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The trials and joys of having two children

A wise mother of two grown boys shared this statement with me after I had my second child:
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One is like two, and two is like 10.

She told me it was a saying passed down through generations of women, who, I’m guessing, were met with the insanity that comes with having more than one child.

I once heard a mama of two young children utter these words:

One is fun. Two is work.

Now that I have two kids, I understand what these moms were talking about.

I’ve considered changing the names of my children to Chaos and Mayhem to more accurately reflect the disaster they create, seemingly every second of every day.

Little Miss Mayhem, aka Mara, is fairly independent but seems to always be hungry, thirsty, cold, hot or in need of some type of attention. She’s also in kindergarten, which means there’s always a form to fill out or a paper to read or some trip or activity to remember. I need to remember to send in snacks, tissues and supplies and to not lose her library books or the bag for the library books. We also need to keep her school library books separate from the Martin Library books. And I need to make sure the baby doesn’t drool on, tear or try to eat any of her borrowed books.

Capt. Chaos, aka Charlie, is a crawling, standing, drooling, teething, eating, pooping and crying machine who can’t be contained. If I try to put him in his crib or playpen, he lets his disdain known with loud, long wails that cause my eardrums to vibrate. Because he’s crawling and on the brink of walking, I need to watch him constantly.

Each day, I dread bedtime, especially on a bath night.

Oh how I dread bath nights. Bathing Mara — a 5-year-old who wants to play with toys for a half-hour — and Charlie — an 8-month-old who needs to be held at a back-breaking angle and then diapered, lotioned, clothed and fed his bedtime bottle — is grueling.

I’ve tried giving them baths on alternating nights, but then every night is a bath night, which is even worse.

After their baths, ears need to be cleaned and teeth need to be brushed. Then there’s reading and the collecting of a sippy cup of cold water, blankets and stuffed animals for Mara, and a hunt for Charlie’s pacifier.

On a good night, it takes at least an hour and a half to get the children quiet and in bed. On a bad night, I can spend three hours. Really.

When it’s over, I usually need to down some ibuprofen because my back aches.

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Then I start my other nightly duties: washing bottles, washing sippy cups, collecting wet towels from the floor and putting them in the washer, emptying the tub of toys and water, going through the mail, checking Mara’s backpack and setting out her clothes for the morning. At least once a week, I spend at least an hour paying the bills.

I usually don’t stop until about 11:30 at night when I get about 20 minutes of peace before Charlie wakes up for his midnight feeding.

As he eats, I try not to think about how I will find the energy for work in the morning.

At least once a day, I wonder why my husband and I ever thought having two kids was a good idea.

But then I see Mara and Charlie playing together.

Mara is an amazing big sister. Her main goal is to see Charlie smile. She climbs in the playpen to entertain him when he cries. She steers him away from choking hazards and sharp corners. She wants to help feed him, clothe him and carry him. I can’t wait until he’s a bit bigger so I won’t have to worry about him being harmed by Mara’s onslaught of affection.

Charlie can’t get enough of Mara. He watches her dance and run and sing and talk, absorbing and learning. He rewards her with a big open-mouthed laugh. He climbs her like she’s a human jungle gym, and she lets him.

Together, they are constant chaos and mayhem, but amid the rubble are two amazing little people who are more than worth the effort.

And I’m glad that I have both of them.

Kara Eberle is editor of Smart and is amazed by people who have more than two children. Sign up for a free subscription to the magazine at

From our Facebook fan page:

What we posted: You volunteer at school. You volunteer at church and Scouts and this and that and … pretty soon you find yourself spending more time volunteering than with your family. Ugh! Sound like you? How do you handle saying “no” to things and how do you pick and choose? Would love some help here friends.

What you posted:

Carol Shafer: Heard this one on Oprah a few years back and have used it ever since “thank you for asking me, I’m very flattered but I need to check my calendar and I’ll let you know by tomorrow.” (or whatever date you feel comfortable saying) that way I have time to figure out if it is something I really want to do or if it is something that I am feeling excited about at the time because I’m being included in a certain group.

Debbie Bailey Rutter: Since time is at a premium, I only volunteer for activities that have a direct impact on my kids’ lives. As my kids are getting older, I realize my time with them is limited. When they are out of the house, I will begin volunteering with local charities again.

Andrea Robson: So important to pick and choose where to spend the time. We’re already mothers, and we can’t forget that!

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