Last winter was tough. Annika had just turned one. Callum was turning four, and four has been, for us, the most challenging age so far. Torsten was working long hours at his (then new-ish) job. I was also working full time and balancing the primary parenting role as we figured out a new work-life balance with our jobs. I don't get seasonal moodiness or SAD or anything, and I actually like Colorado winters, but two little kids cooped up indoors was hard to manage, especially when one was so little and not really independent. As a result, 2015 was the first year where I had a really strong reaction to the onset of summer, after never caring much about the seasons before (I mean, I LIKE seasons, and I enjoy them changing, but the seasons never had such a direct impact on my daily life before).
But yeah, winter was hard. Finishing work and trying to cook a decent dinner for the family without any childcare, while Torsten was still at work, with a four-year-old in a challenging phase and a clingy one-year-old who wasn't yet super independent and needed a fair bit of supervision was just... draining. (As illustrated here.) There was a lot of painful multi-tasking, and dealing with whining and protesting and demands while either letting the dinner boil over or forcing the kids to wait, and there were a lot of messes and a lot of loud indoor horseplay and just... it was wearing.
And then summer came, and it was lovely, and I really actively enjoyed the outdoors and sunlight components of it, and then when it started getting cold again I thought, shit. Here it comes, another winter of being cooped up inside and stretched too thin and dealing with restless, whiny kids. It was the first time that I've really dreaded winter, flashing back to what it was like the previous year.
But! Newsflash: A two- and five-year-old are very different from a one- and four-year-old. VERY different. And this winter, I mean of course it's not over yet but in mid-January and multiple large snowstorms in I'd say we're solidly entrenched in the middle of it, but it has been TOTALLY different, and SO MUCH BETTER.
Two-year-old Annika isn't attached like a barnacle to her mother's leg! (Almost) five-year-old Callum isn't nearly as whiny and combative! Two- and five-year-old Annika and Callum play together independently, and don't require constant supervision! Two- and five-year-old Annika and Callum are learning how to clean up their own messes (albeit usually with some prompting), so turning around after being absorbed in cooking dinner to discover allllll their toys on the floor no longer creates quite the same heart-sinking feeling of doom that it did last year! Two- and five-year-old Annika and Callum can talk to each other, and make up games, and truly interact and enjoy each other! Two-year-old Annika adores five-year-old Callum like nothing else, and will do anything to keep up with him! Five-year-old Callum is a sweet and careful big brother who wants to help two-year-old Annika with everything!
YOU GUYS IT IS SO GREAT. I mean, it isn't perfect. They argue over toys and Annika sometimes hits (though only Callum, not her classmates at school) when she's frustrated (example from the other day: Annika hit Callum. I asked her to apologize and she did. Callum said "it's NOT okay." Annika yelled, "YES IT IS OKAY" and hit him again in a rage over his lack of acceptance of her apology. Aaaaand scene). Callum is a little less tolerant of Annika's shenanigans than he used to be, and will sometimes retaliate. It's not all sun-dappled fields of sibling adoration over here.
But it's so GREAT, still. Generally our philosophy is to let them sort their stuff out on their own as much as possible, and if we do have to step in, to redirect them back toward each other to figure it out together as much as possible, and you know, I wouldn't have even thought that would really be possible with a just-turned-two-year-old, but at least with Annika, it totally is, and it's amazing to watch how well they can usually navigate their little hills and valleys themselves. And now I finish work and I cook dinner mostly in peace. And the kids can reach the toys themselves and don't have to constantly ask for help, and I can trust that they aren't going to grievously injure themselves or destroy the house. And the horseplay is still there, but they both love it and nobody has broken a bone or needed a stitch yet (KNOCK ON WOOD) so it doesn't have the same fraught, chaotic feeling to it that it did last year. They are still LOUD and I wouldn't exactly love to try to get WORK done where I have to read and focus and be creative while they're around, amusing themselves, but something like cooking? Or straightening up? Or other household stuff? I can TOTALLY do that. There are no more barnacles in this house, and it's such a good thing.
I guess in some ways it's poignant... I mean, Annika moved into a big girl room this summer and we converted our former nursery back into Torsten's office and that was very much the end of an era, and there are no more baby toys and containment devices and no more bottles or cribs and a lot fewer cuddles, frankly, unless someone's sick, and you know what? Those things were delightful, they were, I truly enjoyed the baby phase (though I don't think Torsten would say the same about himself), but where we are now is even better, so I don't feel wistful for what's gone. I just love how much simpler and easier and RIGHT things are now, and the fact that they will continue to get even more so (like, say, when whatever weird sleep regression that Annika is currently undergoing ends, PLEASE LET THAT BE TONIGHT). It just feels... like this is why we did this, this is where we are, with the four-person family we wanted, and the associated dynamics we were hoping for.
We are so lucky. And I can enjoy winter again.
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