My firstborn child was a classic trick baby. He was mellow and easy from birth. He spent three days in the NICU, and the nurses couldn’t believe how content he was. My first baby nursed perfectly from the first moment he saw a boob, even though he was bottle fed first. He slept well, hit all his milestones on time, and rarely cried.
He is six years old now, and it hasn’t worn off. My trick baby grew into a laid-back toddler, then an easy-going child. He is gentle, kind, cautious and smart. I really, truly thought I did that. I was so sure my parenting would guarantee that all my kids would be gentle and easy because I was so good at it.
But honestly, I blame my kid. How was I supposed to know?
My oldest kid had ONE JOB, and that was to teach me how to be a mom, so I would be ready for the second child.
He failed. When I gave birth to his little brother, I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. I think the universe sent my second child here to push every single one of my buttons, and teach me to be a better person. That’s the only logical explanation.
I mean, my second child was a breeze.
For three days.
On day four, he decided eating was no longer a thing. He stopped nursing, and refused to take a bottle, cup feed, or use a syringe. For well over a week, his pediatrician and I struggled to find a reason for his lack of appetite. Just when his doctor decided we might need to explore the use of a feeding tube, he rolled his eyes, said, “FINE,” and started eating normally, like he had never tried to kill his mother and himself with a hunger strike.
You hush. That’s how I remember it.
Things didn’t get easier as time went on. On the contrary, he just continued to learn new ways to test our nerves. By my second child’s first birthday, we had babyproofed the entire damn house. We gated every doorway, put an alarm on every window, and covered every outlet. Not one cabinet in our home opened freely, and I didn’t allow the baby to enter the bathroom for any reason unless I was with him. I crossed my fingers, prayed to all the gods for his safety, and recruited my then 4-year-old to be my eyes when I wasn’t in the room.
I’m pretty sure my second child thought his name was, “Walker, no!” for the first couple of years. I can’t prove that he was actively trying to make my heart stop, but I have my suspicions. We routinely had to rescue him from situations where he could climb up but had no plan to get back down. I saved him from back of the couch, the windowsill, the kitchen table, a countertop, and once, the top bunk bed.
There was no ladder. I still have no clue how he made it to the top.
When we moved into a new home just before his second birthday, my husband and I tried to give our second child freedom to run the house like our other kid. Fewer gates. Locks only on cabinets that contained sharp things and chemicals. We were exhausted and delusional from the stress of the move, so we pretended he was Trick Baby 2.0.
We figured we’d just see what happened.
“What happened” is my second child put a whole roll of paper in the toilet and flooded the bathroom. In order to avoid a second flood, I told my older son to lock the bathroom door when he wasn’t in there, and I showed him how to unlock it from the outside with a flat object.
That worked for a few days. One morning, I woke up at 6 a.m. to find my second child out of bed, digging through his play kitchen for a tiny toy spoon. Within 30 seconds of locating it, he was in the locked bathroom.
Looking back, that might be the moment when I gave up thinking we could avoid messes and injuries and mayhem, and just embraced the chaos of living with this Tasmanian devil. I bought a carpet cleaner, restocked the first aid kit, and braced myself.
He is 3 now, and to be honest, I still CAN. NOT. EVEN. He has mostly stopped putting himself in harm’s way and trying to escape, so that’s good news. I’m not as concerned for his immediate safety as I once was because I’ve safely locked up the kitchen knives and poisons, and he’s steady on his feet now. He can climb like a mountain goat. We have safely anchored everything in the house, and I feel pretty sure that he at least marginally values his own well-being now that he’s aware of the concept of danger.
But he has transferred all that physical energy into open and unapologetic defiance. He has a speech delay, but do you think that stops the sass mouthing?
Nope, it doesn’t.
Just yesterday, I asked him three times to put on pants. He ignored me. Finally, I said, “Walker, I asked you to come over here and get your pants on.”
His response? Look me dead in the eyes, and say, “Well, I’m not.”
Just like that. He’s just … not. My requests mean nothing to this one. He does what he wants when he wants, and I’m just here to purchase the snacks.
Obviously, he ended up wearing pants, but I had to put them on him while he went completely boneless, because he was, as we have established, “not.”
And then there’s the little problem of learning by his older brother’s example.
In addition to inadvertently showing him how to pick locks, my older son has taught my second child a whole host of other inconvenient things. My second child watches the first one like a hawk.
He knows where I keep the art supplies and the treats. He can find glitter, markers and paint in the dark with his eyes closed. He once ate four granola bars in the dark before I ever realized he was out of bed.
My second child doesn’t feel the need to ask for snacks or cups because why would he, right? He knows where they are, and he can get them all by himself. The mess he makes is, frankly, not his problem.
I once found him in an empty bathtub with a pillow, the iPad and an entire loaf of French bread. I don’t even know where he found the iPad. It had been MIA for days.
If you had asked me before he was born if I wanted my second child to be a exact replica of his older brother, I would have said yes! Absolutely! Sign me up for another easy, obedient, gentle, calm child.
I am so glad life didn’t hand me that carbon copy. I would have been missing so much. My second child is nothing like his brother. He is rough and loud and independent, stubborn and wild and full of fire.
He is also affectionate, silly and adorable. He’s brilliant. He laughs louder than anyone. My second child might not want help getting a cookie out of the package, but he is willing to share a bite with anyone. He moves through his day like a human tornado, but every night, he is happy to crash into his mama’s arms and fall into a deep sleep, resting up to take on the challenge of tomorrow.
My second child isn’t easy like my first, but he has made us all better. I’m grateful for every exhausting piece of him, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
I just hope my homeowner’s insurance will cover it.