The following is one of my kids’ favorite anecdotes from the files of my parenting blunders. It takes place on the very first day I was left alone with all three kids after Toby was born. We had an errand to run, so I spent the necessary half a day getting everyone ready. I found boots and coats (this was December) and stuffed children into them. I stocked the diaper bag with goldfish crackers and pacifiers and sippy cups and diapers and lord knows what else (I’ve blocked so much out). I got everyone into the car and strapped in…or so I thought. On the first turn, I heard a heavy sort of flop (think sack of potatoes), and then Nate and Calvin started yelling. I chanced a glance into the rear-view mirror to see Toby’s car seat completely overturned and wedged between the two captain’s chairs in the middle row of our minivan. Toby himself was perfectly fine, strapped into his five-point harness, but yes…the car seat itself was untethered and free to roll around the back seat at will.
But there’s a point to this story, and it’s not just that you should buckle your car seat into the car (it’s intuitive, people!). It’s that we all know this little mishap could have happened to anyone who has more than one child, right? (Those of you in the MomMamaMommy club understand.)
My sister had her second baby in October (the first girl in our family, no less!), which means that her well-oiled parenting machine (previously set on ‘single child’) has been put somewhat through the ringer. Getting one baby down for a scheduled nap? No problem. Getting one baby and one toddler down simultaneously? You’d think the math would go something like 1 +1 = 2, when in fact it becomes 2 to the power of 1o,000. Ditto for feeding, bedtime, dressing, and all other mundane (and previously taken for granted) daily routines. My sister is handling it all like the rock star she is, but hearing about it got me to thinking about the above shining moment and all the other mishaps (mostly involving mismatched socks, dirty pacifiers, and substandard baby food) that comprised the sliding scale of parenting standards that I’ve enjoyed since welcoming Child #2 and, in a marked decrease as evidenced above, Child #3 to our household.
Take the following situation, for instance:
The scenario: Toddler refuses to put on pants before leaving the house for a play date. (Not that this has happened to me. Oh, no. But it might have happened to my sister. Just saying.)
Firstborn Child: Mother consults What to Expect The Toddler Years, Dr. Sears, The Baby Whisperer, and everything she’s ever learned from Kate Gosselin (*cough*), then mediates the situation in a calming and productive manner. “Firstborn Child, you can make the decision to put on pants or not put on pants, understanding the consequences of your actions. If you decide to put on pants and go play at (another Firstborn Child’s) house, let me know. I’ll be waiting. If you don’t, you’ll have to stay home. You make the choice in order to feel empowered and in control of your surroundings.” (She then calls other Firstborn Mother to explain why they’re late, who completely understands.) Time Alloted: 45 minutes.
Secondborn Child: Mother does not have time for this, hence her likely shouting, “I don’t have time for this!” as she deposits her diaper bag, phone, purse, and car keys into the car. Firstborn Child is already in his seat, begging for fruit snacks, and they’re already five minutes late to (other Secondborn Child’s) house (whose mother understands). “Secondborn, I’m counting to ten. You put. these. pants. on. rightnow!” Time Alloted: 10 minutes.
Thirdborn Child: Mother does not notice Thirdborn Child is not wearing pants until she’s already on the freeway. “Thirdborn, where are your pants?! I asked you to…” Mumbles under breath: “Oh, f@ck it.” (When she arrives, other Thirdborn Child’s mother doesn’t even notice the lack of pants.) Time Alloted: fifteen seconds.
Have your parenting standards decreased by the number of children you have? And more importantly, are they the better for it? (I think mine are, even if they end up upside-down in a minivan at age 3 days.)