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Tandem bicycling

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Four years ago, when my son, Oliver, was barely 3 months old, I quit my job as an architect to stay at home with him. Since that decision, Oliver has won a yearlong battle with cancer, I have finished two years of graduate school, I've worked a handful of freelance jobs, and my family has traveled from Boston to Austin. Things have been busy.

And now, Stacy and I are ready to start again: Our daughter, Eleanor, is almost 3 months old. Earlier this month, Stacy returned to work, while I returned to my status as a full-time father, with dishes, diapers and meals again becoming my first priorities.

This time, the stakes have been upped. Two kids means twice the fun, right? People keep telling us that two kids means twice the work, but I've actually found that the correlation is not quite so direct.

Before Oliver was born, we kept a stack of parenthood books and manuals by the bed. Fatherhood seemed mystical, and I wanted to read all I could before it became my life. We attended an eight-week Bradley birthing class in the living room of the instructor's home.

But this time, we simply skimmed our completed Bradley manual in the weeks leading up to Eleanor's birth. And I use many of the same techniques I learned with Oliver to make raising two children easier. It's best to take my showers, for instance, in the dark and with the bathroom fan on high while Eleanor sleeps in a bounce seat. The flood of experiential lessons recalls that old adage about riding a bike. We've already got the basics of balance and rhythm instilled in us; now we're just running on muscle memory.

I have some help this time around. Each day, Oliver plays with a group of kids at a friend's house, and a nanny joins him at our house for a few hours of entertainment in the backyard. Stacy and I take turns dropping him off and picking him up, a juggling act we're still learning.

It's also now easier to have something of a life while having an infant at my side. We run to the grocery and hardware stores together, keeping our shelves stocked and our garden thriving. Eleanor travels with me to coffee shop meetings, sleeping as baristas slam down portafilters between lattes. I'm actually typing this in a coffee shop with one hand; Eleanor bounces in the other arm. Her naps are frequent but unpredictable, so while she sleeps I squeeze in freelance work or throw together lunch for myself and Oliver when he pops in from his newly busy schedule.

When we take family walks through the neighborhood these days, we carry Eleanor in a BabyBjörn while Oliver rolls down the sidewalks on his Big Wheel. With all of his treatment and surgeries during the past few years, he's just learning to ride a bike. At some point, we'll have to explain the adage to him. Being the oldest, he'll surely offer his used tricycle or Big Wheel to Eleanor when she's ready. Together, we'll teach her how to ride it, a process that I imagine must be a lot like riding a bike the second time around.

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