Everyone just take a moment and think back to the first six weeks you were home with your firstborn baby.
Think about all the totally ridiculous things you did, like neurotically filling in feeding charts (in pencil in case you needed to adjust the time sections), keeping a statistical log of all the dirty diapers and exactly what was in them, keeping the house totally silent so baby could sleep (big mistake), and Purell-ing every surface in your home. You ran to the pediatrician’s at the first sneeze, then went back every few days for weight checks (just to make sure he’s not dying of starvation), and in between you’d call every two days asking, “Is this normal?”
Then I’m guessing you spent the toddler years counting how many words that baby spoke in a day, provided only lead-free (and highly imaginative!) wooden toys handmade in Scandinavia, worried constantly about TV viewing, vegetable consumption, and sufficient nap times. You carried around educational flashcards in your purse and listened to bilingual Kidz Bop. And you made for damn sure your kid knew all his letters, shapes, constitutional amendments, calculus theorems, and could quote Voltaire before kindergarten. You parented that first baby like such a freakin’ child-rearing rock star even Dr. Sears was calling you for advice. And then in a complete lapse of sanity (and judgment) you made one disastrous mistake. You told yourself you would parent all the rest of your children that exact same way.
Oh, bless your little overachieving heart.
I’m four kids deep, and now that I can look back on all my child-rearing years, I can proudly say with the deepest and truest of conviction that my last baby is getting the very best of my parenting. And I mean the best — because in place of all our child-rearing neuroses grew the greatest of all parenting characteristics: a giant dose of humor combined with a big splash of IDGAF anymore. And that last kid? He got (and continues to get) this very awesome kind of upbringing in the best worst kinds of ways.
1. I have no more patience left. ZERO.
This means the last kid figures a lot of important shit out on their own — like potty training, cooking himself something when he’s hungry, doing his own laundry when he wants something clean, multiplication tables, science projects, and, uh, he can forge my signature on notes sent home from the teacher. You know real adulting — but at age 10.
2. No more kid gloves and health obsessions.
My last baby didn’t make it to his newborn checkup until he was almost 2 months old. The pediatrician’s office was calling me. My reply, “I don’t have time. He’s all good. Shitting his brains out. Smiling. I’ll call you in a few months.” (Side note: He’s also been my healthiest baby to date and is never sick.) I made sure his older brothers came home from school everyday and snotted all over his face. No training wheels and baby-proofing for this one — they only touch a hot stove once (trust me). This made for a kid who learned what the word “danger” meant earlier and quicker than his brothers. Whew.
3. He went to kindergarten not able to write his name.
But boy could he Sharpie some pretty pictures of dogs all over my walls, and I put a frame around them! Because why the hell did I ever waste time suffocating his creativity by forcing penmanship at freakin’ age 4? And no more weekly stress-fests about spelling tests and multiplication tables. This time around, my focus has been on him loving learning, not straight A’s. He’s doing just fine with his name now BTW. Go figure.
4. No schedules, no problem.
He’s the kid who spent his first few years of life in a car seat, a stroller, or at one of a thousand places his brothers had to be. This meant he learned to sleep anywhere and everywhere and at any time he could, without having to be soothed for 45 minutes beforehand. Since then he’s been my most go-with-the-flow kid ever. Go ahead and throw a wrench in his day — it’s exciting, not debilitating. If only most adults had that mentality.
5. Age-appropriate educational toys, tricycles, and books? Hell no.
Hey kid, here’s a screwdriver, a skateboard you’re gonna bust your ass on, and a board book your older brother chewed up 10 years ago. This means when I say go play outside with anything you can find he actually does. Imagination and the ability to fill boring days? That’s a parenting win.
My youngest has been the light of our family. He has taught all of us more than we would have ever been able to teach him, had we kept up the same stringent parenting tactics we used with his oldest brother. With him we’ve realized it’s all small stuff, and even when the big stuff sucker punches us, he reminds us life is messy, unpredictable, and imperfect. But if we let down our guard just a little, laugh more, trust our instincts even more, and choose to toss our parental micromanaging in the garbage with all the other nonsensical parenting books, we just may find ourselves raising the perfect kid.
It only took a few practice kids to get there.