How do you handle having two or more kids?

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Photo by Jimmy_Joe, used under Creative Commons license.
I was the girl that was never going to have children, but after a year of marriage my thoughts on that changed. I’m now the proud, happy mama of a nine-month-old. Now the question looming on the horizon is: do we have another?

I grew up an only child and quite frankly, the thought of having two children terrifies me. I see harried looking women carrying an infant and being tugged on by a toddler and it looks like my personal idea of hell. I also struggle with the concept of actually loving another child as much as my first and worry about dividing up time or having a favorite.

I am hoping to hear from other mamas with broods greater than one. What is it really like to have two or more kids? What are the hard parts? What are the best parts? — Diana

Comments on How do you handle having two or more kids?

  1. I’m really interested in the response to this as well. I have a one-year-old, and I can’t imagine having another kid — it’s so intense with just one, and it resets the time before I get some independence back to zero.

    But I grew up in a family with FOUR kids. I love my siblings, and I can’t imagine life without them. My mom always says she wishes she’d had even MORE kids.

    Sometimes I worry that if I don’t have more children I’ll be depriving my son of really important relationships, and of the opportunity to learn first-hand how to share, compromise, and negotiate in only the way having a sibling can teach. I’m pretty torn, guys.

    • It is hard to imagine how life will be with more than one- will you love it the same? How will I cope? etc. I had these thoughts with my 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Like most things in life you grow and you learn through the journey. Stretching into the new person you will be with a bigger family. With one child, in a 2 parent home, you can always have one to rest while one is on call. This was a big adjustment for me. The plus was I learned more about organizing and schedules which was good as I was a pretty fly by the seat of my pants girl. Sometimes I wonder what kind of mom I would of been with only one but I can’t imagine it any other way. We have had challenging times and so many many fun, happy times. They are all so different and yes I love them all so much, even now as beautiful young women.

    • As someone with a terrible relationship with my sibling, I have to say, I never learned how to share, negotiate, OR compromise–I learned how to lie, cheat, steal, blackmail, and hit without getting caught. So did she. You won’t deprive your kid if you don’t have any more. I formed those close relationships with friends instead. If you want more kids, great, have more kids, but if you don’t, plenty of semi-supervised time with friends (and SLEEPOVERS!) serves just fine. And bonus: if they’ve got a terrible relationship, you can break up the friendship! If you have abusive siblings, it’s a lot harder to help.

      • This is one thing I have an issue with in terms of the argument for having more than one kid. It’s not a guarantee of a positive relationship. I have one awesome brother who is my best friend and another one who is really difficult and who was emotionally abusive to me growing up. I love them both and wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I wouldn’t have 2 kids just to provide them with siblings because how that will go down depends so much on the combination of personalities.

        Oddly, my fear with just having one kid is what if that kid turned out to be as difficult (and required parenting right through into adulthood) as my one brother and then we don’t get the benefit of having these other kids who lighten that burden. I truly believe that having me and my younger brother makes it easier for my parents to deal with my older brother.

        • agree — my two sisters and i, while very close in age (3.5 years between the three of us) were anything but close while growing up. and, as adults, i have not spoken in person or on the phone with one of my sisters in over a year. the other one lives in europe (i’m in the US.) there is no guarantee of a positive relationship with siblings.

    • I also have a one year old and several friends who are already expecting another child when their first is younger than mine. More power to them and all, but for me…I just feel like my baby is still brand new – if that makes sense. She’s still so young and needs all hands on deck to help her with everything. At this point in time, I can’t imagine adding another one to the mix. We’re holding off until she’s two and then we’ll revisit this topic….and at that point the decision might be to keep waiting or to start trying.

    • I came from a family of 6 kids. I think that after the first couple, more didn’t make much of a difference. The older ones helped take care of the younger ones. The main difference with bigger families is buying a bigger vehicle. We always had Suburbans.

  2. Not yet having kids myself, I don’t have any experiences to share as such; but noticing you feel like the decision whether or not to go for a second child is already looming on the horizon, I just wanted to say that if the thought scares (or just plain exhausts πŸ™‚ ) you: take your time! There are of course people who don’t have the luxury of taking their time, e.g. for medical reasons, and we don’t know if that’s the case with you, but otherwise, there’s no rush, right?
    With some of my friends I’ve noticed the same thing: they have one-(or one-and-a-half-)year olds and are already putting pressure on themselves to start trying for another baby, even though they don’t really REALLY feel like it yet, but they fear having to feel sorry for their children if there’s too big of an age gap. To which I always say: just look how happy and fairly normal my brother and I (six years his senior!) have turned out!
    And still, there’s no shame in raising nor in being an only child, right; I think Ariel posted a great piece about how only children ROCK on here somewhere!
    Just my two cents… Best of luck!

    • I have been reading and re-reading those posts about only children and the other one about deciding to have a second “offbeatling”. I seem to have more reasons to not have another child, than to have one. But, there is a lingering desire to add one more; mainly to give my son a sibling. We have a small two bedroom condo, so if the child is a different gender, they can only share a room for a short period of time. So we would have to adjust living arrangements, or move. I know that’s just temporary, and kids grow up and move out, but I love our life with just the 3 of us in our our nice little home. Also, I’m almost 35, and that’s the upper limit (for me) to be getting pregnant. I feel like I don’t have time to wait. If my husband doesn’t want another, then I guess I won’t need to worry at all!

      • Has your son expressed a desire to have a sibling, or is there some particular reason why you think he needs one? I was an only child and I *never* wanted a sibling. I was always very very happy being by myself, and although I am territorial about my private space, I’m good at sharing and stuff….

      • I’m a (semi) only child; my partner is one of 5 in a blended family (I have two MUCH older half brothers, who are lovely). We go back and forth on number of babies all the time, I’d be happy with either one or two, he insists on two, says the sibling relationship is somehow essential.

        I was *very* happy as an only child growing up. Very, very happy. I definitely did not want any younger siblings.

    • Esmee (sorry I don’t know how to put the accent mark in there!) I agree wholeheartedly with your post. My lil bro is 5 years younger than I am, and we are hella close. And add to that I was an only child for 7 years, because we adopted him when he was two… There were times when we were kids that I resented the hell out of him, (like when I had to babysit instead of hanging out with friends) but overall, I am so glad to have the relationship I have with him. The two kidlets I acquired are 1 1/2 years apart and aren’t really close at all. They are cordial to one another, but not close, that I can see (they are 23 and almost 25 now.) Maybe they’ll be close later in life, but my bro and I have been close all along, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! To all the folks out there weighing this thing, DON’T rush it!

  3. I have an 11 year-old. We didn’t think we could have anymore when I became pregnant 8 years after having her. We were seriously shocked, though pleasantly. I was worried that it would be like having two only children with such an age gap, but to be honest, it made things a little easier. Rhiannon being so much older meant that she enjoyed being a little helper and I only had one in diapers.

    Then we found out I was pregnant when my second daughter was around 9 months old. HOLY CRAP! So now we have an almost tween in the midst of puberty, a preschooler and a toddler. The two little ones are 17 months apart. That has been a challenge. I love that they’re close enough that they play together (mostly) but it’s definitely a challenge having two back-to-back like that. There are many days where I spend a good chunk of time holding the two little ones in each arm, rocking them (because neither is willing to let the other have me to themselves for five minutes) while trying to have a conversation with my eldest.

    I love it. As stressed as it can get, sometimes I just love to watch them interact and see how amazingly different each of their personalities are. And as much as my eldest was a little helper to my middle, so was she to the baby. She loves being a little big sister and has taken the role of sibling protector. It’s pretty adorable.

  4. I don’t have any children yet either, but I am number 2 of 6 siblings, so I can give you some of a siblings perspective! My older brother is 30 and my youngest sister is 7 and my relationship is as close with one as the other and it’s the same with the other three.
    I think your lifestyle is an important consideration here. Until I graduated high school, we lived on a farm and sold produce at farmers markets. This meant we HAD to spend a lot of time together and also that we were ABLE to spend a lot of time together. It was a lifestyle that made sense for a large family. Now, my father is an psychiatrist at a VA and my stepmother is an elementary school teacher and there are fewer kids at home. My younger siblings have a very different life from what mine was at their ages, but they also have more active social lives and are involved in more school activities, like sports or rocket club. Like anything, there’s a trade-off.
    We also have a very large (though spread out) extended family and I think that helped a lot as well. It really does take a village.
    I love all my brothers and sisters like crazy and can’t imagine my life without any of them there. But I’ve also known only children who are just as close with their extended families as we are and just as happy with their families as I am.
    So… Not sure if this perspective will help at all, but it seems to me that the success of my family was based a lot on our lifestyle/extended family combo working together so well. Of course, I doubt you are thinking of having 6 kids. πŸ™‚

    • High five! Another 2nd oldest of 6! We’re all a lot closer in age though. Currently ranging from the youngest two (twins) at 20 to the oldest at 28. We’re pretty evenly spaces out at about two years between each kid. Makes it easier to remember ages because this is the year we all turn odd numbers, next year we’ll turn even numbers.

  5. I’m gonna chime in on the whole large age spread thing. I’m not a mama, but the rout that my parents took was to space out their children. Like crazy. There are 3 of us pretty evenly over a 26 year age gap. the eldest was 26 and the middle was 11 when the youngest was born. It wasn’t planned that way, it just kinda worked out.

    It’s been nice not to have siblings to compete with directly in the ways I’ve seen other families with closer-spaced children have to deal with. And I think that having the kids be sentient before adding others made it easier on our parents.

    On the other hand, we are so far apart from each other that it can be difficult trying to relate to each other. I mean, a newborn, an 11 year old, and a 26 year old of alternating genders don’t have a lot in common with each other. They’re all at very different life stages. So we have actively had to work to find that common ground with each other. It’s gotten easier as we have all aged, but it still takes work. It would have been a completely different dynamic though if we had grown up together. And sometimes I do wonder what that would have been like.

    I’m sorry if I’m rambling. I just saw some other people post upthread about growing up with less-traditionally spaced sib groups and figured I’d share my perspective on that as well. (My brain is a little shot at the moment because I haven’t slept in 24 hours – big project due soon.) The way my parents paced having multiple kids is pretty unique. It definitely worked as a form of crowd control (although that’s not why they did it) – no hordes of little children running around – but it has its own unique set of interpersonal effects among us as individuals who must relate to each other. And I find that I am often navigating what feels like uncharted interpersonal territory because there aren’t many sibling groups that look like mine.

    That said, I love my sibs. And the great thing is that while we all get our parent’s attention, the kind of attention we get is all different because we have different interests. So there isn’t so much competition. If the youngest one wants to build legos with a parent they can do that without someone competing with him because really the other two aren’t as interested in lego-building time anymore. Or if the middle one wants to go shopping with a parent they can do that without competing with anyone for parental-shopping-time.

    I guess the tl;dr to the OP here is that if you’re worried about unbridled chaos widely spacing the kids might be an option. But like any age range it has its own unique set of advantages and challenges.

  6. I am the mom of two boys- ages 4 and 6. Our lives are totally exhausting. It was very difficult in the beginning with a crazy toddler and a newborn, but we managed. Some days are still completely exhausting. My attention is always divided and I feel chaos just encircles me at every moment throughout the day. However, I never could have imagined i could have as much love as I do for my little wild men, and I wouldn’t trade the bond they have with each other for anything in the world.
    The other morning, I woke up to find my older son writing “Finley is the best brother in the world” on several slate rocks he had found outside . After my heart was done exploding, I pretty much felt like the luckiest mama ever for getting to raise my two boys.

    • That is exactly how I feel as well. We were going to be “one and dones” and totally happy with that. Then I thought I was pregnant and when I found out I wasn’t I was disappointed as was my husband. So lo and behold, we were on our way to becoming parents of 2. I worried about everything, could we handle it, would could I love #2 as much as # 1, how is #1 going to feel and act towards us and baby, how would we as parents foster love and friendship between them, you name it, I worries about it! And let me tell you, I worried for nothing. It has been fantastic. Nathan will be 4 on the 18 and Noah is 10 months. It’s fantastic, not always easy and perfect, but when you catch those moments of them playing together, laughing, and loving one another you forget any of the negatives. As always, do what is right for you and your family. Every situation has its benefits and it’s no one’s decision and life but yours.

    • That is exactly how I feel as well. We were going to be “one and dones” and totally happy with that. Then I thought I was pregnant and when I found out I wasn’t I was disappointed as was my husband. So lo and behold, we were on our way to becoming parents of 2. I worried about everything, could we handle it, would could I love #2 as much as # 1, how is #1 going to feel and act towards us and baby, how would we as parents foster love and friendship between them, you name it, I worries about it! And let me tell you, I worried for nothing. It has been fantastic. Nathan will be 4 on the 18 and Noah is 10 months. It’s fantastic, not always easy and perfect, but when you catch those moments of them playing together, laughing, and loving one another you forget any of the negatives. As always, do what is right for you and your family. Every situation has its benefits and it’s no one’s decision and life but yours.

  7. Would it be okay if I chip in from a Nanny point of view (I don’t have any children of my own yet)
    The two children I nanny for are 18months apart and they are close enough in age to play together, take naps at the same time and enjoy the same outings. But theage gap is enough that he can be given more responsibility and likes having some special things that she isn’t old enough for.

  8. I have two sisters. My older sister is 1,5 years older and my younger is 7 years younger.

    The reason I got (and many parents conceive with close age-gap between siblings) born when I did is because my parents wanted two siblings that could play together.

    Thing is, we never did. Even as adults, we seldom speak together and meet maybe on our parents birthday parties twice a year (we live in the same town).

    But I have a kinda sorta relationship with my younger sister (she has recently “gotten” out of a rather hormonal puberty,haha) and now we can actually talk ;0)

    So, my advice: If you don’t want another child yet, just wait. Many people rush into having several children, but kids have a personality and won’t automaticly mix good with siblings, whatever the age gap.

    And, you do NOT want two kids wearing diapers at the same time.

  9. My opinion might be biased as I have 7 younger brothers and sisters, and the last family I nannied for had 7 children, but I find it much easier when you have multiple children. It is a personal choice though.

  10. Whatever you choose, I’d say that, as an only child, do not worry about your child being lonely. A lot of people I know have kids just because they want them to have people to play with, and it ends up being more than they can handle. Your parenting style adapts to the family you have, whether it’s making sure your only child has a lot of friends around or making sure your three kids have the individual attention they need, but there is nothing inherently better or worse about having siblings.

  11. My parents at one point had a two year old and two infants. How they handled it was to have my mother be a stay-at-home mom. They also didn’t take any crap. They taught us the rules when we were very young and made sure they were consistent.

    It also helped that all of us tended towards quiet and were quite happy with coloring or other quiet ventures. (I have to admit I think this is mostly a genetic thing that was passed down as our parents are also quite content with quiet, calm things)

    I came along 5 years later, and something that really worked for our family was that my mother would read to us every night – usually a book that was a bit over my siblings’ reading ability (and way above mine, but I still loved it) so she was entertaining all 4 kids at once by spending quality time with us all. We are all still voracious readers.

  12. I don’t have children, but I would offer something a friend of mine told me. She is an only child, and she has told me on multiple occasions that she wishes her parents had had another so that she wasn’t the center of their universe. She is extremely close with her family, and very well adjusted, but she feels a lot of inadvertent pressure from her parents now that she is an adult trying to make her own independent life.

  13. I grew up the oldest of 11 and I feel my mom was overextended and exhausted. I started out with the same religious beliefs and so we have 4 children aged 5,4,3 and 1. I love it, and it is exhausting. They entertain each other and htey will all go into school right after the other, but I feel stretched to give all of them the attention they need sometimes. I think it might be a little easier if they are a bit more spread out, but I like my little cluster of kids. I may have even had a few more, but my partner is trans so we are done having biological children. I’d say that mutiple children can be awesome, but only children can too. And you have plenty of time to decide which family size is right for you.

    • O/T I read your comment before I read your username, and I was like “hold on…that sounds quiverful!” Sure enough…. πŸ˜›

      Been following your blog for a year, you rock!

      Ok, back to the regularly schedualed programme…

  14. I find it’s wonderful, on the whole. I do sometimes start to feel like I’m looking on my husband in terms of ‘how much help he gives me’, and we’ve lost more ‘us’ time since having a second, but the kids are worth it, and it doesn’t have to happen. We do keep an open channel and talk about these things, though.

    We may not be a great example, as our daughter has been a real gift – an easy baby, a lovely toddler, and our son, though a little more demanding so far (but still not that demanding really) has meant it’s not been too much of a struggle.

    Ages gaps will affect things. We waited 3 years – I’d rather have had a two year gap, but childcare for two would be 150% of my salary, and I’m just not cut out to be a SAHM. On the up side, 3 years meant our daughter was out of buggies and nappies, had a good idea of what was going on, and some ability and tolerance to wait a bit while I deal with her brother’s needs.

    I’ve enjoyed my son’s small-babyhood more than I did my daughter’s, maybe because of him requiring a bit more of me, maybe because he is my second child (so less of the ‘Omifuckingodihaveababy’ stuff going on), I don’t know.

    One way or another, I’m certainly glad we have a second child. I love being able to talk about ‘the kids’ and watching the relationship develop between them – his beaming smile when she walks into the room, the kindness when she hands him a toy to play with or capers around him to make him laugh.

  15. I’m wondering how many of the previous posters are working moms? This is our big discussion — both of us work (I’m a professor, he’s a locksmith) and right now adding another seems sooooo daunting and quite frankly, impossible. A lot of that, however, is because we both work. I’m curious as to what working moms have to say about this topic as well (or to let me in on that if you were a previous poster and just didn’t say) πŸ™‚

    • I already replied, but did not mention my husband and I both work full time. Actually, I started college when my younger son was a baby, worked part time while going to school full time, and now work full time as an RN. My husband works two part time jobs and has a small business designing skateboards on the side. So, yes, it is possible!

    • We both work. I make more money than he does. We both truly dig our jobs. We have an 11 month old…and another due in 3 months. About a month ago, I came to the conclusion that we could not possibly both keep it up AND devote the time and energy to our Critter and Sprout. I tendered my resignation…not effective till Sprout is 3 months old. I NEVER-IN-A-MILLION-YEARS, would have thought I’d be a home-with-the-kids kind of chic. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in this whole deal – it is rather impossible to say what you’ll do about anything concerning parenthood until you are faced with doing it.

  16. If you don’t want another child then I think that is your answer right there.

    I have two kids and I love it, and it’s hard. (but not as hard as I thought.) They’re close in age, 22 months apart, which has pros and cons. But this is such a personal decision. Your kid or kids will be fine either way. Having two kids is completely doable. Having one kid is easier in some ways, but still also hard.

    But no child should enter their family because of obligation. If you don’t long for more kids, that’s a big tell that maybe one is the right number for you. If you do long for another child, now or later, and have the resources to parent one, well – that’s a good option too.

  17. Hi! I’m the one that wrote in originally. I just want to thank everyone for sharing their stories. We’re not planning on rushing the decision, but the thought has been in the back of our minds as the little one grows and we start to consider what baby stuff to get rid of. I’m an only child, but the hubs the youngest of four (the closest is 6 years older, the oldest 16 years). I sense one might be right for us, but we’ll see what happens as time goes by. Thanks again!

  18. We have two little girls with just over a two year age gap, and it’s great! So far, there have been no negatives. We’re thinking about adding another one or two, but that depends on my health and where we’re living. Our two love each other soooo much! They’re always busy playing and learning together, they don’t really like being seperated by school/kindy but they’re slowly getting used to it. They love to share a bedroom, but we’ve not expecting that to last forever. We always planned to have more than one kid, and would prefer to have even numbers so that it’s harder for someone to be the odd one out (My family of 3 kids, it was me. With my best friend’s family of 7 kids, it was the second eldest girl).

    • I worry about this with my 3, especially since the older two are so close. They’re 2.5 years apart in age but because the oldest is autistic and the middle child is precocious they were a lot closer than that developmentally (for example when he was 4 and she was 18 months old they were both starting to talk and play with others). We were shooting for about the same spacing with baby #3 but I had trouble conceiving so he’s almost 3.5 years younger than the middle child. They’re so far ahead of him that I worry that he’ll always be the odd one out but we decided that giving the youngest a playmate was not enough of a reason to have a 4th child (especially since my last pregnancy and delivery were so difficult).

  19. I have two boys close in age (8 & 10.5), so they have been able to play together, etc. It was more frustrating when they were younger. There was always one picking on the other, etc. Now, that they are older, it is nice to have them both close in age. (on another note, since I got divorced after having both of them, I’m glad that they kind of ‘had each other’ during that time). I stayed home with them until I got divorced.
    Now, I have a third. It has been a totally different experience. I have been working 30 hrs/ wk for the entire time. My husband is a student and at home dad. My older boys absolutely adore their younger brother. They are always wanting to show him off to their friends and teachers. Also, they are old enough to help with chores around the house and to help babysit. Now that the baby is over a year, we get to sleep in (or other stuff) on Sat and Sunday the mornings and the baby gets to play with his brothers. They are able to provide us with extra hands to help the household run smoothly.
    I think what it comes down to (aside from wanting another kid) is having the support you need. It is needed when you have one and is paramount when you have more.

  20. I feel like there’s a lot of negative responses just because people had issues with their siblings! It took a while for my sister and I to develop a real relationship and not hate each other but I didn’t necessarily have a second child to give my first a buddy, I WANTED another baby. And honestly, for a long time after I had my first son, he was my whole world and I couldn’t imagine loving another. But the older and more independent he got, the more I missed having a sweet little helpless baby. I personally think multiple children are easier than just one. I don’t find it harried or hectic at all but mine are spaced 4 years apart. They entertain each other and everything from cooking a big meal to pulling out an art project feels more worthwhile; if one won’t eat something, usually the other will pick up his slack, if one gets bored with painting after 5 minutes and the other wants to stick with it, it wasn’t a wasted effort. You can bathe them at the same time…I just haven’t found it to be that much more effort and while I feared my older son would resent his brother after being an only child, he’s been incredibly protective and sweet. They love each other, and it may not always be this way but I’ll encourage it the best I can and I’m enjoying the heck out of it while it lasts! Oh and I really haven’t had issues with taking them in public…they’re both pretty chill kids, I suppose. I can’t speak for everyone but I think a houseful of kids is great.

  21. I have a (lovely, relatively easygoing) 15-month-old and we are starting to think about if/when we might have another. Trouble is, both of our younger brothers are what you might call, well, criminals, actually. I am TERRIFIED that a #2 baby with our genes is going to end up being trouble. I know it’s completely irrational (and probably requires some therapy on my part), but it’s a big factor.
    We’re both romanticising the idea of what the sibling relationship can be (not what we experienced), and feel like we should strive to give that to our son… But I feel like a kid’s personality is such a crapshoot…

  22. I never thought I’d have another child after my daughter. Even more so when her dad and I broke up when she was just two. But as time went on I thought IF I find the right person and we get married and things work, sure. But I always knew I could NOT handle a baby and a toddler. Bless those who do! I just married my best friend from high school and we decided to try. He has an older daughter who lives in Hawaii and I have an older daughter who’s with me.
    I have to say the fact that I waited was GREAT. I can give them each their time. My son, who’s only 7 weeks is nursed full time & my daughter understands because she is 6yrs old. She loves her brother and can’t wait for him to be older, which I’m sure by that time he will be a pain because she will be older. BUT I know I couldn’t have done it if she was 3 or even 4 or 5. At this age she understands more and can be apart of things. Not on the side lines. We have our time & I love them both so much. She’s my older “big girl” and he’s my “baby boy”. I didn’t think I could do it, but it can be done. I also include my step daughter when she comes down here. But I know I don’t want anymore children. A 7,6 yr old and 7week old are enough!

  23. Can I give a perspective as an only child? I know many say they loved it, but I’ll say I HATED being an only child. I was always way jealous of friends and cousins with siblings. I still resent not having siblings. I also think onlies are at a disadvantage when they start school-they know only how to interact with adults, which makes them awkward with peer relationships. I’m still dealing with the effects of being the weirdo outcast because I didn’t really know how to interact with other children. If I’m lucky enough to ever become a parent, I would beg, borrow, or steal to have another.

  24. A bit off topic, but can I just say that the picture used for this article is not a little offensive? Is this the way those of you who have one child see those of us who have more than one? Or is there some other explanation for this, that I am missing?

  25. I am late to the discussion. I have two kids 2.5 years apart. I always had the desire to have two kids. My older child is diagnosed with high functioning autism. I am glad I had my two children together. They love each other fiercely and play together well. It is more difficult than 1. One child is more portable; I took him everywhere alone. Two is more difficult. They are at the ages where they often run off. I believe that having my second child has helped my child with Autism progress further than he otherwise would.
    I love having 2 kids, but also find it insanely difficult. They are 2 and 4, so maybe it’s just the ages they are at.

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