I was walking through our neighborhood with Dylan at my side, both of us pushing the empty stroller (“I PUSHING THE LAWNMOWER MOMMY!”—good for you and your fear-facing ways, kid), and we passed a house with a woman hanging out in the front yard with her young toddler. The little girl, probably around 18 months old, squirmed to see Dylan and grinned at us and waved, and the mom smiled and said hi, and I said hi back, and I . . . kept going.

So, let’s recap: here’s someone who looked about my age, with a kid pretty close to my kid’s age, who lives a whopping two blocks from my house. She seemed nice and god knows I could use a nearby friend, and I just kept walking. Instead of stopping and introducing us or even just exchanging more than a shy hello. What the hell.

(And then I came home and BLOGGED about it. Jesus.)

While I’m busy berating myself for being a socially broken Cro-Magnon, I’m also thoroughly enjoying some alone time with Dylan. Riley is in Oregon this weekend with JB, on his first guys-only camping trip (oh my god, he was so, so geeked about this, and I sure hope he’s having a fantastic time) and as much as I miss them both, it’s an entirely different lifestyle around here with just Dylan around. Fully 95% of his tantrums have completely disappeared, no shit. The screaming, the fighting, the utter chaos—it’s all gone. He’s been an absolute joy to be around.

Those of you with more than one kid, have you noticed this sort of marked behavior change when a sibling is elsewhere? The difference is truly stunning, and I wish I knew how to get to this place—the place where I actually enjoy spending time with my kid rather than wanting to pull my hair out by the roots—while our family unit is intact.

4823011602_db31f449ff_z

4823012816_a7a01fc5c2_z

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
59 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cyndy
12 years ago

Even with ONE of the four kids missing the entire dynamic changes. I have two who fight like cats and dogs when they are all together, but when it’s just them, they are inseparable. It’s crazy, and I wish I could put an invisibility cloak on them occasionally just to switch it up.

Trina
Trina
12 years ago

Last Saturday I had my 2 year old all to myself all day. It was amazing!! He was so awesome without his sister around. I wanted to freeze time.

Sahara
12 years ago

Absolutely. I just finished up an entire week with just my 1yo, while the 5yo was visiting relatives with my husband. It was so easy. And fun. And relaxing. And extremely sad-making, because I too want to make it like that when we are ALL together. But I’m pretty sure it’s impossible, at least for me/my family. Possibly the saddest part was realizing how nice it was to not have to accommodate another adult: not having to wait for everyone to get home before eating dinner, not having to clean up after another big person or launder enormous clothes, etc. I am pretty sure it would get lonely after awhile, but nonetheless it was bittersweet realizing how nice it was to just be alone with one.

Heather
Heather
12 years ago

Yup, yup, and yup. When I’m alone with any one of my three boys they are, at that moment, a joy to be with. They are sweet, calm, lovable little creatures. Throw another kid into the dynamic they are right back to spawn of lucifer. I adore one on one time with my kids, I feel like we really bond and I get to see them more clearly and embrace them for who they are. Individuals. Not part of the hooligan gang I normally spend time with.

Ashley
Ashley
12 years ago

Yes! I have a 4.5 year old and a 2 year old. I am so DONE by oh say NOON when they are together.. but when one is away, the other is just amazing to be around. Things don’t seem rushed, no one is fighting over a toy, etc. They seem so calm when they are just one on one.

Tania
Tania
12 years ago

My girls are completely different people when they’re on their own. I have to say that it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one with kids who can be quite awful around each other and amazingly sweet by themselves.

Crystal
12 years ago

Yes, I notice the changed just recently. And its made me realize how important it is to have 1 on 1 time with each of them. (I have 3)
SO, my goal is to set aside 2-3 hours on a Saturday morning each week for a “date-morning” with each one of my kids. And then maybe the 4th Saturday, with my husband.
Letting them choose the activity we do, and giving them my 100% undivided attention.
And bonus: It gets me away from the other 2!!! :)

Jane
Jane
12 years ago

I had 4 days alone with my 9 year old (youngest) while siblings were at camp and trips .. WOW .. it was like being in a different land with an different girl. When my 14 year old rejoined us let’s just say the lines were once again crossed and peace was no more .. and that was just between the girls … the boy hasn’t even rejoined the chaos yet.

Mary
Mary
12 years ago

I just spent a couple of weeks in Idaho with my 13 year old (youngest) and it was awesome. She was so great. I was amused, though, that she continued to blame everything that went wrong in her world on her 17 year old brother, who is working at scout camp and hasn’t been home in weeks. Some things never change. Glad you’re having fun with Dylan!

I bet if you take that same walk tomorrow night, and you see the same people, you could muster up a hi. I promise, she’s probably desperate for a playdate too!

kim
kim
12 years ago

Yes, my girls are much easier to be with one on one – I love it sometimes – but the truth is even with the chaos they keep each other entertained. With just one I’m giving them more of my engaged attention (which they need and it’s good) but I can’t (and well, don’t wanna) do that all the time – the break to have some ‘me’ time when they are together is also a relief. Mine are 8 and 10 – when they were younger I don’t know that I ever had ‘me’ time (unless going to work counts!). :)

Donna
Donna
12 years ago

It’s always that way. Universally. I don’t know any family that isn’t that way actually.
My daughters two sons were so bad that I told them, okay, that’s it, you can’t be brothers anymore because brothers don’t treat each other that way. I didn’t let them speak to each other, play with each other, even look each other’s direction, and it worked brilliantly. Then, anytime they were arguing again, they weren’t brothers anymore for awhile. Worked well until they were old enough to figure out why it worked, then, not so much. They still say remember when gramma made us not brothers? It’s pretty funny.

beach
beach
12 years ago

It flips me out when you talk about how shy you are….I picture you so outgoing…hhhmmm. Take another walk, hope you see her….and maybe strike up a conversation!!

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
12 years ago

I am the same way. I used to be really shy, now I’m not as shy but I don’t have many friends. I probably would not have hung around and struck up a conversation with her either.

:danielle:
:danielle:
12 years ago

Riley will be entering kindergarten in a year. Then he will be away from home for what seems like the entire day. You’ll have this wonderful alone time with Dylan a few days each week. It will seem like fun for a while. Then the novelty will wear off and you both will miss having Riley there.

And maybe you and Dylan should take another walk past your neighbor’s house.

m @ rambling musings
12 years ago

Well, I’ve certainly been guilty of passing up social opportunities in the interest of peace, quiet and solitude. Not a problem unless you feel it’s an area of your life you are actively trying to work on.

Maybe the good Dylan thing is just a combo of less distractions and competition. As in fewer people to distract him, so *he* can focus on picking up on your social/verbal cues. And fewer people to compete with for your undivided attention. Kids are like that: will suck you dry if you let ’em.

ABDPBT
12 years ago

Aww, man, don’t tell me this shit when I’m convincing myself to have another kid so my only son doesn’t turn into an entitled shithead!

Also, I totally would have kept walking and felt like a damn fool, too, and I have my son all the time, so you know, that’s kind of just a blogger/introvert problem right there.

Liz
Liz
12 years ago

I am the youngest of three, and my mom swears the best time in our mother/daughter relationship was once both bothers were gone out of the house (the middle brother went to college when I was a sophomore in high school, and then it was just me). And she is SO right. The minute it was just me and my parents, I wasn’t struggling for attention or recognition or against the dickwads that my brothers could be. It was just SO much easier, and I was so much less of a bitch about everything. And for their part they were likely a leeeeetle less pissy about everything because they weren’t trying to run crowd control around three high strung teenagers, but rather just being “Wow, we haven’t killed ’em yet, it looks like they’ll all make it to adulthood… solid. We can relax” And man could I bask in that relaxed atmosphere.

I’m trying to find a way to end this comment differently than “See? Just wait till Riley goes to college and it will all be awesome!” and it’s not going well. I guess my point is that, as the youngest, I sometimes thought the only tools at my disposal were wrecking balls, and the minute I know longer had something to hit, I tried a different tactic. Dylan seems a lot smarter than I was (/am), and hopefully figure that out long, long before I did. Because it’s not just you as a mom that wants/needs to enjoy the family as a unit, it’s him too.

Liz
Liz
12 years ago

(Follow up comment to say: I know it should NO longer. Not “KNOW longer” I promise I know this. PROMISE!)

Kristinc
12 years ago

OMG YES YES and YES. I have a 5, 3 and 1 and they are the sweetest, angelic children when they are alone. Together they are crazy, loud, fighting, loud, active, loud and obnoxious! Go figure. I guess it makes us appreciate the alone time even more. I used to feel like 1 kid=be productive while the others are away… now I feel like 1 kid=chance to savor every single moment of their uniqueness. ENJOY your “alone time”. :)

6512 and growing
12 years ago

EVERYTHING is so much easier with one child.
Even though my 2 kids (5 and 3) entertain each other, they also feed off each others’ naughtiness. My daughter is emboldened to try snarky things when her bro is around that she would never attempt on her own.
Plus, there’s no one to fight with.
Enjoy your special time with D.

Nicole
Nicole
12 years ago

Why is this true? It’s maddening! I’ve had only one for two days now and it’s so MELLOW. Whyyyyy?

Sarah
Sarah
12 years ago

I think a big part of it is because you don’t have to manage multiple differing sets of needs. Dylan doesn’t have to wait for something while you deal with Riley. You can do what he wants much more easily and with no waiting…

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

You really shouldn’t feel bad about not stopping to talk to that neighbor. I don’t think most people would view a simple “hello” as an invitation to stop and chat. Your social skills are not primitive. I mean, the other person could have taken more initiative herself. It’s not all on your head.

But maybe I say this because I am shy and introverted, so I completely relate to you. Also I hate to say it but if I had been the person on the porch and had said a friendly “hi” to a passing neighbor and then said person stopped to talk to me, I might never say hello to another passing neighbor again for fear that it might lead to a conversation. I would like to be polite and friendly, because I think this is the right thing to do, but I, for one, do not want a friend in my neighborhood. I prefer more distance so that there is no chance someone could start dropping by unannounced, taking for granted a regular (weekly? more often?) social get-together, etc.

AnEmily
AnEmily
12 years ago

Our 10 year old son returns this Monday from a two week trip to Maui. This is the first time we’ve shipped him off to grandma’s house alone, and I can’t believe we didn’t do it sooner! Our 7 year old son is having the time of his life. (As is the son in HI)
You are right-99% of any behavior problems, difficulties, etc. just disappeared.
Also, I bet you I’m more socially broken than you are!

Danell
12 years ago

Ditto for the two kids here. Sometimes it makes me sad because I start worrying that the younger one is such a pill because she’s not getting enough attention. Is this why she is so much better when her brother is gone? AM I NOT MEETING HER NEEDS? OMGworryworryworry…Glad to know it seems to be the status quo for more than one kid.

At least you said “hi” to your neighbor. I am so very antisocial that I actively avoid situations which may require interaction in the name of politeness. Which means I probably would have noticed her in her yard WAY before we got close enough to need to speak, and I would have turned around and walked the other way. Perhaps this would explain the size of my social circle.

Pete
Pete
12 years ago

My oldest son and I went paint-balling on Friday and there was another group that was on our team all day. They had three kids my son’s age and all had a great time together. At the end of the day my son was too shy to go over to their car (10 yards away) and say he had a great time and exchange phone number so we can get together the next time. I pretty much had to force him over there but afterwards he was glad he did. I am pretty much a loner and I want my children to both be comfortable being alone but also being confident enough not to be. BTW, the other father and I go along great.

My two do act differently when apart. There is a competition for attention when we are together but it is more fun when we all are doing something together.

Jamie
12 years ago

YES! I notice this same thing with my boys (same ages as yours). I don’t know how to get us all functioning like that together, so I just make a point to spend one on one time with each boy as much as I can.

greg
greg
12 years ago
Julie
12 years ago

My goodness, we are on the same wavelength. I would love some close-by neighborhood friends, but given an opening like that, I would likely have done the exact same thing, post-situation headbanging and all. I wish I were better at in person friend making, but I always seem to trip all over myself in my mind. I either imagine making a complete fool of myself in future situations, or analyze myself to death afterward, usually coming down on the side that I was a complete fool. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this particular kind of silly. Maybe that’s a start.

Melissa
12 years ago

I’m the youngest of two. My sister and I fought tooth and nail until LITERALLY the day she moved out. When I was 15.

All three of my kids (7, 5, & 3) are absolutely amazing and fun and sunshine and rainbows on their own. Together? I’m just waiting for their heads to spin around and spew pea soup.

If you ever figure out how to get them to get along while living under the same roof, please do share.

katie
katie
12 years ago

i am so glad i am not alone with being shy and having few friends!

Christina
12 years ago

We actually do a lot of dividing and conquering with the kiddos just because it gives us one on one time where they feel special and we get time away from the whole crazy scene. Usually when we are all back together everyone if happier and things are more manageable. Not the ideal but it works.

Amanda
12 years ago

Thank you for writing this! I remember one of those inane forwards about the wisdom about parenting so and so wished they’d had, which are so annoying, but, one thing sticks out. The guy said, “I wish we’d done more things one on one with our kids.” I think he had 3. It is so true, it’s as if all the rivalry and tedious (insert your own personal thing) all float away. The time is richer, the bond deeper, the reunion sweeter. And yet, I still hesitate to do it. Gah!

Again, thanks, it’s a good reminder. I may even say hi to the next kind of parallel path type person I see.

SKL
SKL
12 years ago

Yes. My girls are almost always together, but occasionally I have to take one of them alone to, e.g., a doctor appointment. This mostly happens with one daughter who has vision issues. I noticed right away how nice it was. I guess when they know they have your undivided attention, that calms them. They don’t act like they have something to prove. I kinda wish we could have more times like this, but that would be complicated.

Colleen
12 years ago

SO TRUE!! Mine are 14 and 8. During the school year, mornings are a nightmare of fighting and bickering and begging the 8 year old guy to just PLEASE FREAKING GET DRESSED!!??? PLEASE!??

The few mornings a year when the 14 year old is gone…. 8 year old is up, dressed, teeth brushed, lunch made “all by myself,” before I am even out of BED! WTF IS THAT!!??

Melissa in BC
Melissa in BC
12 years ago

Oh Yes…”one on one” time is part of our parenting strategy. Life is full of yelling, screaming, negotiating, but when we can split them up – one parent per child, it makes the world of difference. They need to learn to function as part of a bigger whole, but also need to be alone with you to just be themselves.

Alex
12 years ago

There is a completely different vibe when our family unit is all together and when we are split up. I have a 4 year old and a 1 1/2 year old and when we are all together we usually have chaos. The screaming and crying from the kiddos is like our background music. Yesterday, the husband actually commented over the screamy din (as we were trying to get ready for some friends coming over) that there were “too many ideas floating around in here!” So true. I feel mellow with one kid to myself because there’s only one other person to please rather than two who have totally different needs as this point in the game.

Em
Em
12 years ago

I’m painfully shy and never expect work collegues to recognize me on the street (I’m such a lame weirdo!) so I’d have freaked out if I’d said hi to a neighbour for the first time and it generated a conversation. walk by there again and if neither of you bolt for the exit at the 1st sight of the other take it as a good sign and try a slightly longer sentence ;)
How did you process the two photos above, they’re gorgeous.

Erin
Erin
12 years ago

My youngest is too young for me to have noticed with the siblings, but I recently spent a lot of time alone with my toddler (during the period of 18 months – 2 years). He was SO much calmer, more relaxed, and less prone to screaming when it was just the two of us. Enter Dad, and it was a whole different picture. My theory is that the more people are around the more is going on – the more competition for attention, the more rushed things are, the less calm the collective energy.

Eclecta
12 years ago

You were just playing it cool with the other neighbour. Tonight, you’ll wander by again, smile, make some kind of comment about the weather, and MAYBE a conversation will start up. Or maybe it’ll be the time after that.

It’s all good. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself!!! Just smile and be open. :)

Eclecta
12 years ago

I should also note that any one of us would obviously be pee-our-pants excited to have you as a neighbour/friend. So again, ease up on yourself!!!!! :)

Shawna
Shawna
12 years ago

I must be the anomoly – I’ve got my 2-year old all to myself today and he’s pretty much the same as usual. I suspect, however, that my husband will report back that our 4-year-old daughter will be a different story.

deanna
12 years ago

in regards to the neighbor with the toddler, i agree with one of the other commenters: try it again next week! the family is likely outside often (much like yourselves), so try and walk that same way. youre bound to run into them again and you can have a do over!

while i dont have children myself, i suspect dylan’s change in behavior might be related to a little sibling rivalry. (and it could very well NOT be. im no expert!) when it’s the 2 of them, in one way or another theyre both competing for your (or JBs or grandma’s or grandpa’s or whomever’s) full attention. when theyre alone, theres no competition for anyone or anything. sometimes it helps to set aside some time once a week for one-on-one time with each kid. you can make a little bit of a big deal about it with each of them, letting each of them plan what youre going to do. read a book, play a game, whatever they want. this may not be possible, and thats ok. just an idea that i have seen helpful for some families.

LauraC
12 years ago

I think another commenter mentioned this, but the best parenting advice I got before my twins were born was to spend some quality 1:1 time each week with them. It has made quite a difference in our relationship, getting to know them individually. My husband and I trade off each weekend, each taking a different kid for some alone time. It helps all of us.

Katherine
Katherine
12 years ago

I have the same dorkwad social ineptitude when I’m concerned with myself, but have no trouble playing network-matchmaker and introducing others. So here’s a thought, think of it as something you’re teaching your kids: how to engage socially. It’s not that you don’t know what to do–you recognized it. Now teach yourself to do it through teaching your kids (“Hey Dylan, let’s go introduce ourselves to the neighbors.”)

warcrygirl
12 years ago

Jr and The Captain fight about 50% of the time they are together; the other 50% they are either co-conspiring against me or playing nicely. Take one of them out of the equation and of course they are going to behave but they also connect with me more. Jr. was gone for a week at summer camp and I barely knew The Captain was in the house he was so quiet (usually he’s nothing but NOISE!).

Redbecca
Redbecca
12 years ago

Cro-Magnons Unite! I am so there with you. Shy in person. Garrulous on the interwebs!

I have high hopes that if we introduce a sibling to our dude he will actually calm down….

Brooke
12 years ago

I think our 2 YO is mellower when none of his half-sibs (10, 10, and 13) are around. I think he reflects their boisterousness.

adequatemom
12 years ago

My parents just spent the week looking after my nephew (7) and they reported the exact same phenomenon, along with said nephew admitting excitement at being reunited with his brother (4), but then fighting like cats and dogs as soon as said brother arrived.

telegirl
telegirl
12 years ago

Do NOT paint that gorgeous ceiling… I don’t care what they say. If the next person who buys it wants to do that, then so be it. But, I would have fallen in love with that and the red wall as well. Leave it. And, good luck!