them yesterday because of a dentist’s appointment, I
panicked. No Naomi! How would I keep my child from noticing we
never actually left the house all day?? Which is why I unthinkingly
said, “Why don’t you simply drop Naomi off at my house
while you go to the dentist? Then they can still play
together.” I promise, my motives were purely selfish.

My first inkling that this might be harder than I anticipated was
when Ingrid fell on the floor in gratitude. I hadn’t really
thought about this as being babysitting, just another play date
where one of the adults happens to not be there. But how bad could
it be? Naomi knows me, knows Maddie, knows my house. What could go

If this were a funny movie script,
we’d cut to the scene of my house looking like a disaster
zone as I tried to recover from Hurricane Naomi. Truth is, the
morning wasn’t that bad. But it did give me a valuable
glimpse into having two kids at once.

First off, Naomi was eager to see what sort of boundaries she could
push. It’s as if she forgot we’d ever met, that we play
every day in the park together, and that most importantly, I hear
her mother correcting her all the time. When she’d start
running around with food in her hand, I’d say, “Naomi,
no! You sit down while you eat,” just like Naomi’s
mother always does. Naomi stared at me, amazed, as if to say,
“Well, this is a new rule! When did this come
up??” Fortunately, after a few such small incidents, she
remembered who I was and that I already knew all her tricks.

All in all, Naomi did really well, considering it’s the first
time she’s been left with someone other than a family member.
She’d occasionally look around wistfully for her mother, but
would rally quickly and get back into playing with Maddie.

Truth be told, I think the play date had a much bigger effect on
me. I was suddenly equally responsible for two kids instead of one,
and had to divide my attention equally. I don’t mean simply
making sure neither one of them accidentally ate poison or
anything; I mean it was the first time I had to put another
child’s needs – physical, emotional, etc. – on
the same level as Maddie’s. In any other situation, I’d
work to make sure Maddie played fair, but always knew that if she
fell or was sad or whatever my main job was to drop everything and
attend to her. But at this play date, if Naomi needed some comfort
because she didn’t see her mom, I snuggled with her and had
to accept the hurt look Maddie would give me. When watching both
girls run through the whole house became too difficult, I shut off
Maddie’s bedroom to make a more contained play space. Once
Maddie discovered this, she wailed at not being able to go into her
room; she needs periodic quiet space to recharge, and considers her
room that safe haven. I had to endure her bewildered, confused pain
at not being allowed into her own room, because it was better for
everyone that way.

I know this is simply a glimpse of what it will be like when my
attention and priorities are divided between Maddie and the new
baby. I know this will be both harder, because it will be constant,
and easier, because it won’t be two active toddlers roughly
the same age. But it was certainly an eye-opener for me.

At the same time that I was watching two relatively benign girls,
my friend Abby was charge over five (yes, five) children between
the ages of 1 and 5, with most of them grouped around the 2-4 year
range. That’s Advanced Mommydom, which I’m not nearly
ready for. Honestly, I’m not sure I ever will be ready for
something like that!

Maddie spent the remainder of the day a little more clingy, a
little more needy than usual. Not needing to be physically held
much more, but wanting more of Mommy’s undivided attention.
Dinner took me a half hour longer to prepare since I had to
constantly stop to sit on the kitchen floor and read to Maddie,
play with her dollhouse, whatever. She even brought her beloved
magnetic letters into the kitchen – which she knows is
usually a no-no, since we keep them contained to her bedroom
– stood in the kitchen doorway and said wistfully,
“Mama – please?” She wanted to play, but wanted
to be in the same room with me.

How could I say no? And how can I get her ready for what’s
coming up? A morning with Naomi is nothing compared to twelve
nursings a day.


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