Christina Antus ponders the differences in her parenting style as her family has grown in number.
I’ve learned to relax a lot between child one and child four. Not because life is short, but because I literally have zero control and it took me four kids to finally figure that out — that and your coffee won’t be warm until your youngest is in full-day kindergarten.
Such is motherhood.
Here are a few examples of how I’ve evolved over ten years:
Child One: I packed everything I needed, might need, probably didn’t need, but would have in case I needed it. All top brand items neatly organized by size and necessity in an expensive bag.
Child Four: I keep two diapers and a small packet of Costco-brand wipes in the car that dried out two months ago.
Child One: I got a $250 high chair that was washed after each use.
Child Four: I got a $19.99 plastic booster chair that is occasionally hosed off in the yard.
Child One: There was a regular nap schedule and all errands were done around those nap times. No room for deviations. Schedules were strictly enforced.
Child Four: One nap if we’re home; otherwise he naps in the car while running errands before we pick everyone else up from school.
Child One: Healthy snacks scheduled throughout the day served in muffin tins because Pinterest said it was fun.
Child Four: If I remember snacks, it’s cereal in a ziplock baggie because we’re usually in the car running errands. The Ziploc is a formality only.
Child One: I made homemade puree from only organic foods and served them as per the pediatricians guidelines.
Child Four: Started baby-led weaning instead of puree and gave him soft foods so they were safe.
Child One: I helicoptered around her every move on the playground and in the yard swooping in to rescue her from falling, getting hurt, or eating sand.
Child Four: I make sure he doesn’t fall off anything he can seriously get hurt on and I watch the amount of sand consumption before cutting him off.
Child One: Shopped with her in her stroller and never used a shopping cart, because germs.
Child Four: Wipe down the cart with a Wet One if the store doesn’t provide Purell wipes or spray.
Child One: Did not sneak into rooms beyond checking in before bed, so as not to disrupt her sleep.
Child Four: Constantly sneaking in just to watch him sleep by the light of the nightlight, because I didn’t do this enough with my other kids.
Child One: I organized crafts, dyed macaroni for stringing, set up homemade finger paints, and we regularly attended reading and music and movement classes at our local library.
Child Four: I take the cabinet locks off the Tupperware and pot/pan cabinets.
Child One: Couldn’t wait for her to start kindergarten so I could have the whole day to myself.
Child Four: Hoping the next four years go slow, because I want him home, all to myself.
I used to hate it when people would tell me to enjoy this time, it goes so fast. Usually they said it to me after I had a four-night streak of taking care of a toddler with a fever while vomit dried on my pant leg.
But it’s true.
By the time you get past age five with any number of kids, you realized the first few years, as long as they felt, weren’t very many years at all. Before you know it, they’re just memories.
I enjoy that my oldest is almost ten and we can share a lot of things we couldn’t when she was very little, but I still sometimes look back on her early years and wish I hadn’t been so stringent on schedules and proper development. I wish I was as loose and care-free then as I am now with her littlest brother.
Instead of fussing to get him bathed and in bed no later than 7:00 PM, I am walking him around the yard and driveway in his wagon until 7:30 just because the weather is still nice and everyone loves fresh air before bed.
Life is always a continual lesson in appreciation for the little things, and parenting is no exception.
We moms hope we’re doing our best.
We fumble through one of life’s greatest challenges — raising a generation — and we do it with no manual and less than half the tools.
There is always something we will wish we had done differently.
We will wonder and we worry.
But rest assured, if you are on child one, it’s okay to leave the extra snacks at home. He’ll be okay if he gets sand in his mouth. She will learn to sleep and eat and walk when it’s her time. So relax a little, have fun, enjoy this time. It’s okay if toys are everywhere and he missed a morning snack. Go drink your cold cup of coffee, dream of the day when it’s hot again, and enjoy this time.
It goes SO fast.