Growing Your Family: What to Expect

0-2 Years Apart: Embracing Babyhood Times Two

family pillow fight

What you'll love: You'll get all the hassles of infancy -- diapers, night wakings, struggling with strollers -- over with at once. "When we had Alexandra, people would say, 'Two in diapers? No thanks!" Good-Cook recalls. "My husband and I felt exactly the opposite. We knew once we were out of diapers, we'd never want to look back." You will also treasure the bond that close-in-age siblings have, from playing together as toddlers to sharing friends and secrets as teenagers.

What you won't: Can you say exhaustion? "For the first two years, it was a daily struggle to manage naps and balance a newborn and a needy toddler," says Danielle McIntosh, of Enumclaw, Washington. "It was a really dark time." An even bigger challenge: Most toddlers have difficulty coping with the huge disruption that a new baby brings. "At just 2, my first was old enough to remember when she had me all to herself but not mature enough to know how to deal with her feelings," says Elisa Drake, a mom of two in Chicago. "She was rough with the baby. She hit her and kicked her. She even sat on her. I cried a lot those first months and wondered whether she would always hate her sister."

Make it work for you: Having realistic expectations is key, says child development expert Betsy Brown Braun, author of Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents. "Most parents run into trouble when they think a 2-year-old should be able to share," she says. So expect a lot of sibling rivalry. "The closer children are in age, the more they'll fight."

To minimize resentment, set aside one-on-one time with your older child. Drake says that she would take her older daughter, Haley, for quick outings to the ice cream parlor or the grocery store for some Mommy time. And whenever anyone asked about the baby in front of Haley, Drake would say something like, "Haley, tell them how old you are," so the toddler got some attention too. Drake has also found that although the girls, now 2 and 4, fight a lot, "they insist on sleeping in the same bed and love each other dearly."

For those moments when everyone seems to need you at once, keep an assortment of distractions on hand (such as a toy, a board book, and a little bag of Cheerios), says Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. "I kept a bag of tricks in my purse, in the car, and all over the house," says Borba, who had three children in four years. "That was my sanity saver for a year!"

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