“One two three four, tell me that you love me more” ~Feist
Four is the magic number these days with both girls reaching new age milestones – four years and four months respectively. Just as each stage of child development is different so is each stage of parenting. For the first few newborn months, survival was the name of the game for us, but we are now in a rhythm as the school year has begun and as we settle into being a family of four.
I still have so much to learn with only four months of experience, but I wanted to pass along four pieces of advice at this stage in the journey.
1. Plan special time for each child- no matter how brief.
I was so worried about losing my one on one time with Eloise when baby arrived, but I have found that we still have plenty of time together, and I have a little partner to help me care for baby sister. Even so, we both appreciate special outings and moments where she gets full attention.
We recently took Eloise to the American Girl store in Charlotte as part of her birthday celebration. Baby enjoyed the day with her grandmother while Eloise and her new doll, Willa, had fun at the store’s salon followed by lunch and a little shopping.
This type of excursion is definitely not the norm. We typically find our special moments putting a puzzle together while baby is playing, having girl chat after bedtime stories or singing along to some Disney classics in the car. The point is to make the time count.
In the same way, it’s nice that baby and I have bonding time while big sister is at school. Strolling, snuggling, and running family errands are our usual pastimes, but I’m looking forward to joining a mommy and me music class at Palmetto Children’s Music this fall.
2. Create new family traditions.
As a newly expanded family, we want to make memories and new traditions to bond us together. An end of summer trip to Montage Palmetto Bluff was relaxing and gave us a shared experience that we can reflect upon. (Read more about our stay here). Hopefully it will become an annual destination.
Again, it’s the everyday adventures that can also be made into traditions. We all look forward to Friday family nights, Saturday mornings at the park with Papa and afternoons playing at the pool.
3. Check in with your first love.
With all of these little lovelies keeping us busy it takes more effort to plan a true date night, but we do manage to slip away for dinner or a movie on a regular basis. Our rule is that we can only talk about the girls for a few minutes and then turn the conversation in a different direction.
Arranging for a babysitter and having a night out is a luxury for sure. For us, meaningful conversation can take place over a cup of coffee early in the morning and sometimes even while we’re zoning out in front of our latest Netflix selection. We always feel less stressed and we’re connected when we have time for a state of the union talk.
4. Put yourself on the to-do list.
Carving out time for mom is usually last on the agenda, but if I schedule and plan for it, it happens. I always feel better when I am doing something for my mind, body and spirit, and it gives me a little more energy to pour back into my family. Fitting in a workout and wellness, self care and girlfriend time is so important during this busy season.
Connecting with other moms can even be virtual. Lately, I’ve really enjoyed tuning in to the weekly podcast But Not All at Once by Columbia native, Anne Smith. The topics and women she interviews are thoughtful, uplifting and full of heart. Give it a listen, and I know you’ll be shaking your head in agreement, perhaps shedding a few tears, definitely sharing some laughs and finding some A-Hah takeaways.
One last piece of advice that falls under “don’t.”
Do not attempt to take a four year old and four month old to their well checkups together. I was so proud of myself and my mom of two efficiency for scheduling them at the same time only to discover that it was an all hands on deck situation.
Thankfully, a sweet nurse held baby after her shots so I could console my big girl. We survived and even left the appointment all smiles. Another lesson of “but not all at once.”