Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Playdough year

When we planned how to space our children, we agreed that three and a half years would be perfect for our family. Le petit would be well into his first year of nursery school, and I'd have my days free to take care of the new baby. School would last until four o'clock and extended day to seven, and we duly signed Le petit up for both. I figured my infant caretaking experience would be more or less the same as last time, at least until five or six in the afternoon. On Wednesdays, a day off from school in France, I'd have both kids, but I figured I could make it work with some pinch hitting from Grandma and Grandpa.

The best laid plans, eh?

Le petit wasn't entirely ready for school in September. We went ahead with half days, and crossed our fingers that the potty and discipline issues would straighten themselves out. They did, and Le petit loves school. In the meantime, however, Le petit has definitively given up his naps, and afternoons at school are only lunch and naptime. The teachers have a lot of kids on their hands, and one who won't nap is problematic, to say the least.

I can only imagine, too, how Le petit would react to suddenly being signed up for full days, essentially kicked out of the house upon the arrival of his little sister.

So here I am, a newborn and a three-and-a-half-year-old on my hands from 11:30 to 6 on weekdays, and from 9:30 to 6 on Wednesdays. Paris is gripped by a cold spell, and at any rate, I don't dare go out on my own with both kids just yet, because what on earth do I do if a sudden tantrum hits and I need to wrangle (gently and respectfully) the preschooler? Le petit has decided that now that Mommy is back from the hospital has a lap again to sit in, he no longer wants to spend any time at Grandma's house. I go to bed as soon as La Petite is nursed down for the night in order to take advantage of her first, longest sleep stretch and thus hold onto the shreds of my sanity.

Did I mention I also have the worst cold in recent memory?

At first, I was on this super mom trip. I wouldn't use TV as a crutch. I'd engage Le petit in educational activities. His English would improve. We'd bond. That lasted one day last week, Thursday. By the end of the day, when my husband came home, I was in tears in front of Elmo on, Le petit beside me ordering me to click the mouse, La petit nursing on my lap. My mom had just called and left a message, and I had neither the strength nor the mobility to get up and answer the phone.

Now I'm using TV, and planning on ordering more Sesame Street videos. They'll be in English, and thus I console myself.

Today was hard again. I'm living a contradiction: on the one hand, I'm not attempting anything that moms everywhere haven't done before me. On the other hand, I know that this will be hard. Exhausting. Going back to work in nine months may seem like a huge break (and again, I'm counting my blessings to have that kind of parental leave). I think there will inevitably be huge rewards, bonding, and understanding if I make it, but can I really do it? Well? At all? I'm lucky that La Petite is relatively low-key at the moment, and Le Petit relatively cooperative, but still, I may not be up to it all.

Gotta go. Elmo is over, and La petite is waking up. Here we go again.


Cloud said...

I think it will get easier- you'll find your groove. And as La Petite gets older, you'll be able to go out more.

In the meantime, get yourself some educational videos you feel good about and don't sweat it!

Sweet Labyrinth said...

*hug* Sending you a lot of love, Happy early birthday my dear Em.

paola said...

Sounds about right to me. Not easy having a new born and a bigger child, especialy a 3.5 year old at home at the same time. But you'll make it. Eventually, after the initial jealousy/possesiveness wears off, Le petit will want to hang out again with his grandparents.

And, wow, so if kids don't nap they have to go home at 11.30?? What a bummer. Also, I am amazed that Wednesday is an actual holiday. Is this only for first year of Nursery School, or for all three years. Does that mean that most kids ( non-nappers are 'most' kids in my books)are at school only half a day?

Mom in France said...

Hi PmP:

SO been there - nothing goes as we think, right? And it's so so so hard at the beginning with an newborn when *everybody* is trying to adjust and as the mom you're at the center of it all. And your sleep-deprived, your body is out of whack, and lucky you, you can catch all the nasty viruses that Le Petit can drag home from his half day at maternelle.

It *will* get easier. I, too, had the no TV rule until no 2 came along. I just could not handle the evenings with both kids needing attention. It was awful (read: AWFUL). My (trusted) nanny finally said to me to try a video and handed me one. I didn't use it at first, but then I bought the classic Winnie the Pooh at Carrefour (with the original english track) and would use that in the evenings. It was a treat for Boo and at half an hour long bought me the time needed to get LG into sleepy mode.

Hang in there - it will always be busy and nutty. It's part of the dynamic. But you'll get used to it, just like you got used to le petit and you'll start having fun. Promise.

Merry Christmas.


Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@paola - I think our school is particularly reticent to take non-nappers because they're overwhelmed with lots and lots of kids. It turns out that another neighborhood school is closed for renovation this year, and they've got the overflow. By the second year of nursery school, naptime is just "rest" time and they don't actually expect the kids to sleep (I think). Wednesday is always a day off from school, however (at least through elementary school I think) which is why a lot of moms work four day split weeks, as I do.

@Cloud and @MIF - Thank you! I think it'll get better when we aren't all stuck in the house anymore... and this cold is seriously wearing me down. If you have any suggestions on videos that aren't too annoying, I'm all ears.

hush said...

I've totally been there. There is a reason my 3 year old is obsessed with Toy Story and has watched the movies countless times - we make him watch them in Spanish hoping something educational sinks in LOL. We do what we have to do to get through the day, and those first days are definitely the hardest. Hugs to you as you & yours try to find your new normal!

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@hush - and I deal with sleep deprivation particularly badly (I become an over-emotional wreck, essentially), which doesn't help. Toy Story in Spanish sounds like a good compromise to me!