One of the most common questions I get about my mothering (outside of “how far apart are they?”) is where I had the biggest learning curve – the jump from 1 to 2 or 2 to 3. Everyone assumes that by the 4th child, you’ve finally got the hang of it. Whatever “it” is.
In all honesty, my learning curves were gentle. For the first few, my husband was home more often than the average family while he finished his masters. And when we added Lady C, we also moved 3 counties away only 2 weeks after she was born – it was hard to tell what was adapting to a third and what was adapting to a new community.
Of all adaptations, I tried to remain faithful to one truth: they’re all different kids. I told a friend the other evening that this was my best piece of parenting multiples advice. When you find yourself saying, “well, with the first one, I….” then you’re starting to walk toward a world of hurt, for both you and the little one. Second borns are different than first borns. Girls are different than boys. Spirited children are different than quiet ones. While we all hail from the same parents and share many of the same patterns, routines and ideas about what “normal” is, every child simply turns out different. (My friend raising triplets nods her head).
|Happy Birthday, Miss M! Sorry the blog is about a week too late.
Miss M was my introductory course on parenting different children. She was a different kind of baby than her older brother – most notably in that she could HEAR everything, which changed our game. Her sense of humor is richer – she can find simple things hilarious, which after reading Tina Fey’s book
, I now take as a sign of deep intelligence.
At first it’s differing sleep patterns or sensitivities to food while you nurse – but these are the somewhat easier differences to spot. Now I’m learning how to speak her love language. I’m understanding her need for order. I see her tendencies to crave attention – from her parents (while we’re talking to other adults, most often), from her brother, from teachers – while not diving into the spotlight. And her pace – OH, her constant and steady yet never hurrying pace – I must remember to treasure the consistency when I’m frustrated by lack of speed.
“That first baby christens you as mother,” a friend says. But those consecutive babies push your boundaries of love further and further because of all the practice. With each little one I’m challenged to love them for who they are, not who I wish them to be simply because that’s who the other baby became. I’m finding it more effective to switch the focus from my expectations to their giftings and make-up.
I haven’t completely figured this out yet. Actually, I’ve barely found ways of living this out in practice. While I hold dear their differences, when you ask me what that looks like at bedtime, I’m dumbfounded. How to put my appreciation for their make-up into parenting practices and daily routine – because I thrive on routine and rules – stretches me. But I’m leaning in, trying for it. It’s the best I can do.