I was browsing some past posts on my old blog and I discovered something: I used to be a lot wiser than I am today. Seriously. I’ve been having guilt about having another baby so close on the heels of my twins (I’m not ashamed to admit my youngest was not planned for right now, we planned to have him in a few years, fate and biology had other ideas!). I worry constantly about the twins because they are twins and how that changes what I do for them as a parent every single day. I regularly worry I’m cheating one or the other out of parental attention (I am) or that I’m treating them differently because they are twins (I do) and that because it’s not what I would be doing if I had just one I’m somehow damaging them for life (I’m not).
When I came across the following post that I’d written only two years ago I was caught between laughing and crying. The only thing I was sure of was that my kids are going to be fine as long as I keep loving them enough to worry that I’m doing the best job possible and as long as I keep working towards being the best parent and person I can be.
“All the things I never thought I’d allow… (written May, 2011)
My 8-month-old babies can sleep with a 3-year-old throwing a tantrum less than 10 feet away. What can yours do?
Am I proud of this fact? Not really, though I guess I’m pleased that they’re able to sleep through it (or in spite of it). I was always trying to make noise around my son during his naptimes so he’d get used to some noise and not wake up at the slightest thump, but another screaming kid in the room? I would have freaked out on anyone who tried that particular move. Yet, here I am, packing kids three deep into a bedroom ensuring that they’ll get more than their fair share of someone else screaming mere feet from them.
It’s situations like this that make me wonder whether I did the right thing in having a second baby (that choice I made, the fact that my second baby happened to actually be two babies was completely out of my control and so I claim no responsibility for it!). I mean, I felt like I had been doing a pretty good job raising my son. I gave him the attention I felt was good for him (he learned to play on his tummy on the living room floor early on and I could walk away and do dishes or cook). We read books to him, I patiently explained that he had to wear pants in order to leave the house, I had the time and energy to sing with him, draw with him, talk to him, and hold and snuggle him all the time. Since baby two (and three) came along HIS life has changed almost as dramatically as mine has! He doesn’t really seem to mind but it makes me worry just a little bit.
All those wonderful opportunities and experiences and TIME that I gave him is just not available in the same way for my daughters–not even close! So are they missing out on integral parts of their development? I don’t read to them. I mean, I read near them either to myself or to Punkin but I haven’t managed to read to them more than a couple of words before someone cries, squiggles away, eats the book or poops. When Punkin was their age (they’re 8 1/2 months at this point) I was reading him a book each night as part of our bedtime routine. He’s a great reader now (well, he’s 3 he doesn’t actually read but he sits, listens, and retells as beautifully as any teacher of reading could wish). Will my girls miss out on that? I’m a teacher: I am fully aware of how important being a reader is to your future success in education. If reading is always a chore you’re going to have to fight your way through your entire schooling and I really don’t want that for my children.
Then again they’re getting experiences Punkin never had. They have a brother they adore who gives them a lot of attention. If we added up the hours of attention they get maybe it would even come out to more than what Dean got, it’d just be from different sources. I’m not such an egomaniac that I think that my love and attention is the only kind that matters. In fact, who is to say that the attention from siblings–down on their level, affectionate, engaging and silly–isn’t even better than what mom can give? The girls certainly have a lot more going on in their 1ft-off-the-ground world than Dean did. Will this cause them to be hyperactive when their brother, who grew up in an adult-only world, is so mellow and focused?
I also never thought I’d be fine with my children eating as much grass as they do. It’s either that or stay inside. I cannot keep those girls contained on a blanket anymore so someone is always making their way into the grass! Maybe that fiber at an early age will prevent things like Diabetes or Irritable Bowl Syndrome later in life (anything is possible! I’m pretty sure no studies have been done on the grass-eating phenomenon).
Who is to say that the encouragement I gave to Punkin when he learned to walk and crawl actually helped him do it any faster? Or, if it did, that faster was better for his development? He walked at 9 1/2 months but he’s not exactly the fastest arrow in the quiver if ya know what I mean. In fact, he started scooting around, army style, when he was four months old but then his weight percentile dropped dramatically (we went for weigh-ins like ever 4 weeks for quite a few months!). I’m actually crazy enough to worry that maybe his lack of body fat somehow prevented the myelin sheaths from forming over his neurons and he’s somehow less smart because he wasn’t a fat baby.
Okay, maybe I don’t actually believe that, he’s a pretty smart cookie after all, but these are the ridiculous things that all mothers (to some degree or another) worry about.
So, my daughters have had their hair pulled MULTIPLE times, they steal toys from one another regularly, they crawl OVER one another, squishing faces and bellies on the way, they don’t get to be held by me nearly as much as Dean was, they get rolled around, yanked and pushed by their older brother (he’s just playing with them and, to be fair, they’re usually laughing like crazy), they endure screaming as they try to fall asleep, eye pokes as they attempt to nurse, and one of these days one of them is going to get into the other one’s dirty diaper as I’m in the middle of changing them (ew!). They only get 2 minute baths because I don’t have enough hands to manage them longer than that. They don’t get story time at night because (again) I don’t have the arms to hold them AND a book. They listen to their brother throw tantrums and often cry themselves to sleep after being woken up by one or another of their siblings.
After all that they still do seem pretty happy.
I feel pangs of guilt or maybe a sense of what I’ve lost after having more than one child when I see new mothers cautiously helping their children explore the world. Pulling that first blade of grass out of their hand before it gets anywhere near their mouth or following along behind them as they learn to pull themselves up and shimmy along the edge of furniture. It’s usually at this point that, engaged with one of my three children, I realize I’ve neglected to stop one of the other two from climbing something way too high for them or literally rolling around in dirt. I think, “Look what my kids are missing out on! Having me there 100% to guide and protect them!”
Then I take a second look and think, “Look at what those only kids are missing out on! My kids are fully exploring the world around them. They are being protected and guided but in different ways and maybe by different hands (a 3-year old can teach an 8-month-old a LOT of things). I look at my kids who are always smiling and maybe, just maybe, the worries that somehow I’m scarring them for life falls a little bit away. After all, I’m sure I AM scarring them for life, but it’s going to be by doing something I never in a million years would have thought could! I realize I can’t protect them from everything and I can’t do “everything right” because, come on, no one knows what that even is!
Happy kids, healthy kids, smart kids=happy, relaxed, truly blessed mommy.”
Never doubt as parents you’re “scarring” your kids for life. You’re building them into who they will become as adults but you can’t really know how they’ll turn out. All parents “scar” their kids somehow, no one is perfect and no child is the same. All we can do is trust that each choice we make is the right one for that moment with the information we have. As long as I’m educated about the choices I’m making and using the resources I have at my disposal then I’m doing my job right.
So, to my children I promise to always do my best. Good luck, you’re going to need it. I love you guys.