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The Terrific Twos

Two kids are more than twice the effort of one kid. Much more. I dropped off the 6 year old at his friend’s house at 3:00 today, and he didn’t get home again until almost 8:00. So I had the 2 year old for about five hours—just him and me.

The difference between taking care of two brothers versus just one boy is amazing. (Saying “taking care of” sounds like baby-sitting, but a father does not “baby-sit” his own children.) The littlest and I had a really enjoyable afternoon. We went to Subway and got me a sub sandwich (I had missed lunch) and him some potato chips. We went to Cold Stone Creamery and got us both some ice cream. We sat outside the restaurant and watched little birds come around our patio table looking for dropped scraps of food—this thrilled him. We went for a walk around our neighborhood. We played with his building blocks. I pushed him in his swing in the backyard. We generally just had a nice, calm, and almost totally happy afternoon and evening.

There’s no such thing as a “nice, calm, and totally happy” hour with both boys at the same time. Someone takes something from the other. Someone pushes. Someone hits. Someone cries. Someone doesn’t want to play like the other one wants him to play. This one wants your attention right now, and that one wants your attention right now. You tell one to stop doing something, and the other immediately does that same thing. One wants to play outside, and the other wants to play in his bedroom.

This is not so say either of the boys are little hellions; they’re not. They’re just normal, very young boys. And girls at this age are very similar. We have two sets of friends who have two girls around our boys’ ages, and they tell about the same situations. It’s the age, and sibling rivalry.

But anyway, the preschooler and I had a very nice time together. This is not the first time I’ve been alone with him, but usually when I have him alone we’re doing something specific: going to the doctor, going grocery shopping, etc. It’s rare that we can just be together, with no agenda. When it’s just the two of us, he actually listens and follows directions. He laughs more than he cries. He can actually play quietly, alone, for more than 30 seconds. And I don’t have to be a referee, and break up a quarrel every five minutes.

We’ve got to do this more often. I’ve spent time like this with the 6 year old, several times over the years, and he’s great to hang out with too. The 6 year old can carry on a conversation with me, and the toys are more interesting for me (Legos and action figures!). Play with the 2 year old is more basic, but he’s more excited about simple things. The 6 year old was like this too, at 2 years old. How easy I forget, though, how the previous age was.

I wish I could bottle afternoons like today, and open it back up when being referee for the tenth time in an hour has me at my wits end.


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