Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Balancing Act

When Jack was born our pediatrician gave us some advice on parenting a newborn and a toddler at the same time. She said that when both children were crying at the same time we should tend to Avery first. She reasoned that a toddler was much more aware and observant than a newborn. So, Avery would know when we were choosing Jack over her but Jack wouldn't know if we chose Avery over him.

It was useful advice that came in handy many times in that first year.

And then I noticed that we sort of continued that trend in Jack's second year. When they both needed something at the same time, we tended to give Avery what she wanted first. Partly I think we were just used to that but also I think Jack was just more laid back than Avery so he could be patient while we tended to her. It did occur to me, though, that we would need to figure out how to break this pattern eventually. I didn't want Jack to think he was second best just because we always got Avery's need filled first. I also didn't want him to learn that the squeaky wheel got the oil, even though that was exactly what was happening around here.

The thing is, it's difficult to determine who should get first priority when they are equally in need of something. Some things are obvious, of course; like if one of them is dumping water all over the floor while the other one is pulling books off the shelf. The wet floor wins every time. But other situations, like when they both want to read a book (but not the same book), the choice isn't so clear.

I haven't quite figured out how to reason with a 2 and 3 year old. Logic escapes them. It's crazy. So situations like that always leave me wishing I had a possession arrow like in basketball games. That way I am not left to figure out who got their need filled first last time and whose turn it is to go first this time.

The arrow is on Jack so he gets to choose the book first. Nothing personal, I just have to go with what the arrow says.

Unfortunately we don't have anything like that. In its absence, I try to make good behavior the deciding factor. The kid who isn't whining (or is whining least, as is most often the case) gets the reward. The other kid will get what they want, given that they don't throw a fit, but they have to learn to wait.

We haven't figured out the perfect balance yet. I still think Avery gets attention first more times than Jack does. I am always very conscious of this, even as I am helping her before I help him. I just hope he isn't keeping score of this in his head.

And if he is keeping score, I hope he knows that I only do it to get back at him for making diaper changes a full contact sport. Paybacks are hell, kid. Paybacks are hell.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Hilarious and SO true. When you find out which store carries that possession arrow, let me know. :-)