I have three sisters. We all are roughly three years apart. This age separation between us worked – it worked for us as sisters (as if we had a choice) and it worked for my parents. According to my mom, it made raising four children as manageable as one might think it could ever be – to have us spaced out from 0 to 9 years old when my youngest sister was born. I think this line of thinking just sort of seeped into me over time, I grew to understand this age spacing as the ideal way to have subsequent children.
Now that I have two children, instead of think about having them and rationalize why timing them a certain number of years apart is ideal, I could spend all day ticking off pros and cons to closer together or more spread apart. But what good is that – they are what they are – which is 4 years old and 14 months. My children are exactly 3 years and 10 days apart in age.
What I’ve discovered is one is physically demanding and the other is mentally demanding. Currently I am finding the physically demanding one to be the more high maintenace. I don’t love this phase of constant roaming, getting into everything, having no understanding of consequences or danger. And DD2 is particularly curious and adventurous -100 fold more so than DD1 ever has been. Either that or I just don’t remember DD1 when she was 14 months because it feels like 100 years ago already.
So who would have thought that one simple plastic contraption would be my sanity saver? C’est vrai. A gate has come to change my life. Because I birthed the next adventurer to hike Mt. Everest, we obviously had a gate up at the stairs months ago. But maybe sleep deprivation and general foggy thinking got in the way from DH and I realizing that we needed to add a gate to the playroom door. How ingeniuos! Trap the children into one room – where they are safe – I can see and hear them – but they can’t get out. A veritable prison in my own home!!!
Now don’t think adding the gate transformed into the miracle play time with both children happily packing off to the playroom. Making it work evolved into an art form with missteps along the way.
As we all know, introducing change to a preschooler is not accepted with welcoming open arms. So we got off to a rocky start, DD1 disdainfully glaring at me as I begged her and promised infinite wealth and opportunities for treats, if she would just go into playroom with her sister and stay in there for a few minutes and not open the gate and let her sister out. I hope I never said, way back when I was naïve and clueless, that I wouldn’t bribe my children. Cause that’s my MO around these parts. DD1 eventually acquiesed once she secured the volume of spicy chips and popsicles she deemed acceptable for playing along with this new rule.
A few days passed and the arguing and bribery started to wane…..a few times a day (read: when I am struggling to get breakfast or dinner on the table without DD2 climbing into something and ending up in the ER) I was able to coax the 2 of them into the playroom and keep the gate closed.
It’s an art form really.
Sure, there’s a specific room dedicated to all their toys but DD2 won’t stay in there alone and DD1 prefers to empty out her toys de jour from the playroom into the living room. Just coercing them to go into the room and stay there was a feat in and of itself.
And then it finally happened. A few days ago I asked DD1 if she would go play in the playroom with her sister while I made dinner. No arguing. No bribery, off they went. I was stunned.
Then they stayed in there for about 20 minutes.
I think we all know that is a gift. You can make a meal, do laundry, pee in peace and quiet, hell, flip through a gossip magazine – all in 20 minutes. Give me a few more minutes and I might be solving world peace.
But see – there’s more to it than that. I have learned that to make it last that long, I have to exercise total discipline. DD2 will come to the gate, stand there, shake it and laugh – attempting in her cutest way to get my attention.
I must avert my eyes.
And forget talking.
If I dare make eye contact with either of them or they hear my voice…..it’s all over….out they will want to come.
So then I have to be stealth and cat-like when things get quiet. Typically I can hear DD1 playing and talking away…but it’s when DD2 is quiet that I worry she has discovered some new way to climb out, something elicit to eat and choke on, or has broken free and is climbing the stairs. But remember the rules – if they make eye contact with me or hear my voice, it’s over.
Then you add in our creaky old hardwood floors and creeping up on anyone is next to impossible.
I’ve actually figured out the quietest route to peer into the playroom and go unnoticed…..and then slip back into the kitchen and finish whatever it is I am making.
It is a true miracle over here. This gift of time, delivered via an agreeable older child along with a plastic gate. Somehow getting these extra few minutes to just get stuff done makes the day seem that much more manageable. Here’s hoping it lasts…..and praise the person who invented the gate.