So the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have announced they are expecting their second child…here’s some advice to expectant parents Kate and Will as they prepare for number two.
The couple’s new-born to be is due to become fourth in line to the throne, behind 13-month-old Prince George. Cue endless interviews with royal correspondents, live news feeds from outside Kensington Palace and the bookmakers speculating over the gender and name of the next royal progeny (at present most bookies favour a boy with James heading the list).
However, away from the conjecture the parents will already be making preparations for the newcomer. But just what can they expect when one child becomes two? Here, I can speak from experience as I found myself in a similar situation six years ago when my second son, Jack, was born on our living room floor (don’t ask!), 21 months after the birth of his older brother, Tommy – a similar gap to what the royal family will have.
I remember the looks of pity from more experienced parents and grandparents when I told them I had “two under two” and I can dimly recall bouts of extreme exhaustion in those early months. But there were more profound forces at play as I made the transition from a carefree dad of one boy to a beleaguered father of two siblings.
The first thing to hit me was the realisation that I hadn’t really taken in the early months of Tommy’s life first time round. As I studied Jack’s movements I kept trying to compare them with my memories of what Tommy had been like at that age. Did he cry as much? Were his cheeks as round? Were the contents of his nappies as colourful?
And I couldn’t remember. I realised with our first child that through a mixture of euphoria and anxiety those first weeks had passed in a blur.
With son number two I was more relaxed and I remember pledging to slow down and really study and enjoy things. Luckily, son number two was born days before the Euro 2008 football championships, so during the first month I had a lot of time (half-time and injury delays) to take him in as we sat together on the sofa enjoying the sporting extravaganza.
It’s often said fathers struggle to connect with their children during the first six months and even while I was concentrating on scrutinising Jack I couldn’t resist thinking ahead to a time when he and Tommy would be playing, running around and generally causing havoc together. At the very time I was trying to live in the moment I was wishing years away. All I can say is that as I ventured further into parenthood my attitude to time changed to a point where I found intense pleasure in the small things and looked forward to the future with more optimism.
With much of Angie’s (my wife) attention focussed on building up Jack’s 5 ½ pound frame, I found myself spending a lot more time with Tommy. Whether that was making his breakfast, pottering round the garden or going swimming, Jack’s arrival was an excellent excuse to bond with his brother. It’s something I really enjoyed although at the time I didn’t ask Tommy’s opinion on the subject.
Some of my idealistic views on how children should be raised were also tempered by the reality of having another demanding soul in the house. Whereas with only Tommy around, I was adamant he shouldn’t watch too much television or that he should clear up one puzzle before tipping out another onto the floor, after Jack’s arrival it was much easier all round just to switch on the DVD or to settle for one big clear up at the end.
I also remember feeling that with two nippers we really felt like a family with a capital F. And being a four certainly changed the dynamic between Angie and I. Arguments aside – which were definitely more frequent due to less sleep – our roles as husband and wife became superseded by our responsibilities as a mum and dad.
Whereas pre-Jack we had the time to exchange sweet nothings, post-Jack most of our dialogue revolved around logistics. Before we might have swapped endearments as we passed in the kitchen but after we simply traded information about a dirty nappy that needed changing or some shopping that had to be unloaded from the car.
Six years down the line and we have stuck at two – and the joy and love we have experienced from our two sons is immeasurable. I feel it has been beneficial for our boys to have a companion. They are always playing with each other, discussing things, creeping into each other’s bed and, yes, fighting.
Kate and William have got all this to look forward….and what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall nine months from now when the royal couple start arguing about who’s turn it is to change the nappy at four in the morning.
This article first appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times in September 2014