My parenting style has become increasingly watered down with each of my five kids. There is no better case study of that evolution than my youngest daughter’s impending first birthday this weekend.
Like my other four children, on Saturday, my 1-year-old daughter will dig into her own cake, leaving a mess that, for this day, is completely appropriate. The only question will be: Will she go in face-first or hands first?
Unlike her siblings, though, her birthday will be a quiet, private affair with a few gifts. She won’t have the “invite everyone” shindig my other kids have experienced.
I’m not ashamed of having a more muted celebration. My fifth child, in fact, has allowed me to practice what I tend to preach: that I can give more by providing less.
My “less is more” parenting is evident in more than just my daughter’s low-key birthday.
I am never anxious to get her to the next milestone.
When my other children were born, it took only a few sleepless nights before I wanted to hit the baby fast-forward button. I longed for the point when I would regain a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
While it would be disingenuous to say that I enjoyed the exhaustion of those first few weeks, I do miss my daughter’s nightly need for comforting.
I used to look forward to the next milestone. I wanted her to sit up, to start crawling, and then to walk. I feel differently now. With each passing milestone, my daughter doesn’t need me as much.
She now likes me to chase her more than she likes me to give her a hug, and I regret that will continue for the rest of time.
I let her be more often.
My fifth child has more space than any of my other kids enjoyed.
I distinctly remember nervously trailing behind my oldest as he learned to walk nine years ago. I’d be quick to help him up when he was too wobbly.
Today, my little 1-year-old falls hundreds of times per day with only her diaper to soften the descent.
I tell her to “get up” more and say “poor baby” less.
I have abandoned the illusion of needing total control.
The ship has sailed on my dictatorial authority at home. I’ll take all of the help I can get.
With my other kids, I ran myself into the ground in the pursuit of doing it all. I’ve gotten better at delegating (or giving up) when it makes sense.
My other kids can help corral my busy toddler. In fact, anyone can help me — the other parent in the checkout line or the nice old lady next door.
No, I’m not bothered by flying my parenting helicopter at a higher altitude now. I feel at ease as I take advantage of the brief period of time when my daughter’s world is simple, innocent, and unaware.
I have four other children who are proof positive that life will get more complicated soon enough.
For now, my daughter is happy and carefree. She has no clue about brand names, new shoes, or unused toys.
On Saturday, when she turns 1, my daughter will smile from ear to ear as she smashes her pretty pink cake. She’ll be happy that we’re all smiling and laughing with her and cooing about the mess she’s making or at her pink-stained face.
Her smiles will tell me that she doesn’t care about the absence of a big party. The lack of pretty, decorated tables full of lovely gifts will not bother her.
My last child has taught me to enjoy today, when less is allowed to be more. I know that will not be true forever, so I’ll revel in these moments while I can.
This post originally appeared on Fatherly.