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It gets easier

  Every day in every way, it's getting better and better.
-John Lennon
 

I think I've cracked the code on what people mean when they knowingly tell you, "It gets easier." For the longest time, I've wanted to ask these people, "What on earth do you mean by that? I've heard this since my oldest was born!" Four years and change and here is what I think they mean: survival and self-sufficiency.

Survival: you get through it.

When you have a newborn, you first must learn to feed it. This "gets easier" with practice. Feeding a one-year old can actually be much harder than feeding a newborn (don't freak out, new moms). Newborns don't throw food across the room or refuse to eat something because it is squishy/mushy/crunchy/green. You also pretty much know what a newborn will eat: breast milk or formula. One-year olds demand variety (or, perhaps, the same thing for every meal, turning mealtimes into a battleground). But-- here is the big but-- you have it down by then. You have been feeding this infant for a year and you feel like you can handle it. This is why I think it is survival. I did not feel like "it got easier," necessarily. It was nice not to leave the house with Boppy pillows, bottle warmers, breast pads, and burp cloths. However, I felt like I traded in Mustela for Munchkin: snack containers, leaking sippy cups, sandwich boxes, and a never ending demand for chopped fruits and veggies.

The light at the end of the tunnel: preschool age. We can find food for our four-year old on any menu. We can tell him, "We are finishing our dinner. After dessert we are going home. You need to be a gentleman until then," and he sits. No screaming at the table or that dramatic lean over of the side of the high chair as if he hasn't been fed in years. No throwing everything off his plate onto the floor or dragging in a diaper bag, snack container, sippy cups. Nope. If we are going to a restaurant, I usually put a coloring pad in my purse.

The other side of survival is simply just getting through it. Dealing with a newborn's feeding schedule can be rough, then you have the sleep schedule. Once you get that down, you are again focusing on feeding-- starting solids. Once you have solids down, then you are dealing with transitioning to one nap. Then you have a toddler who battles afternoon nap for no apparent reason. Then doesn't like these textures or those textures. Then suddenly you have a two or three year old who won't nap at all, though he really needs a nap. By four o'clock in the afternoon, it is one meltdown after another, even though you imposed "quiet time" earlier in the day. Somehow, you just get through it. You take each phase as it comes. And then he is four. He is just fine without a nap and sometimes takes one anyways (oh, those glorious afternoons!). You look back and realize that you aren't dealing with the "does he need a nap?" or "is he hungry?" questions all day. You got through it.

Self-sufficiency: it does come.

A newborn can't even hold up his head, let alone feed himself, change himself, bathe himself, entertain himself. Once he gets mobile, he spends every waking hour trying to hurt himself, it seems. Light socket? Let's jab something in it. Bookcase? I'm gonna climb it. Oven? Let's figure out how it opens. You worry when he is "too quiet" in the other room; what has he gotten into? With twins, you have two toddlers who throw toys; two toddlers who empty your bookshelves; two toddlers who want to play with big brother's Playmobile pirate set and Legos; two toddlers who dump plates of food off their highchairs. Diapers. Sippy cups. Baths. Changing clothes. Putting on jams. Reading stories. Playing/entertaining. All on your shoulders.

And then the magical age: four. Our fully-potty trained preschooler gets up in the night to use the restroom, washes his hands, turns off the light, and goes back to bed. He is responsible for all areas in the restroom-- no more calling for help on the, um, bigger tasks. He dresses himself every morning, puts on his socks and shoes, and puts his pajamas in the hamper. He picks up his toys. He showers himself. The other day, I moved the laundry while he showered. Oh, the freedom! He got out of the shower, brushed his teeth, hung up his towel, and then put on his pajamas. He can write his name. He can count to thirty. He knows a few sight words. He recognizes some letters and their sounds. He tells jokes and makes us laugh. He has ideas and wants to help fix things. (He keeps the tape in his room so he can fix his toys.) If you had told last year Me that one day my kids would take care of themselves, I would have laughed. The idea seems ludicrous when you are down in the diaper trenches. But it happens.

I call myself a deliberate optimist; I'm a pessimist at heart. With every give, there is a take. There is much less hands-on work with four-year olds. Preschoolers are absolutely nothing like infants or toddlers. It is busier, especially with a preschool schedule. He is a little kid now, his own person. My husband is in the STA-21 program and it has been a crazy, busy semester. Maybe the stress of balancing all these different schedules is getting to me, but, really, when does this get easier? Will it be easier when I have three boys preschool age and up involved in outside activities (D currently participates in a sports class and AWANAS)? I don't see how three sports schedules on top of school will be easier, especially throwing in the Navy.

It gets better, that's what I think. I have so much fun laughing with D and hearing his thoughts. We do silly art projects and work on sight words. I love seeing the world from his point of view. We spent thirty minutes in the Lego store today just looking in the little windows at the Lego creations. My friends can tell you that I used to swear that I was a "baby person." I love me some babies. But interacting with my own preschooler-- our child-- has really made me marvel at the things he has to say... I can't get enough of it. In that way, it gets better. Easier, not yet.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
-The Beatles

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