I remember how much I looked forward to my firstborn’s well-child visits at the pediatrician. I could easily recount every milestone. Her entire first year of life was documented in a scrapbook with artsy layouts as well as in a journal that read like Proust.
Fast forward five years and three babies later, and this is what happens at your youngest child’s appointment:
Nurse: Is she crawling?
Nurse: Is she pulling up?
Nurse: How often is she nursing and for how long on each side?
Me: Ummmm… I’m not sure, but enough.
Nurse: Is she babbling?
Nurse: Does she play Peek-A-Boo?
Me: Ummmm… Peek-A-Boo? I don’t think I’ve ever played Peek-A-Boo with her. I mean, I read to her and count her toes and…
Nurse: It’s okay. You’ve got your hands full.
While I did feel a tad guilty my third baby has been deprived of engrossing games of Peek-A-Boo (and you better believe I went home and played some Peek-A-Boo with her), I’m growing into my mothering shoes and realizing that you can’t do it all or be everything to every child, and that’s okay. I may not gaze for hours at end into the sleepy eyes of my nursing cherub, and my 2-year-old doesn’t have a built-in playmate (AKA Mommy) at hand all daylong like her big sister did, but here’s a little secret to all the newbie moms out there: Children – especially older children like my 5-year-old whose needs and wants are no longer one in the same – don’t need instant gratification or never-ending ministration to be happy. (Don’t worry. I played Peek-A-Boo all the time with my first, too.) I’d actually argue that never teaching your child to wait or to share Mom’s TLC is going to lead to disappointment later in life when the cruel, hard world doesn’t hand you your dreams on a plate and your boss says you have to more than just show up at work to be considered special.
Still, when I was pregnant with my second child, I kept wondering how I could possibly love her as much as her big sister. My worrying was wasteful because as soon as I held my Baby Rae in my arms, I knew that there was and always will be plenty of love to go around. Whoever says you can’t love a second or fifth or ninth child as much as your first never had a second or fifth or ninth child.
Off the top of my head, here are just a few other lessons I’ve learned since welcoming our third child into our family:
What lessons in motherhood has your third or fourth or ???th child taught you?