My mother-in-law was re-married last summer, and because of that Jake and I now have 5 new step-siblings. There are 4 boys ages 18, 15, 11, and 9, and one little 2 year old girl. The oldest just finished his basic training in San Antonio, so my mother-in-law and her husband went to his graduation. We got to keep Stevie, the 2 year old, over Easter weekend.
The fact that my mother-in-law even felt safe asking us to keep Stevie for a weekend shows the level of trust she has in Jake and I, because I would've said she was nuts. I don't know anything about keeping young children for extended periods of time. I remember the first question I asked was "So, what do 2 year olds eat?" because I legitimately had no idea. My knowledge of babies encompasses diaper changing, and that's about it. Honestly, it was a good experience for me. Most people don't get the opportunity to test out what it's like to take care of a toddler for a weekend before they have kids. Here is some of the meager amount of information I learned about motherhood in the 2 days I lived with a 2 year old:
1. Sleeping is a luxury, not a right.
Everyone knows this about having kids. Once you have a baby, you get much less sleep every night. Between feeding, colic, and just fussy baby behavior, there isn't much time for sleeping. I assumed that this phenomenon would end by the time the baby hit toddler years. I was wrong. Our house isn't really set up for small children. Our only guest bedroom is on the opposite end of the house from the master bedroom. Jake and I weren't comfortable having Stevie sleep in an adult-sized bed all the way across the house. Plus, she was used to sleeping in her bed in my mother-in-law's bedroom. So, we let her sleep in the bed between us. I don't know if this is a normal thing for toddlers to do, but she talks, hums, and whines in her sleep. Every couple of hours we would wake up to her imitation of an ambulance siren. The crazy thing is she was still asleep! The first night we were kind of freaking out because we thought there was something wrong, but she just kept sleeping through her own whiny howls. It's impressive, really. Of course her howls woke up our two dogs, and Walter decided he had to match Stevie howl for howl. Stevie slept through all of it, if only Jake and I could've been so lucky. . .
2. If we could harvest the energy contained in just one toddler, the world would never have an energy crisis.
Seriously, how does something so small have so much energy? That child would toddle, run, skip, and crawl all over the house. I know you can't ever take your eyes off a toddler because you never know what they might get into. I didn't know that you would have to run and chase that toddler in order to keep up. The dogs did a better job of keeping up with her than I did. Jake and I had to switch off bathroom breaks, showers, and personal hygiene habits so that one of us was there with her at all times. And this is with a well-behaved toddler, one who listens when you say "no." I'm sure it's much more of a workout if you're chasing around a toddler who doesn't recognize adult authority. Even so, everywhere she went she left something behind; candy, a blanket, sippy cups, stuffed animals, a trail of drool from sucking on her fingers. . .When I wasn't trying to keep up, I was picking up the things she left behind and wiping down the surfaces she smeared drool or milk all over. It. Never. Stops.
3. If I never hear the song "All About That Bass" again, it'll be too soon.
"All About That Bass" is Stevie's favorite song. As soon as you buckle her into her carseat, she says "Dat bass?" because she knows the car is where you listen to music. As soon as the song is over, when another one starts playing, she will keep saying "Dat bass?" over and over again until you play the song. It's friggin' adorable when the song plays because she dances and tries to sing it (so basically she just repeats the phrase "dat bass! dat bass! dat bass!" over and over again). The first 2 or 3 times it was fun to turn the song on and dance with her. By the 150th time, I was ready to throw my iphone over the back fence. We tried to get her into another song. She likes songs she can dance to, so we figured "Uptown Funk" would be a good alternative. It almost worked. . .until about 30 seconds in when she realized she had been tricked and started asking for "dat bass" again.
4. So tired, so very very tired. . .
Remember earlier when we talked about the energy level? There's no way to match it. I can't keep up. The inevitable result of this is the constant exhaustion. I even had help; my husband is a pretty awesome partner, my younger sisters came and played with Stevie all day Saturday so I could get the house ready for an engagement party we were hosting, and my mom kept Stevie for a few hours during the party. Even with all that help, Jake and I were dead on our feet by the time the weekend was over. After my mother-in-law picked Stevie up Sunday afternoon, we passed out for 3 hours. It was almost time to go back to bed by the time we woke up. Most of this was due to the lack of sleep (see no. 1), but I think it also had to do with the fact that most of our downtime is spent relaxing, not playing, chasing, or dancing. I have friends who have kids say they can't remember what they did with their free time before they had kids. I'll tell you what you did. . .nothing. You watched TV, or read, or just sat, or maybe you actually had time to catch up on laundry (Sundays are usually my laundry day, there is currently a pile up to my chin in our bedroom. . .). There's no time for doing nothing when young children are involved.
5. There's nothing quite like feeling loved, desired, and needed by someone so dependent and innocent.
Stevie was only with us for a couple of days, but in those couple of days if she wanted something or was upset she came to me, arms outstretched, just wanting a little love and attention. If you don't get a warm, fuzzy feeling when a toddler comes up to you with their arms out wanting you to hold them and make their world a little brighter in that minute, then you have a smaller heart than The Grinch (you know, before he met Cindy Lou Who). If I left the room she would look at Jake and say "Care??" (You've gotta give her some credit, "Rachel Claire" is kind of a mouthful.) She fell asleep on my shoulder, she ran to me when she was tired of Walter's kisses, she snuggled with me to watch Mickey Mouse: Clubhouse, and made sure to show me her bunny she got for Easter. She came to me when she needed a new diaper, when she was hungry, and when she wanted her baba (sippy cup). I'm not her mama, and she knew that, but she also knew that Jake and I were there to take care of her. We got more hugs and kisses that weekend than most people do in a lifetime. I can understand how parenthood is so fulfilling, and I realized that I don't suck at it. I'm not going to claim that when I have kids I'll be mother of the year, but I'm not as clueless as I thought I would be.
This weekend was hectic and crazy, but it was also fun. Jake and I are still exhausted, but we were both a little sad to see Stevie go. I'm still in no hurry to procreate, but I'm not nearly as terrified of kids as I was before.