It all came about, innocently enough, one afternoon while I was giving my youngest son a bath.
My sister was here visiting, soaking up lots of quality nephew time, and helping with the nightly bath ritual. In the process of sudsing up the baby, I nonchalantly tossed him a measuring cup, a Pyrex mixing bowl, and a wash cloth.
His beloved “bath toys”.
My sister stopped what she was doing and looked at me like I’d grown two heads.
“Wow… you sure can tell he’s a third child!”
Guess what my son got from Auntie for his first birthday last month?
Yep. Bath toys.
My son couldn’t care less what he plays with in the bath. He likes his mixing bowl and measuring cup just as much as he likes his brand new bath toys, thank you very much.
But the whole thing got me thinking about how much has changed, both for me as a mother and our lifestyle in general, between my first and my third son.
By the third child, you become a lot less of a worried, overly-anxious, germ-a-phobic mom.
With your first baby, do you remember your nightly ritual of checking on your sleeping child? Do you remember quietly tiptoeing into his room, sneaking a peek over the edge of the crib, just to stick your hand in front of his mouth to feel for warm breath? Agonizing over whether or not to chance checking on him one last time while he sleeps, watching his little chest rise and fall with each sweet breath?
Ah, yes. The whole check-to-make-sure-your-baby-is-still-breathing thing.
Actually, I’m here to tell you that will never go away. I did that with all three of my babies…and still do!
But there ARE some things that do get easier with each child.
For instance, with my first baby I would hardly let him crawl on the floor. He took a bath every single night, and he NEVER ate food off the floor, chair, or really anywhere but a table. He took a regimented, scheduled nap twice a day that we didn’t dare deviate from. I was paranoid of all things germs, dirt, and of him getting sick.
Now, after my third son, I’m pretty sure he’s crawled on every possible surface imaginable. He gets a bath (if he’s lucky) every other, other night, and his favorite place to find a “snack” is the footrest of his high chair. (It’s the cutest thing ever. He crawls over to his high chair, pulls himself into a standing position, and eats the “snacks” (crumbs/droppings/endsies) he finds that fall off his high chair and land on the footrest).
Hey, they say it boosts the immune system. So there you go.
(Remember the no-judge zone that is this blog? That’s in full swing right about now).
Naptime? What’s naptime?
Naptime? Don’t make me laugh. While I would love nothing more than for him to successfully take two scheduled naps a day, having two older brothers involved in school and extra-cirriculars, naps are something that happen when the stars align.
Or pigs fly.
Not only am I now a lot less worried about the napping, scheduled, germy aspect of things after multiple children, but nowadays they can climb on, around, over and up anything they want.
With my first son, I was the definition of a helicopter parent. I wouldn’t let the poor kid do anything. (Thankfully, he never seemed to mind). Climbing on something higher than six inches tall was non-negotiable, out of the question.
Now with my third, he likes to attempt to scale dressers, his baby gate, and (at 13 months old) has been taking a stab at climbing on any chair, couch, or table that he gets close enough to. Despite the fact that most are as tall as he is.
By the third baby, you no longer buy anything new for your kids, because you have everything (and more) that you could possibly need.
Clothes, toys, and stuff
My first son had all the clothes in the world. True story. If there was a piece of clothing ever made for a sweet baby boy, he had it.
I even remember we just had to buy the cutest little tiny pair of baby Romeo’s (affiliate link!). You know the grown man version? Yes, exactly, but for babies. (Come on, how could you not?!)
We had a Wipes Warmer, you guys. You know, to warm the wipes so baby doesn’t get too cold during diaper changes. Oh, for the love… Who in their right mind spends money on a Wipes Warmer?!
And don’t even get me started on the toys. Oh, the toys. He had more toys than he could ever know what to do with- most that were never even played with.
Fast forward a couple of babies, and my third son wouldn’t know a new piece of clothing if it whacked him in the face.
And toys? Remember the bath incident? Well picture that multiplied throughout the rest of the house….otherwise known as: he has none.
(This is actually no longer true. I think my family members took extra pity on him due to the whole special-Pyrex-bath-toy incident, as they recently gifted him some pretty sweet baby toys for Christmas and his birthday. But up until then? He primarily played with big brothers’ stuff.)
The cool thing about having three boys is they can all eventually use what the older one has outgrown. Toys, books, clothes, bedding, underwear. You name it, the lucky subsequent child is next in line for its inheritance. Maybe it would have been different if a baby girl had been added to the mix. I guess we’ll never know.
By the third child, out of sheer necessary survival mechanisms, your expectations will be drastically lowered.
Let me take you back for a minute to a few years ago…back when you only had one baby.
Remember your perfectly organized closets? Remember how you used to cook dinner from scratch every single night? Oh, and remember how you could start and finish your weekly laundry in less than 3 loads?
That was nice.
But, alas, it’s no longer a reality. The lowering of expectations is more for your sanity then anything.
Time for housework
The first thing I realized after having my third son was that I’m pretty sure I will never again know what my brand new, clean, hardwood floors actually look like. They’re constantly covered with dirt, grime, or toys. And it’s not necessarily for lack of trying…full disclosure here, I just don’t care that much anymore.
Because I can’t. For my own good.
I’ve found that I’ve had to let SO MUCH go. As a perfectionist, this is hard stuff, guys.
I’ve had to let go the idea of having a clean house ‘round the clock. To mothers everywhere: it’s not happening, and probably won’t happen again for the next 18 years. It’s cool. I’ve made peace with it now.
I’ve had to let go of this crazy idea called “doing the laundry”. It will never be fully “done” ever again. Once again, peace was made, and I’ve moved on with my life.
Permanent memory loss
I’ve also officially lost my mind. Yes, I no longer have a single brain cell left in my head. I misplaced it roughly 13 months ago. Coincidentally, right after a certain tiny human being was added to my brood of offspring.
I forget everything these days. Everything.
If it’s not clearly written boldly on my calendar, there is no reason for you to even remotely believe I will have any inkling of an upcoming event. I’ve come to a point where I have to unreasonably rely on my smart phone just to keep myself from drowning.
Ah, well, such is life and I love it. I truly feel that I was born to do this mothering-a-bunch-of-kids thing. I’d have a gazillion children if my husband would let me.
So much has changed since my first child was born 7 years ago. I’ve changed a lot – I’ve grown. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. I’ve learned what I need to let go. I’ve learned what’s truly important to me, and what’s not.
Yes, my third son might not have had bath toys (if it weren’t for Auntie). He might not have the newest outfits (that he would probably mostly never wear, anyway). He might have more crumbs and laundry and messes to wade through as he crawls around on the living room floor.
But you know what he does have?
He has a mommy who’s a lot less anxious. He has a mommy who’s a lot more comfortable in her own skin. He has a mommy who’s a lot more capable of knowing where her true priorities lie.
He has a mommy who knows that without a doubt, she’d much rather have a messy house, a half-missing brain, and piles of laundry than any other life.
A million times.
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