Before I had my sons, I was certain I had the whole parenting thing figured out. I’d studied education in school, taught young children for my job, and read parenting books by the dozens. I was so ready for this.
Reality check: Newborn babies were nothing like I thought they were. That sounds so silly to say, but I was the first of my friends to have children by a solid five years, and my concept of “newborns” was, in fact, more like a four month old baby. Newborns are actually terrifying. Don’t get me wrong, I rush at the chance to see brand new babies when my friends have them, but holy smokes! This was all eye-opening for me seven years ago. The panicked wailing, the bright red skin, the itty-bity diapers, the careful monitoring of poop and pee, the total lack of sleep…it’s completely overwhelming. As most parents will admit, many of my well-laid plans flew out the window. My plan to have a well-scheduled, easy child was replaced with a commitment to full-on attachment parenting in attempt to simply survive the horror that is colic. I answered the door to see our poor UPS man’s red face, only realizing I was holding a nursing baby while signing for a package after the fact. I nursed on-demand, co-slept, baby-wore, all out of necessity for my own sanity.
This time, I was a smidgen more smug, in some ways, than I was the first time. After all, I had a fully-functioning two year old child. I’d been there, done that, when it came to newborns. But here’s the funny part: subsequent kids can sense what you already “know” about parenting, and they laugh and laugh at you from within the womb. I’m sure of it. Having a second kid was a whole new adventure and re-learning of everything. Spoiler alert: kids are all individuals. This much I now know!
Here are some snippets of what son-number-two decided school me about:
Sleep: One schedule-resisitant child; One schedule-loving child:
After firstborn: “I would never force my child into a sleep schedule. He can sleep whenever he’s tired.”
After second born: “Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t meet at 10 am because that’s the baby’s nap time and I do not move nap time for ANYTHING. Nope, can’t let him nap in the car because this kid will literally only sleep at home, in his room, with white noise.”
Eating: One picky eater; One miniature Andrew Zimmern:
After firstborn: “Hang on– before we go out to eat, let me throw some hummus and pitas in my purse since he will not eat burgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, or any food besides hummus, cheese, or fruit.”
After second born: “Do you have a kids’ portion of the spicy ribs? What about the pad thai?”
Babysitters: One clingy child; One independent child
After firstborn: “Oh, sorry– we can’t go out this weekend. My mom is the only one who can watch my toddler or he will scream the entire time.”
After second born: “What do you mean you’re sad the babysitter left? Didn’t you miss me??”
Injuries: One cautious child; One daredevil
After firstborn: “Because I respond to his needs and provide freedom within limits, he’s self-assured and knows his own limits. He never gets hurt because he knows what he’s capable of.”
After second born: “What do you mean the x-ray shows a broken arm? What two year old breaks his arm at a farmer’s market??”
So there you have it. I officially give up. I am accepting that I will never know what to do 100% of the time as a parent. The on-the-job learning never ends. These kids have one mission in life, and apparently, it’s to prove me wrong as much as they can!