What the Third Baby Taught Me.
The third baby taught me that every baby is unique, that not everything comes painted in black and white, that lovely shades of gray exist in between. With two children, it is easy to label them "easy" vs. "difficult" and "creative" vs. "academic." The third baby peels away the labels, because opposites only have two sides, and suddenly there are three to cover.
The third baby taught me that not everything that went wrong with the older children was my fault, and that I could raise a child "perfectly," and he still would have frailties and shortcomings, strengths and weaknesses. I thought I'd failed the first two by putting them in day care, by not nursing long enough, by disciplining too harshly or not enough, by not knowing how to parent. The third baby taught me I could do everything "right," even by my own exacting standards, and still not have a perfect child.
The third baby taught me to treasure baby things and baby ways. With the first two, babyhood fled rapidly, hastened on its way for convenience's sake. I wanted the third babyhood to last forever. But the third baby taught me that everyone moves at his own pace and that a child develops at the perfect rate for himself. The third baby taught me to slow down, to enjoy each moment, and to live in the present; for the moments in the present move into the past so quickly with the third baby.
The third baby taught me conclusively that babies don't need lots of toys and baby gear. The third baby has all the hand-me-down baby toys any child could imagine and still prefers his teddy bear, his blanket, and his big brother and sister to any toy.
The third baby taught me flexibility. Even though everything comes in groups of four--seats in a car, chairs in a restaurant, prepacked food--the third baby taught me about creative solutions.
The third baby taught me that fair doesn't mean equal. When the third baby came, I realized I couldn't perpetually fragment myself, the members of my family, or the material goods in my house. Fair means that each one gets what he needs, in turn if necessary, not just what they want.
The third baby taught me that children aren't meant to be raised one at a time. The human animal wants and needs multiple family members around it to civilize things. The third baby taught me that a family works best as a group, not as individual members.
The third baby taught me that nothing is so inspiring as seeing kids give each other hugs, a sister reading to "her" baby, a little brother worshipping a big brother, a big brother finding the perfect gift for his baby brother.
The third baby taught me that there's always room for one more.
What has been precious about the third baby though, hasn't been what the third baby has taught me. It's what the third baby taught the first two. To nurture, nourish, and caress. To teach by example. To give in for no better reason than that your opponent is littler and weaker. To share without the promise of return. To refrain from teasing out of consideration for innocence. To accept and reciprocate adoration. To give of themselves out of love.
And oh! What the third baby learns from the first two! My third baby talked early, walked early, and learned to play Nintendo before he was two. He played schoolyard games with glee: "High five. In the middle. Down low ... you're too slow!" He knows that if he says "thank you" instead of "excuse me" when he burps, his brother and sister will fall into helpless hysterics. It is a pleasure to play Peek-A-Boo or Ring Around the Rosy with him, for his well of laughter has been primed by lots of play, and giggles erupt at the first sign of a game. He knows that his brother and sister will help him discover and grow. He has learned that any of us will pick him up when he falls, read to him when he asks, play with him when he's lonely, and show him tile wonders of the world, from hammering nails to looking for snails. He also has learned that he doesn't always get what he wants, that he can't grab or hurt, that he must talk nicely to others if he wants them to talk nicely to him, and that Mommy gives out cookies three at a time, so everyone can have one.
I once heard that people stop having children too soon. It's true. The first baby interrupts a life made for two. He forces a carseat into a two-seater, a stroller into the broom closet, a bottle of baby juice into the wine rack. Nothing fits, yet. But parents can do most of what they've always done, because the baby goes everywhere. The second baby makes parents recognize that life after children is changed unalterably. The two-seater is traded in for a station wagon, the broom closet holds tricycles and toy vacuums as well, and the wine rack has become a thing of the dimly remembered past. But the family still is feeling around, trying to find its fit. And then the parents quit, because raising two children is hard work. What they don't realize is that the first one or two give you practice. By the third baby, experience tells you that nothing is insurmountable, that problems have solutions, that children will grow past many things--and that each new baby will teach you something you've never thought of before.
--This article is reprinted from the April 1992 issue of Welcome Home, published by Mothers at Home with the permission of the author and Mothers at Home, Inc. For a free information package about Mothers at Home and its publication, please call toll free 1-800-783-4666 or write to Mothers at Home, 8310A Old Courthouse Road, Vienna, VA 22182. Or visit their website at www.mah.org.
Laura Timian of South Royalton, Vermont, dedicates this reprint for Nora Bulloch, home*birth attendant for Laura's third baby, in honor of Nora's graduation (August 12, 1995).
Ruth Maloney of Westfield, New Jersey, dedicates this reprint in honor, awe, and appreciation of her sister, Diane Marine, whose third child is [was] due in October 1995.
Denise Mobley of Palm Desert, California, dedicates this reprint for her three beautiful sons, Michael, Christopher, and Matthew.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Smith, Kathy E.|
|Date:||Dec 22, 1998|
|Previous Article:||A Daughter Comes of Age.|
|Next Article:||Glossary of Terms.|
|Promoting instinctual parenting in childbirth education classes.|
|Baby, sign to me! Benefits of teaching sign language to hearing infants.|
|`It's all about teaching'.|