Once Little Baby reaches his/her first birthday, we bet you're thinking this gig is going to get easier. Yes, but not before it gets harder. Linda classifies the 12-18 month stage (or even onto 24 months) as toddler hell. Yes, they are walking and starting to talk. That IS super fun, but not when your two and a half year old is still darting into the street any chance he can get. If you thought two babies were hard, we have a surprise for you. Two toddlers are equally as hard, if not harder, since both are in fully upright and unlocked positions.
The good news is that there will be new places you can explore with both kids, like certain playgrounds, but be careful as all playgrounds are not created equal. You will start to see some intentional, playful interaction between siblings, which is always very fun and makes it all worth it! Your newest toddler can finally get off the sidelines and actually play. Nap time will definitely be the new happy hour since both kids are probably napping on a schedule (if your oldest one isn't...make him!) and you can reclaim some time in the afternoon.
A few tips for this stage:
Baby proof the crap out of your entire house, if you haven't already. Plug every socket, gate every stair, put away every breakable, and rearrange all furniture to block potential hazards (like the fireplace). We're talking total home renovation. Don't worry, it's only temporary, and by the time your youngest is 2 1/2 or so, you will be able to reclaim your living room. Trust us - it will be exhausting enough to keep your Bunch safe in public. You need your home to be a safe sanctuary for everyone to live and play safely without you having to monitor every kid every single second (which would be impossible anyway since they will likely split up just to make you crazy).
This is a physically exhausting phase because you are literally running after both kids all the time. Take advantage of the fact that they are likely on decent bedtime routines by now and go to bed at a reasonable hour (preferably after a bath to soak your sore muscles). Because this was the stage --don't ask us why-- where our kids seem to have tag team sleeping issues for a variety of reasons. Both Linda's kids started waking up in the middle of the night between 12-16 months (teething?) or waking up at 4:30 a.m. FOR THE DAY. Either way, one kid or the other was cutting into our sleepy time every single night. Know that this time is brief and this, too, shall pass, but it sucks while it lasts.
Transitions transitions, transitions. During this time period there will be major
transitions for at least one--if not both--of your kids. We're talking
about giving up bottles, pacifiers, breastfeeding, cribs, or diapers.
This is a huge transition time. We're the first to admit that our kids
have hung onto bottles, blankies, etc. longer than they needed to because
it was easier, but transitions will still happen and with these come
battles. Do what you can when the time feels right for both you AND
toddler(s). Your doctor, while very important, doesn't live in your house.
If the breastfeeding feels right, continue. If you can't find it in yourself to deal with potty
training, wait just a bit. Thumb sucking a problem? Eh - permanent teeth don't come in until they're at least 5. Cut yourself some slack on these things until things calm down a little, if it's too much. All members of our Bunches are now weaned, potty trained, and sleeping in big beds and are no worse for the wear for having waited a little.
Because everyone is running everywhere, have 2-3 exhausting (for your kids) activities that are lower-maintenance for you that will wear them out while you can catch your breath for a bit. If play dates/playgroups save you and run them ragged, get those established regularly. If taking them to mall to just let them roam aimlessly saves your sanity, do it. If you have a fenced-in dog kennel backyard, take advantage of it and throw and ball and RUN them like dogs every day! Have a few tricks up your sleeve that you can pull out anytime to save you when you're running on empty and they need to blow off some steam.
Speaking of activities, do yourself a favor and have a PLAN for each day. There is no better way to sabotage a day with kids this age than by planning to "relax and lay low at home". Yeah. In case you didn't get the memo, there is no RELAX for you now. You may be able to snag some "me" time during nap time, but you gotta wear them out to get 'em to sleep. Each evening, sketch out your plans for the next day, knowing that you will have to be flexible and change them if needed, but at least you've got a plan/purpose.
Which brings us to our next point, which is be flexible. Someone will wake up extra early and that means morning nap will get pushed up. Someone will refuse to eat breakfast and then melt down out of hunger at the playground. It will rain. You will forget something for dinner and have to run to the store with both kids, resulting in a late dinner hour. All children will refuse to nap some days. And so on and so on. Not to be Debbie Downers, but just go ahead and plan on thing NOT going to plan, and roll with it.
Pick your battles. Two talking toddlers means double the opinions (and corresponding tantrums) in your household now. You can't win every battle, nor is every one worth fighting. Kids this age don't understand the logic behind a bunch of rules anyway - have a few basic family rules for behavior and enforce those. Let some of the others go a bit until your kids are old enough to reason with (around 4 or 5).
We could go on and on but we're tired and we're already late getting this post up today, so chime in, dear readers!