Life with Two: The Beauty of Stress and the Search for Perfection

As the year hits December and starts to comes to a close, I often find myself reflecting back and trying to summarize what kind of year it has been in my mind. Truthfully, every single memory and flashback that hits me is of the kids – not of me purchasing the Type R, not about work, not about my favourite movie that I’ve watched this year – a really big change of mindset for me because 3 years ago, those would’ve been the things I thought about.

This has been another really big year for us with the addition of Rin to the family and having an infant and a toddler can really put you through your paces. Although the amount of time in a day remains the same, it feels as though it’s been cut in half because the things you used to be able to do, you’re now struggling to even remember and the things you didn’t ever think about takes more time than you would have ever imagined. Each day really feels like you’re in a controlled whirlwind – everything is moving and it feels hectic but you’re able to see it all in slow motion except you have to choose which battle you’re going to fight today because you just don’t have enough hands or energy to do it all, and you’ll just fight those other battles tomorrow.

This last year has really been a discovery year for Diana and I, and although we’re far from learning what it’s like to have two pre-teen/teenage/adult girls, they still teach us how to be better people everyday. This discovery year has been discovering the beauty of stress while searching for perfection. Every single waking minute, we aim to be perfect parents even though we know damn well it’s not possible – there’s too much room for error, too much spontaneity in two girls that don’t even know or understand what life really is yet, and too much emotional investment to be perfect – it just won’t happen. The point of it all is to try to be the best parents we can be and sometimes striving for the impossible – with the right mindset – can help motivate you do that.

The stress part – Oh… the stress part… That has been a journey all on its own. We’ve learned over the last few years that stress isn’t always the enemy – it is more of a double-edged sword and for the longest time, we thought it was something that burdened us by weighing us down but I think now that it is not a weight on our shoulders but in fact something that we wield improperly and we feel that it is the bad guy when really, we are just bad at handling it. The last 7 months have really helped us understand this with Rin in our lives – stress in our home is never really high anymore because if the two of us are handling this double-edged sword together, there’s less of a chance that we’re going to be hitting ourselves with it – feel me? In other words, it’s really just being able to tell when the other is starting to hit their limit and you just swoop in, grab the handle and continue lifting the sword… Things get better quickly as long as the both of us don’t let that sword drag on the ground because as soon as it does, disaster often follows.

Metaphorically, the sword (the stress) changes often – its size, its weight – but the one thing always remains the same – it is always double-edged. Sometimes one of us can carry it for days, sometimes we can only carry it for a few minutes or hours, but the other is always on the sidelines waiting to come help – you just don’t let it fall down.

Aria and Rin are two completely different people despite what we thought about having two girls and despite what people told us. Aria is dramatic, attention-loving, quirky and very particular while Rin is extremely relaxed, content and easy-going – complete polar opposites of each other and it makes for an interesting dynamic at home. Diana and I often have to switch between the two of them because one will tire us out and the other lets us regain our energy.

We often find ourselves talking about how we did at the end of the day so that we know how to tackle the next day and we find that it helps reset our mindset so that we don’t continue doing something that we think is wrong. Some days, it ends up being “I feel bad for saying this to Aria today” or “I think we need to try this tomorrow” and while most of the time, it’s very small things – It helps us to really think about those small things because kids don’t always care about the big things since they happen so often – they pay attention to the details. Have you ever said something once and a week later, they repeat it and you gasp at where they learned it? Their little minds are always absorbing and sometimes it’s hard to remember to watch your words – every parent is guilty, I’m sure. 🙂

At the end of the day, it’s another year in the books and another year of learning. You’d think that after 32 ignorant years on earth, we’ve done all the learning we need to do but we’re far from it. We move into 2020 continuing to learn how to handle the unruly stress sword while trudging along the never-ending and impossible path to perfection. Although the new year is often seen as a time to forget about all the bad things that have happened in the previous year, it’s important to know that the next year will only be better by remembering the bad things to avoid repeating the same mistakes again. It’s by acknowledging the bad that you can start to see the good – life, like stress is a double-edged sword – it doesn’t sit on your shoulders, you just get better at wielding it.

The Day Two Worlds Were Created: Rin Hoang

There is something to be said about a second child that maybe no one really talks about… Or maybe they do, and I just never bothered paying any attention. When we had Aria – she was our life, our world, and everything else in-between. There was very little, if anything, that we could imagine being better than having her. Time goes on and before you know it, the decision to have another rascal running around comes up. It’s just something that we knew we wanted – so that Aria could have a sibling to play with, so she would have a friend growing up, to have a bigger and happier family – you know, the things you always read and hear about. It’s true though – it’s everything you read and hear about and more – don’t get me wrong.

When Diana was pregnant, it never really sinks in that you’re going to have another kid and maybe that’s because you’ve been through the motions already. You know what it’s like to be pregnant (or to have a pregnant wife), you know what to generally expect and you know each and every appointment you have to go to and what you’re going to be told. All you want is the kid to come out so that you can be a happy family of 4. The one thing you will never be able to imagine is: how could you love another baby more than you love your first? How do you go from having one world to two? What will it be like? And how do you share all of that love you’ve been showering one with, with another? That’s the question Diana and I asked ourselves plenty of times throughout her pregnancy and it was exciting, and we were nervous and anxious because you really don’t know how much more love you can give when you’ve been giving it 110% this whole time.

I’ll tell you.

The day Rin was born was another addition to one of the best days of my life (you can have more than one). You replay the feeling all over again because after 9 long months, you really are ready to just meet her. You want to hold her and protect her and give her everything that she needs to grow up and have all the things your strength can give her. That’s what that moment is like. You’re tired, but you don’t feel it anymore. You need sleep, but watching her sleep is rejuvenating. To relive that moment is something I would give anything for anytime.

That night, after Diana and Rin were settled – Aria came to the hospital – and we were nervous about how she would react. She knew there was a baby in Mom’s belly this whole time, and she knew she was going to be a big sister… But did she “know” this was a lifelong commitment? I don’t think so. See, the thing about deciding to have another kid is your decision as parents, but very rarely do the “existing” kids have any input. You’re thrusting them into a role they didn’t ask for or know they wanted… And that’s OK. It’s OK because while we’ve spent the last 30 years of our lives learning what love is and what it means – we still don’t always understand it fully no matter how  much we think we do. While Aria and Rin – a two-and-a-half year old and a one-day old – can’t even begin to fathom what it means; but now they’re going to be able to show each other and over time, you hope that as parents, you’re able to help foster and nurture the love, the sadness, the anger, the late nights, the fighting, the jealousy, and everything in-between into one big ball of co-existence between them. This is our job now and it’s something you learn to embrace very quickly. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

You know those questions Diana and I asked ourselves before Rin arrived? The ones we were so nervous and anxious about? The whole time, we were expecting to be able to split our love somehow or to imagine the light of our world being split into two and that is the wrong way to think about it, in retrospect. What we had currently didn’t need to be divided because when Rin arrived, what we had doubled – and this is the best way to describe it. Two worlds is not impossible because we’re living in them now. You don’t think that you can give more than 110% because it feels like you’re in overdrive already, but you can. It feels like Diana and I have been operating at 300% lately and there have been times where it feels like things are overheating and something is about to break but kids are like your cool-down button as much as they are your “push your buttons” button. They are your reason – not for anything in particular – but for everything.

Aria is our first and she will always have a special place in our hearts as our baby, no matter how big she is. Those times when it was just the three of us were special and we’ve cherished them as much as we possibly could. Rin has opened up another chapter in our lives and it’s just as special because we can’t imagine a life without her anymore. She’s one month old now and while they’re both still learning to love and live with each other between the jealousy and the crying, I don’ think we’d have it any other way (even though maybe they would).