For some reason, I find myself reflecting on how I parent my third child differently than how I parented my first. Not “different” as in a better or worse kind of way – just different based on the circumstance of having multiple children instead of just one.
I often wish that I could’ve parented my first child in the same way that I’m raising my third, but, of course, it’s all about perspective, and that’s something I just didn’t have the first time around. So, with that being said, here are some of ways that I am different as a mom of three than when I was a first-time mom:
- My youngest is now two-and-a-half and plays with Legos, the little ones, which never in a million years would’ve happened with my first.
- I am more than happy to take any hand-me-downs that anyone is willing to give me.
- When buying new clothes for my kids, the first two are the ones who benefit (since they are a girl and a boy). My third child RARELY gets anything new. In fact, you would probably assume that I only have two children based on what I bring to the checkout. But the good news is that I tend to buy nicer quality clothes – so that by the time he gets to wear them, they will actually still look good.
- My third child ate food from jars… shocking, I know! My first got homemade baby food that I diligently stored in ice cube trays.
- My littlest guy was left with a sitter at around four or five months old. It was a little tricky because I was nursing, but my husband and I were smarter with each subsequent child, and knew that this was a good decision for everyone. I didn’t leave my first born with a babysitter other than family until she was almost a year old. I wanted references, experience, etc. – falling just short of requiring a background check. Now, with my third, I am happy if the sitter shows up!
- I recently took all three kids to see Muppets Most Wanted. At two-and-a-half, this was not my youngest’s first theater experience. He went to the movies for the first time over a year ago to see Planes. My first child saw Tangled in the movie theater when she was four – and even then, I was worried that she would be too scared or wouldn’t sit through it. I did my research on if it was an appropriate movie and asked friends for advice. It crossed my mind that maybe the littlest guy wouldn’t sit still for a Muppet movie, but I figured we’d make it work. No research went into whether or not this was a good idea.
- My first child had two regularly-scheduled naps until she was a year old, and then napped once a day until almost three. We made our lives revolve around the nap. She couldn’t possibly nap in the car or the stroller. We could not go anywhere between the hours of one and three. It was like a self-imposed curfew, and we definitely took some heat from family and friends. I will say that this is one of the few things that has not changed with subsequent kids. I believe in good quality sleep and that sleep makes everyone happier. This was one area in which we weren’t willing to compromise. However, we have done stroller naps and car naps when we’ve had to, and recently I was heard saying, “If he naps in the car… great, and if he doesn’t, oh well!” That was a far cry from the self-labeled “Sleep Nazi.”
- My youngest child takes one class per week with me, and I’m willing to drive ten minutes or less to get there. I do it more for his fun and entertainment, not mine, although I love seeing that happy smile! With my first, I did every Mommy and Me-style class and it was not uncommon to drive twenty or so minutes to get there. These classes were a great outlet to meet new moms and babies. I loved chatting with other moms and it was definitely as much about me as it was my daughter.
- My third child was regularly drinking out of an open cup when he was less than two, mostly because he was watching his brother and sister. My oldest’s first experience with a regular, non-lidded cup was right around 18 months when we participated in a Mommy and Me-type pre-school experience. She was served water in an open cup and, at the time, I could not believe that the teacher thought this was a good idea. I still remember that the teacher said you can tell the first time moms based on their reaction to this exercise. The only time my daughter drank out of this type of cup was at this particular class. And same goes for our experience with a bib. We always used one with our first and even brought ones to restaurants, friends’ houses, traveling etc. My youngest barely knows what a bib is, and good luck trying to get him to wear one… which is why I stopped trying – a long time ago.
- My youngest started at an in-home day care one day per week when he was just shy of one year old. Of course, I did my due diligence when looking at day cares, but it was definitely with less anxiety, and perhaps a bit less thorough than I would’ve been with my first. And you know what? Our daycare provider is amazing and he has loved being there! He did cry during the first few drop-offs, but overall adjusted so well. He started pre-school one day per week just shy of being two, and that has been a great experience as well. My youngest has also been to daycare at the gym, at the ski mountain, and on a cruise ship. The first time mother in me would cringe as any of those NEVER would’ve happened – partly out of circumstance and partly because I wasn’t ready. My oldest child went to pre-school when she was 2.9 years of age. I was both excited and anxious. She cried every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at drop-off from the beginning of September until Halloween. Of course, the teachers said she was fine within minutes after my leaving, but it still did not feel good. This was her first major experience with being dropped off somewhere.
I’m sure those of you with multiple children can identify with much of what I’ve said. And though it may seem like my third child is getting the short end of the stick, I can promise you he’s not. He is laid back, flexible, and independent. He gets my undivided attention three mornings per week, which is something I did not have the luxury of with my first or second children because there was always a baby to take care of. Now he is the only baby on those mornings, and gets treated as such.
Of course, some of you may be wondering about my middle guy. The truth is that his experience fell somewhere between the two. I was broken in as a mom, but wasn’t quite as laid back and experienced as I am now. And all my kids have taught me different things about being a parent – what works and what doesn’t.
Parenting is a journey. If you are like me, you are not necessarily the same kind of parent you were with your first, and you will likely change some more as your children enter different phases and you learn from your experience. I always say that being a parent comes with no instruction manual; it’s a learn as you go, on-the-job training type of position. I continue to learn from myself and others every day.
Lauren Fishman M.Ed, is a former Fifth Grade teacher. In her “life after children,” she is the family CEO – now if she can only figure out how to get paid like one! She lives in Natick with her husband and three young children.
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