Yesterday I had coffee with a friend and over the course of the morning we laughed about how particular we were with our first children, how eager we were to see them reach milestones and learn new skills and how completely opposite we were by the time we each had our third. This morning as I was thinking about the conversation I started to laugh all over again. Here are some of my first vs. third experiences.
On Bedtime - Dude slept in our bed with us until he was four months old, in our room with his cradle right beside our bed until he was six months old. When he finally moved him to his own room we made sure the baby monitor was right beside the crib and the receiver was on my bedside table ... cranked.
Mischief slept in a cradle in our room for about two weeks before I found all his constant 'baby noises' through the night too disruptive to my sleep. We moved him into his own room but by then we had misplaced the baby monitor. After about a thirty second conversation we figured if he really needed us he would cry loud enough that we would hear him from across the hall.
On Milestones and Skills - We spent many hours on the floor with baby Dude, watching him and encouraging him to roll over, sit up and crawl. Each time he developed a new skill we cheered and immediately wrote it down in his baby book.
When Mischief was born I vowed to never teach this kid how to walk or talk because the work load increased exponentially with the other two once they developed 'skills.' He figured things out on his own despite my best efforts. Each of his new accomplishments was met with groans of discontent and dread as I searched for some scrap of paper to write down the date and event with the intention of someday buying a baby book to record everything in.
On Childcare - For the first couple of years of Dude's life we only left him with family members and even then we were nervous. In fact, the first time my aunt, a very loving and competent mother of three herself, babysat Dude for an evening we left a three page note on the proper care of our precious wee one. The note included helpful tips like, "hold him at a roughly 45 degree angle while feeding" and "be careful if you place him on the couch as he may roll off."
In contrast, when Mischief was about four months old I forgot to tell the new babysitter his name before I ran out the door. When she asked the other kids, they told her his name was Boobah.
On Illness, Risk-Taking and Injuries - As Dude grew and tried new things we were always vigilant, ready with open arms to catch him in case of a tumble, and a tissue to wipe away tears as well as a fully stocked first aid kit to stave off infections and treat wounds. We sterilised his soother, washed his hands frequently and had the provincial health line on speed dial. Anytime we could helmet, pad and buffer him we did.
With Mischief things are a little more lax. One of the first sentences he learned was "I'm okay!" and he set up a system of rating his scrapes so we knew how serious his injury was (dots, smears and gushers) and whether we needed to intervene. He was a thumb sucker and there was no telling where that thing was before he stuck it in his mouth and no way of keeping it clean so we just stopped thinking about it. If he wasn't changing colour, developing spots or a rash or spiking a fever we decided he probably wasn't that sick. Our safety rules for him include wearing a helmet if ramps or tricks are involved, no stunts when he is higher off the ground than he is tall and if it hurt to do it the first time don't do it the second time.
Like most parents, by the time we had our third child we realised that kids are half rubber, half cement (they bounce and rarely break) and our worry does little to keep them safer than they would be if we just relaxed and gave them a little room to explore ... that and by the third kid, we were too tired to be on 24/7 hyper protective watch. Dude and Mischief are both active, courageous and down and dirty boys ... Mischief just has a few more battle scars, which he tells me, 'the girls like,' anyway.
What is genius? - It is the power to be a boy again at will.
James Matthew Barrie