Wednesday, December 10, 2014

First-time parent, many times.

With a second baby in my house, I find myself struggling to understand why people assume "second time moms" are so much wiser.  Yes, I've already gone through the hazing process that is life with a newborn, and I have learned some common pitfalls.  I place fewer panicked phone calls to pediatricians and friends in the medical profession (from whom I don't take "no" or "I just do billing" for an answer), and there are various rites of passage behind me.  Yet there is a great deal that continues to puzzle me, even in the early childhood years with which I have amassed some experience.  In fact, I’m fairly certain that you only "learn from your mistakes" with the first child if your kids are spaced a cool 15-20 years apart.

Toddler shoelaces - one missing notch on my mom belt (if that's a real accessory, it's hideous).  I assume there's a reason kids' laces are as long as jump ropes, but my savvy parenting sense tells me it's not to double as jump ropes.  I am left with no choice but to eye kids' shoes wherever we go, because that's the creepiest possible solution.

"Yes they go on and on my friend..."
After three years, I also remain unable to discuss payment with nannies without feeling like it cheapens what we have together, and I can't get my child to pose for the camera without her Stepford Toddler smile replacing her natural one.  There are many hot-button child-rearing topics I am still developing a stance on, and sleep remains the biggest mystery to me, despite having heard of little children who engage in this activity for extended periods of nighttime.  I've read plenty [of Facebook questions and comments] regarding remedies for postpartum hair loss, but have yet to learn how to keep that hair off and out of my infant.  My baby's onesie is a Swiffer of loose hair, and I'd be lying if I claimed that it's only on her onesie and not her head and hands and mouth too.  I know it's disgusting when you read about it; don't worry, in real life it's merely nauseating.

Tender parenting moments flood social media.  I get it - you are physiologically bound to view your child as the most stunning specimen of perfection.  But few parents reflect on anything else, even when they're not busy savoring fleeting morsels of youth and inadvertent childhood comedy.  Like the fact that in the first few months, you'll get a bad grip on your newborn as you awkwardly pick her up, and a small part of you (if it's baby #14; a large part of you if it's the first born) will feel like you inflicted some permanent damage.  At the very least, you will reprimand yourself (in your head, but moving your lips like a sleep deprived crazy person) for not paying enough attention while handling a tiny helpless human.  Or, I've heard, your iPhone will slip out of your hand during middle-of-the-night nursing and land atop the infant, making you wonder if you ever really were a good person.  You'll make up for it a few months later, gracefully removing a splinter as daddy helplessly looks on, feeling utterly heroic. (No offense dads. Remember the time your wife informed you that her car is always still moving as she shifts into park?).

Experience doesn't make you an expert because, as they say, every child is different.  It's true, even if it's something they write on allergy pamphlets at the doctor's office.  So you might continue being unable to predict when your kid needs her food cut up, and when, with tears in her eyes, she will teach you that two halves do not equal one whole.
Three bows or I go nowhere.
You won't avoid video recording your toddler as she repeats curse words (who knows where she picked those up) because you'll conveniently forget that she replays those videos when she gets your phone in the evening.  You'll wake up to her smiling face the next morning singing "oh ****, oh ****, oh ****, oh ****" (they have the memory of elephants) and you'll probably think: worth it.  

Or you may read this, finding it to be among the dozen other parenting articles you've related to, and wonder why you're up for the fifteenth time this night if it's all for an overwhelmingly universal experience, and you should know, too, that no other toddler will use "kalaboo" as the default answer to questions that stump her or, conversely, insult her intelligence ("awww do you like that banana babyyyyy?" I'm eating it, am I not?  "Kalaboo.")  Like your kid, my daughters love me in the generic Hallmark way kids love their parents, but at night she also institutes an "iloveyoukiss" policy, which she has recently supplemented with her pilot "iloveyouhug" program.  Those experiences are deliciously unique and your own.  

So what's my point?  Instead of your friend the "third time mom," call her a "first time mom for the third time."  She'll love it. (She'll probably hate it).