There’s been a lot of posts lately in the blogosphere of moms apologizing to their second child for how differently they are being raised: how Baby #1 stayed in Mom and Dad’s room early on and Baby #2 was crib-bound from day one; how the first kid got all-organic-everything and the second was lucky to know what an organic grape was; how the first was prodded to roll/crawl/stand/walk … and the second just figured it out when he/she was damn well ready (oh did you miss that, Mom?!); how Baby #1 was incessantly quizzed about everything and anything and Baby #2 just learned from Baby #1; how Baby #1’s first everything was documented … and Baby #2’s updates are found only in posts on Mom’s Facebook Timeline.
And while there are definitely some things here I can relate to, call me crazy but — I don’t really feel bad about the fact that I’ve approached motherhood so differently between these two children. Sure, Maya’s nearly 4 and Ben is nearly 1 so I am by no means an expert parent at this point… but I can tell you that we did a lot of things the first time that we didn’t do with the second, and I’m confident none of these things will scar him. If anything, the way our parenting style has changed is probably beneficial: Ben gets the “veteran” parents; Maya got the “rookies.”
As they say, experience is the finest of all teachers… Case in point, Exhibits 1 through 5.
1. Maya slept in our room the first month in the pack-n-play. Ben was crib-bound by day one. Yes, I was a nursing mom both times and yes, I loved them both enormously. But one thing I learned early on with Maya is that babies are noisy little sleepers. When you’re already on negative sleep, the last thing you need is to hear every single breath, snort, or grunt. So we always said if there was a Baby #2, right to the crib he/she would go. And so with Ben, we just turned the baby monitor on and, since his nursery is right next to ours and Luis helped with diaper changes and bringing him to me, I felt there was no real need for me to have him in the pack-n-play next to us. Both kids have always been awesome sleepers and I am sure that Ben will not hold a single grudge upon learning the fact that he was crib-bound from day one and his sister was not.
2. I documented every single one of Maya’s first sounds and words (even animal noises … don’t judge) in my iPhone’s Notepad … until she began talking so much that I just lost count. I have yet to document a single sound or word Ben has made. This isn’t because Maya talked so much more or so much earlier than Ben; both began saying “dada” at 6 months and subsequently babbled at the same rate and I see Ben on the same trajectory as Maya in almost every way in terms of physical and verbal development. But now all that time I’m not fretting over “missing” a word, I’m able to enjoy what he is saying or doing. Today, for example, he finally uttered “mama” — I didn’t log it in my phone, and I didn’t even get a video! (the horror!). I do know that little voice was music to my ears but when he is 14 I highly doubt he will ask me, “Mom how many words did I know at 10 months?” If he does … sue me 😉
3. I watched Maya like a hawk with food, fearing she would choke. She didn’t eat anything unless it was thoroughly mashed. Ben reaches for everything … and unless it’s totally unreasonable (a nut, something he can’t suck on) we let him at it. We let Maya eat anything and everything once she had teeth, but we definitely shied away from lots of foods she probably could have tried, out of [the legitimate] fear of “what if.” But if there’s one thing both sides of this family love, it’s food! So it’s wonderful to have an exploratory baby on our hands. Last weekend he grabbed some sloppy joe meat off Maya’s plate at a friend’s party. He licked hummus off a carrot at dinner the other night. And he loves mashed up avocado and he’s even had some of his daddy’s famous frijoles, and loved ’em. Being a picky eater myself, I love that both my kids are adventurous eaters and I hope that always remains the case. This whole baby-led approach to food is a good one; I was just too scared before.
4. I feel like we guided a lot of Maya’s early fine and gross motor skills development (thank you, BabyCenter emails, for both instigating some progress and also freaking me out when milestones weren’t met!) … whereas I don’t even read those emails anymore and Ben is guiding us. About two months ago, he grabbed the pouch with peas and apples and went to town, shocking us completely. He also mastered his sippy cup several months before Maya had even attempted it.– proving to us that he was ready. Had we offered it to Maya at the same age, she might have tried it, too. I feel like I used to (unknowingly) watch Maya like a hawk to make sure she was meeting milestones … and while I like knowing what to expect more or less, I haven’t been freaking too much about Ben. Things he is doing now — waving hi and bye, expressing himself via his babbles and new “words”, repeating sounds when he feels like it, crawling his signature “peg leg” crawl — are all things he is doing on his own accord — and he’ll walk when he’s ready. I’m in no rush this time.
5. Sleep. With Maya, we winged it — not knowing that babies are 100% unpredictable the first 6-8 weeks; not knowing that daytime sleep begets night-time sleep; not knowing when a baby should be “on a schedule.” By 11 weeks I had read Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child (which argues that sleep begets sleep) and I began trying to organize her daytime sleep into nap and awake time blocks, and it worked. She did get down to 2-3 naps a day and did begin sleeping 8-10 hour stretches at that point. But with Ben, by 6 weeks I began trying to get on a loose schedule. This meant not toting him all over and using the infant carrier as a crib all the time. It was annoying at times to be disciplined — I’m an on-the-go person who doesn’t like to be confined to “rules”– but it was the right thing to do for us, and that effort paid off. Like his sister, by 11 weeks he was STTN and on a schedule … but the “getting there” process was much easier in the sense that I knew when to start (i.e., not the week before I went back to work!). I know sleep training isn’t right for everyone, but it was right for us.
Experience has been my greatest teacher and while I think we did a great job with Maya, I don’t feel bad at all for us being a little more lax with Ben. If anything, he benefits from these learned parents — he wasn’t our “test case.”
How about you? What did you do with #1 and #2 (or more) that was different?