Mothering: the first versus the third

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When I had Nevin, they said "you're a first time Mom, things will change" and I didn't believe them.  Of course, I was totally wrong.

There are some things that are consistent and that I have not changed at all.  For example, I have always picked up my crying infants.  Hearing a little tiny Warner cry is like shoving cotton balls down my throat, while putting my head in a vice grip and dancing on hot coals.  Another example is that I have waited until 6 months to feed solid food all of them.  Although, with the first child my motivation was "because the dietitian said so", and with the last it was mostly because breastfeeding is just so much cleaner and I have gotten lazy (or if I'm being positive about it, I'm more aware of my limited energy stores).

BUT, almost everything else has changed.

When I had my first born, I put him in little man clothes everyday.  When we left the house, we were put together.  We looked good and it highlighted what a terrific mother I was.  After our second child was born, I thought I figured out the whole mothering thing when I realized that experienced moms don't care if their infant is dressed up every day.  Besides, sleepers are so much more comfy than miniaturized adult clothes.  Surely, this meant I was a good mother.  By the third child, I realized that the difference between the first and third child was whether I made it out of my pyjamas.  Sure I'd wear the same thing for three days straight, but man oh man, let's celebrate the fact I made it to the grocery store and no one developed rickets.  I was survivor mom, and I was good at it.

The other day, Malcolm had ice cream.  Nevin, the first, didn't have desserts until he was probably around two.  He didn't know about them, and we didn't tell him.  He didn't learn about maple syrup until he was almost 4 years old.  Yet, at 7 months Malcolm has already had ice cream.  We were sitting at an ice cream parlour, it was 35 degrees celsius outside, and on a whim I stuck my whittled cone in front of him.  His reaction was hilarious - it was cold but it was sweet and creamy, and his face morphed between confusion, indignation, and joy as he tried to process what was going on in his mouth.  Maybe I've set him up for a lifetime of sugar addiction, but I'm pretty sure I watched his neural connections explode.  If he is the smartest child, I think I've got that ice cream cone to thank.

And of course, there is the Truth of the Gloified Purse: early on, as I ran around with the others, I gave Malcolm about as much attention as one might give a large tote.  With my first, my life changed so much that I couldn't help but be constantly aware of his needs.  By the time baby three arrived, the children's needs had melted into our everyday lives and Malcolm just fit into the routines that had already long been established.  If he wasn't eating, i.e. attached directly to me, I would forget that I even had a third child.

So, I'm a different mother, but humour me while a use an analogy to explain how I feel about this.  Some people describe parenthood as a marathon, because it is so long and how good you feel changes with the shifts in terrain on the course.  I think of it as more of a decathlon.  Each age and stage is so different, that you have to use totally different skill sets to be successful.  Decathletes all train a little bit differently -- which is a function of their natural strengths and weaknesses -- but in the end it is the sum of their events that determines their success, and two entirely different athletes can be equally successful provided they put the effort into their different training regiments.  Isn't parenting the same?  As long as I put the effort in and hold true to the basic underpinnings of successful parenting, the variation in their upbringing doesn't matter.  They will be different, but the sum of their qualities will result in equally remarkable people.

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