You know how before you had kids you were the total expert parent? All those things that your parents did to you; you said, “I’ll never do that to my kids!“ You would see people out in public with their unruly brood and think, “Some people should never have become parents!“ There is no expert in parenting quite like the person who is not a parent.
Then you have your first child and the sleepless nights and exhaustion cause you to become your mother or the stranger out in public. Because sometimes mom was right. And sometimes it’s just not worth the fight in public to stop your children from singing at the top of their lungs on the elevator on the way up to the observation deck of the Empire State building.
And just as you get comfortable enough in the parenting thing you think it’s time to add another child to the mix. How hard can it be? Two kids, two parents, we’ve got this.
All Of The Things You Worried About With Your 1st Are Gone
You figure you know how to deal with colic and sleeping and feeding and diapering and potty training and everything else that comes with having a baby. So the 2nd one, that should be a breeze.
Then about the 2nd or 3rd trimester of your pregnancy you start to get into this panic about how will I love this one enough? Is there enough room in my heart for two? How do I keep the older one from being jealous of the new baby? How do I get pulled in two different directions? And you begin to think this wasn’t such a good idea. Problem is, there’s no turning back now.
Everyone reassures you that there will be enough love to go around. Your heart gets bigger, not divided in two. It will all be just fine. And you half nod in agreement thinking oh they’re just blowing smoke up my butt. But then the baby arrives and suddenly you realize that yes I can love them both the same and yes my heart does just get bigger. You figure out ways to spend time with your older child one on one when the newborn is napping or when your husband is home to take care of the baby. You get into your routine and life is good.
Why Not Add One More Child?
Hey, we’re professionals now. So lets have a 3rd child. Yes, that’s exactly what we should do. So the 3rd child comes along and now you don’t have that same nervousness about the love and spending time. You also figure now I have been through the diapers and the illnesses and the colic with two babies so I’m the biggest expert there is out there. I know what I’m doing. I can tell others what to do. Heck, even those pesky warnings on toys not intended for children under 3 are nothing for a seasoned parent like me! I can keep those choking hazards away from my child because I’ve got the eyes on the back of my head honed in real good. I’m untouchable and totally everyone’s go to person for parenting advice now because I’ve been through it 3 times.
Then You Begin Seeing Fault In Everyone’s Parenting
I have seen it a million times. Heck, I think I even lived it myself. On child number 2 I watched as close friends who were on child number 1 made all the crazy neurotic first time parent mistakes. Calling the doctor for every sniffle or even every cry. There was just no way that I was that bad when I was a first time mom. Okay, seriously I wasn’t. I did not call the doctor for every little thing, I called my mom or my SIL for every little thing.
I would tell my friends how they need to get their baby to sleep because I knew I had all of the answers. Of course now we all know that I know nothing. While I still do think these first time parents were a little nuts for calling the doctor over every little thing when they had plenty of other family and friends to turn to I guess I can kind of knock it less now. Doctors are likely used to it anyways with first time parents. But I do believe that people can gain knowledge from those who have been through it before. We definitely don’t have to do it exactly like they did, but we can listen.
It’s funny though now that I have 4 children I think I finally truly realize that I really know nothing. That I can give you all of the things I have tried with my children, but really each child is so different that there is no one right way to do it. I was listening to some women talk the other day. I inserted myself and my thoughts every now and then, but for the most part I let them go on with what they knew to be the absolute best way to parent. I was sitting down with three other young ladies all from very different backgrounds. One had no children and had only been a nanny. One had just one child and the other one had 2 children.
The major topics of conversation were sleeping and potty training. The one woman who had two children was sure she had the answer to sleeping. Ha, yeah remember I was sure I had it too. She was explaining her routine and how at first they cried for a few nights, but after that it was fine. Well yes, that’s wonderful when it works, but I can tell you from experience it does not work with every child. The one who has no children said that her parents always told them when they were kids this is our bed, you have your own bed, go sleep in it because it’s bed time. Well, that works with older children, not so much with babies and even toddlers. But hey, thanks for the pointers. They are worth a shot, but I guess I wished they wouldn’t have said their way was the only way with so much certainty.
Then there’s potty training. The one young lady who has one child said oh it was easy, I just bought her underwear and put them on her and she had a few accidents, but after that she was great. Then there was some discussion of boys being easier to train. Well, I had to set them right on that because my son has been giving me a run for my money. He still needs a pull up to bed, but the whole just buy them underwear? At least in my case it worked fine for my middle daughter and really my oldest too, but my son had repeated accidents. No amount of bribery or stickers or prizes really seemed to work with him. It was just a deal with it until he stopped sort of thing. I can’t even begin to do night training with him because he’s such a heavy sleeper.
It’s hard not to think you have all of the secrets of parenting when you have been through it and have found some successes. So I get why these ladies had so much confidence in their ways. And perhaps if they go on to have more children they will see that sometimes what worked for one does not work for another.
It took me having four children to realize I don’t have all of the answers. Now this isn’t to say I don’t know what I’m talking about. I mean life experience is a good thing, right? So I can certainly tell people well this is what I did maybe you’ll want to try this with your child. I’m all about sharing ideas. Whether it’s sleeping tips or ways I have found to keep my older children accountable I’ll tell you what I’ve tried. You’re free to take my advice or not. I certainly try my hardest to not come off too preachy about too many things.
Things do get to me at times. Things like people who don’t have teenagers blaming parents for the behavior of teenagers. We aren’t always to blame for their actions so it bugs me. And I look at it this way. You know how much it drives you crazy when a childless person tells you how you should discipline your toddler? Well, same concept. Teenagers are a whole new ball of wax. They don’t aim to please so much and are trying to assert their independence. So disciplining a child who really wants to defy you and prove you wrong is not quite the same as disciplining a child who wants to please you. So give parents of teenagers a break. We’re not all bad and teens aren’t all bad either.
And this is something I will get up on my high horse about and preach about. It might come off as a you haven’t seen nothing yet kind of reaction, but that’s only because I speak the truth. I won’t say I’m not guilty of looking at some teens behavior and thinking where were the parents, but now I think I have become more empathetic to the parent of the teen’s plight. You’ll get there too before you know it.
Heed this old mom (or well not really so old as I know many before me have plenty of lessons to teach me) words of wisdom. Having 1, 2, 3, or even 4 children does not make you a parenting expert. There’s just no such thing because each child is different. All any of us can do is try our best and share what worked for us, but none of us can say with absolute certainty that it will work for you. And remember teens and their parents aren’t so bad. We’re just trying to navigate through new territory here. Even listening to the advice from our parents is hard because raising teens in the age of social media is just so different from when we were teenagers. The fact that I had my own phone in my bedroom when I was a teen does not mean the same rules can and should apply to my teenagers cell phone usage.
So who’s ready to say without a shadow of a doubt that you have got all of the answers to this parenting gig?
Disclaimer: Some of the stuff mentioned in her aren’t true to my parenting and might be something I have heard another parent say. So before you report me for giving my children choking hazards, I have never done this. While it’s hard not to have choking hazards in the home with older children I don’t purposely purchase age inappropriate toys for my children. Never have, never will.