When I was a brand new mom, other (more seasoned) moms used to smile knowingly at the choices I made with my little boy. I was so careful, so aware, so intense, so intentional, so determined to get this right, do this right, and raise him right. I was determined.
Their knowing smile, and sometimes their comments, said, “Of course, Honey. He’s your first. Just wait until the second one comes along. Then you’ll see.”
I admit; I was mildly offended by the assumption that my parenting style could change. Sure, this is historically true. Parents are harder on number one, with expectations and rules and guidelines and routines. But not me. I had no intention of altering anything having to do with the daily choices I made on behalf of my child, his well being, and his journey to independent adulthood.
And then my second son was born. Oh, my. Things have changed.
With my first, I waited and waited to introduce his first solid foods, since I was just sure that early flavors could bring early allergies, and I already felt guilty for not making my own baby foods. If I was going to invite those processed toxins into my baby, I would at least wait until he was six months old. But with my second, I didn’t even wait for the green light from the doctor. After all, solid foods in his tummy meant a longer stretch of sleep at night. Let’s do it. Yesterday.
With my first, I taught him to feed himself with a spoon as soon as he showed any interest, giving him yogurt and applesauce, a bib, and letting him go to it. I had no idea what a mess I was inviting. With my second, I gave him neat little finger foods for as long as possible… let’s save the mess for another day.
With my first, I carefully monitored the TV. Absolutely NO TV before it’s absolutely necessary, and then I will set the timer and watch the clock and make sure that we do not exceed thirty minutes a day. With my second? Um, it’s a Press Play Day. Bring on the DVDs.
With my first, I faithfully established naptime and bedtime routines, all of which included a book. After all, I was going to do my part to promote early literacy, giving him his fifteen minutes a day which lead to hundreds of hours of individualized literacy education before kindergarten. But with my second, I am so doggone tired and ready for these boys to go to bed; if he gets a book at all, it’s the stand up version at the side of the crib.
With my first, I absolutely did not allow him to throw food off his high chair tray. That was a hill to die on, and I would not raise a child with poor table manners. But when the second arrived, it nearly became a free for all. Whatever. The dog will clean it up later.
With my first, I carefully recorded every single visit to the pediatrician. When did we go, why did we go, how much did he weigh, what did the doctor say…. With my second, well, I keep forgetting to take him. We were a month late for his 15-month checkup and two months late for his 18-month. And I can’t remember how much he weighs.
With my first, I took hundreds of pictures, and I stored them all on beautifully decorated scrapbook pages. With my second, I’m still busily taking pictures, but…ahem, he has no scrapbook. But that is not unique to him; I haven’t recorded anything past his older brother’s first birthday. I’m a little behind.
With my first, we decorated his carseat with darling little toys to stimulate his learning environment. One of them was a plush dog on a string; he could learn to pull the puppy dog from the handle of the carseat, and it would bark-bark-bark as it inched back up the string. The first time he pulled that puppy, we were so delighted with his brilliance that I made my husband pull over to the side of the road so we could watch him do it again. When the second son did the same thing, I continued driving and thought to myself, “Oh, he probably did it on accident.”
Look what has happened to me. I wasn’t going to be that mom… and look what has happened. I am, indeed, that mom. Like all the rest of them… who probably also planned on doing it all right every single time with every single child.
And now, when I see a new mom pick up a pacifier off the floor and sterilize it before giving it to the baby, now I smile knowingly, too.