Yes, a baby changes everything. The baby of the babies definitely changes everything, especially parenting as I knew it.
I am the oldest of three kids, so I don’t know what it’s like to be “the baby” of the family. I was observant, though, and I saw how my mom loved each of us so well, but there was just something about my youngest brother. When it came time for me and my middle brother to go off to college there was a certain celebration and “spread your wings and fly” attitude. With my baby brother there was celebration but perhaps a finality in that the empty nest was looming.
Let’s not talk about an empty nest. Let’s not go there. That will be another blog post when the time comes.
I now have three children, and I can tell you that there is just something about the baby. When you’ve reached that decision of family planning where you know you are done, every moment with the youngest seems like a strobe light, flashing the fact that when this milestone is over, that is it. He rolled over. He walked. He cut his first tooth. It’s his first birthday party. He is potty trained (okay, I am definitely alright with this one being done and over with).
I’m a different parent with my youngest. Things just don’t matter as much as they did back in 2007 when I had my first and was feeling my way through a dark cave of unknowns with surprises around every corner. What is this cry you are crying? Naturally, I am more comfortable as a mom, and while each child is different, I have become somewhat of an expert on many things having to do with children, such as discerning whether or not a doctor’s visit is imperative or when and where to apply for preschools. There is some relief here.
I laugh at how I used to be uptight about every little germ that lurked around the house and in public. If my first had knocked a goldfish cracker down from his high chair, I would have thrown it away immediately. If the cracker goes timber now, I simply pick it up and pop it back into my three-year-old’s hand or mouth. I adhere to the three-second rule. Sometimes I adhere to it even longer. One day my youngest child’s pacifier fell in a parking lot, and a passerby pointed it out and said he would throw it away. I gave it a good boil when we got home.
Speaking of pacifiers, there are just some things that I’m okay with allowing to linger. This is one of them. We are slowly but surely weaning him off of it, but it is still around. Heck, his mouth is past the point of saving from an orthodontist now. The damage has been done. We might have to go cold turkey soon, though. Potty training would have also been a thing I would have let go, except that my child’s preschool requires three-year-olds to be fully potty trained. No matter what, that kid was learning to do his business in the toilet by mid-August because mommy needed a break twice a week.
My youngest also likes to be held…a lot. He’s been walking since he was 14-months-old, but his favorite form of transportation is on my hip, like a cuddly koala bear. It doesn’t matter where we are at or what we are doing. Oftentimes you can see me walking in our neighborhood holding the dog’s leash in one hand and propping my son on my waist with the other arm and hand. Our walks typically start off with him walking. Recently we went to a miniature golf course where I made par on a hole while holding my youngest like a momma kangaroo holds her joey. Thank goodness he only weighs 27 pounds!
There was a time when I disciplined like a general maintaining order at a boot camp. This is no longer the case, especially with my youngest. I still discipline. Don’t get me wrong. I still like order and believe that my children need to obey and respect at home and outside the home. I will say, however, that I have become less rigid, especially with number three. Case in point: the other day at the dinner table (a place where boundaries are tested like nowhere else), I threatened my three-year-old with an ultimatum: “If you don’t sit down at the kitchen table and eat, you’re going to be sitting your bottom in time-out.” Even as the words slipped out of my mouth, I knew it was an empty threat. Frankly, I didn’t have the energy to take him upstairs to his time-out chair. Also, I was not about to leave my hot plate of food that I had just microwaved for the fifth time because I was busy fetching ketchup and cleaning up milk spills for my offspring. When he did it again, my daughter was quick to point out that I didn’t follow through on the discipline I said was coming his way. She also might have mentioned that had she disobeyed like that, she would be in time-out. Ouch.
When my oldest two were three-years-old, we played homeschool…a lot. I had a rug for circle time and an easel with a chalkboard. I ran my household like a preschool. Those kids sang songs about colors and days of the week and glued and cut and colored like crazy. We even had snack time, complete with animal crackers.
Fast forward several years, and here’s the deal: I am busy. Daniel the Tiger teaches him from the tube sometimes (if he’ll sit still long enough!). With two kiddos in elementary school coming home with homework that sometimes requires all my brain cells (common core math, y’all) and extra-curricular activities each night of the week, time is precious. During the day, I am working out (nonnegotiable “me” time), doing laundry (a four-step process), and cleaning dishes (thank goodness for dishwashers!). Yesterday, I accomplished two things while my youngest was in preschool: Jazzercise and grocery shopping. With that being said, I try to carve out some “learning time” for my youngest, but I don’t spend nearly the time I did with his siblings.
I have had three children, and they have similarities and differences. After writing about my youngest and how I’ve changed in my parenting, let it be clear that I have three favorites. They are each unique in their personalities, and I love seeing them shine in their passions, all quite different. I will say, however, that there is just something about the baby. Perhaps it is because he is the final act or maybe the bond is different because he was in the NICU for 17 days, and there were some moments where I wasn’t sure if he was going to pull through or not. The combination of these things has made me want to savor each moment, each milestone, a little bit more with number three.