I’ve been reflecting for some time now about how my youngest child is a completely different parenting experience for me as a mother. This has to be reflected in his experience of me as a mother, and I can’t help but do a little comparing and contrasting with my other two kids. In many ways, he gets the best and most evolved version of me as a mom, while simultaneously receiving less of some of the staple childhood experiences my big kids had.
We recognized this fall that we haven’t been to a pumpkin patch for years – the youngest’s experience with pumpkins is purchasing them from a grocery store. We don’t make nearly as big of a deal out of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny – heck, much of the time it’s an afterthought these days. But for the first and second, these magical experiences were EVERYTHING and such a fun part of their young lives. There’s just less desire and capacity for some of these things now.
My daughter made me a mother and in so many ways we have grown up together, her in her childhood and me in my motherhood. She has always been thoughtful and careful and observant. She makes rule-following and responsibility look easy. My second-born was my first boy and he was a hard shift from my first – he goes through life feet first. He is a true extrovert – loves people, activity, and going and doesn’t have nearly as much concern for rules and consequences.
THEIR mother was so different than HIS mother
Their mother endlessly worried about sleep schedules and anxiously drove her way into depression the first time around by attempting to control so many uncontrollables. His mother allowed him to sleep on her for the entirety of his naps while the other kids were also napping. And felt no guilt about it. She recognized that this wasn’t permanent and that it was working well right now.
Their mother felt SO MUCH anxiety and helplessness about all of the big feelings, tantrums, and crying that came along with normal baby, toddler and pre-schooler development. She feared it was a statement on her motherhood (what if people saw!!!) and she felt compelled to make it stop as quickly as possible
His mother finds big emotions much less scary. She sits down on the sidewalk, pulls him into her lap and allows him to cry when he skins his knee. Even now. He’s allowed to get the feelings out no matter how irrational his take on what prompted them might be.
But, that gift of perspective… seeing it all twice before is such a normalizing force
HIS mother has the gift of perspective that can only come from experience. Experience of knowing that everything is temporary and we will all be okay, even when we’re not okay. Every tantrum, no matter how long and agonizing, will pass. Every truly terrible season of parenting, and there have been some HARD ones, will turn into a new season.
His mother is calmer. She is more capable of taking things as they come. She has more wisdom. She is more self-aware and sure of who she is as a woman and as a mother.
She parents him as an individual based on her parenting values, not based on fear of what others will think or say. And she knows from prior parenting experience that her intuition is usually right. And that, even in the face of decisions that turn out to be “wrong,” there’s a way out.
I truly believe that all of my kids benefit from the mother I am now. But my first will always be the one introducing me to new things, forcing me to look at my baggage and to change and grow. She will bring out all of the insecurity of “Is this normal for this age?” and “Am I doing this right??” My second will likely always forge a new path than his sister, but the path may be slightly less bumpy. And my third will always benefit from my experience mothering these very different individuals who have paved the way before him.
In what ways have you evolved in your parenting journey?
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