I’m one of those parents now. The ones who don’t jump off of the couch when they notice their baby eating day-old cheerios off of the living room floor. The kind who no longer sanitize the bottle, opting instead for a quick rinse and shake with lukewarm tap water. The type of parents who ditch the multi-pocketed diaper bag with the built in changing pad and cooling pouch in favor of a plastic Walmart bag with four diapers, a package of wipes, and a half-full canister of puffs. I’m battle-hardened. I’ve been through the Terrible Twos twice now and I still have all of my hair and most of my sanity. I’ve caught puke in my bare hands, cleaned off sticky faces with my own spit, and have used the ‘feel test’ to check the status of diapers that I should’ve used the ‘smell-test’ for first. As the cowgirls say - this ain’t my first rodeo.
So I thought I’d provide a comparison of child-rearing tactics that I've utilized between my first and third babies. (Relax, I included the middle child too.) Think of this as an evolution of parenting.
First Baby – Homemade baby food, pureed in a special baby food blender and frozen in cubes in a special baby food freezing tray
Second Baby – Jars of Gerber baby food purchased at the grocery store
Third Baby – Whatever the rest of the family is eating, just cut into smaller pieces or whatever she can find on the kitchen floor post-meal and pre-broom
First Baby – Only fresh fruits or vegetables
Second Baby – Pre-packaged toddler snacks marketed to suckers like me (Slap a picture of a happy baby on a tube of banana flavored puffs and I’ll buy it.)
Third Baby – Baby goldfish, lots of baby goldfish.
First Baby – No sugar until his first birthday
Second Baby – Small amounts on special occasions, usually snuck to her by an Aunt or Nana
Third Baby – Ice cream, cookies, pancakes, fruity cheerios….whatever
First Baby – Set an alarm clock to ensure a feeding every three hours (I actually did this. I actually set my alarm clock and woke up a sleeping baby every three hours). Read and followed the Babywise book for scheduled sleep and nap times and even let him cry himself to sleep a few times.
Second Baby – Never woke her up to feed her (no longer crazy), put baby in her crib for naps at generally the same time everyday.
Third Baby – Rocked her to sleep every night, held her way too long before putting her in her crib, brought her into the bed to sleep if she woke up in the middle of the night, realized that they grow up too fast and didn’t care if she wanted to sleep in the middle. Just had to push the older two over so that she could have a spot.
First Baby – Researched and registered for the latest brain-stimulating toys appropriate for baby geniuses, spent hours organizing toys into color coordinated bins
Second Baby – Bought a few loud, colorful toys made out of cheap plastic and dug out the old “smarter” toys every once in a while
Third Baby – Opened the Tupperware drawer and gave her a wooden spoon and a pan to bang on. Saved empty water bottles so she could crinkle them up.
First Baby – A matching bib for every outfit, a cloth diaper at the ready for messes
Second Baby – Stained (but clean) bibs when I remembered to put them on her
Third Baby – Huh?
Early Learning Programs
First Baby – “My Baby Can Read” DVD set in the prescribed order and for the appropriate duration
Second Baby - Sporadically turned the TV to the baby learning channel so that I could have a 20 minute reprieve or go to the restroom in peace
Third Baby – Mickey Mouse Clubhouse anyone?
Baby Proofing and Safety
First Baby – Outlet covers, cupboard locks, baby gates, rubber ducky thermometer for bath, baby bath, nail file instead of clippers, wipe warmer, Dreft detergent, BPA Free bottles, organic cotton onesies, video monitor
Second Baby – Most of the outlets still covered (except for the ones occupied by iPad/iPhone chargers), seat for bathtub, dining room chairs placed on their sides to block off dangerous areas, dye-free detergent, garage sale onesies, video monitor (when I remembered to charge it)
Third Baby – Couch cushions in front of the fireplace as a makeshift baby gate, whatever detergent is on sale for $4.99 this week, bath in the sink or regular tub (it’s good to learn to swim early), Dollar General brand wipes, remaining couch cushions in front of exposed outlets
First Baby – Every detail of his life is documented (ultrasound pics to 5th birthday invitation), height and weight measures recorded, “first outing” pictures taped in, hospital bracelet attached, first haircut clippings tucked securely inside in an envelope
Second Baby – Details recorded in impressive fashion all the way to the third month of her life
Third Baby – I meant to take it out of the plastic, I really did
First Baby – Overwhelming and Overflowing
Second Baby – Overwhelming and Overflowing
Third Baby – Overwhelming and Overflowing (but, I will probably fuss over her for a bit longer than her brother and sister because she IS the baby)
I remember telling my Mom and my Aunt, when I was pregnant with my firstborn, that I had read a book about getting your new baby on a sleep schedule. When I shared my sleeping plan, I recall the humorous (and knowing) glance they shared before they broke out into hysterical laughter. When I told them that my baby would never, EVER sleep with me in my bed, the laughter just seemed to intensify. Instead of taking their advice, I dug in. I shared all of the research that I’d found during my countless nights of Internet surfing. How could they not agree with me that co-sleeping was unsafe and would instill bad sleeping habits in my soon to arrive bundle of joy? All of the experts agreed.
Then I had my baby.
It’s funny, but the books don’t describe how the intoxicating smell of a newborn snuggled up close can serve as a powerful sleep-inducing drug, rivaling anything put on the market by big Pharma. How your brand new baby seems to fit perfectly in the crook of your arm. How, the minute you pull him close, his little cries are replaced by contented sighs and crooked smiles. How the thought of putting him back into his crib makes your heart ache a little bit. So you cradle his perfect little body in your warm bed. And as you drift off to sleep you think to yourself, "They were right, one night won't hurt." And it doesn't.
But, New Daddies and Mamas-To-Be, this is not to discourage you from reading those books and having a plan and buying expensive diapers. Besides, how else will you be able to join us veteran parents some day in chuckling at the newbies and their fancy gadgets and high-minded theories. Parenthood is a process; one with a steep learning curve that can only be navigated by trial and error. But, rest assured, regardless of if you choose co-sleeping or a crib, formula or breast, cloth or disposable, attachment parenting or a strict schedule, organic or generic, glass or plastic...your baby will be just fine. And you will get better. And it will get easier. And, one day, a few years from now, you will see your baby licking rocks in your front yard, and you will let her taste a few before you intervene.