In two-parent homes, the third baby is the one that tips the scales so the grown-ups are forever outnumbered. Do you think that baby cares? Nope. They’re not taking your situation into account. Your third baby is not going to politely sleep through the night just because you’re old and busy and tired. They’re still going to be a baby and demand all the attention their older siblings had.
No matter how much you have to juggle, you just make it happen for baby number three because you love the heck out of that little nugget. But that third baby somehow makes the family feel three times as big as it used to be when there were two.
What third babies don’t know is that, even though they get tired parents, hand-me-down clothes and non-organic pouches of baby food, they’re actually the luckiest of the bunch.
They get parents who know that they’re doing.
(I mean, kinda. Parenting is pretty much fifty percent winging it, crossing your fingers and hoping it all pans out.)
But that other half of the time? Third babies have really good parents.
Parenting a first baby is just a giant experiment. You have had your whole life to take in information about parenting, and now you’re going to throw all your grand ideas at this baby and see what sticks. Their first food is freshly milled organic peas. Their bottoms never touch anything less than a top-of-the- line diaper. Maybe even cloth. They go to bed after a lavender bath, in dryer-warmed pjs after 8 books and 11 songs. Most parents do the most for a first baby, partially because you just don’t know what else to do. It feels very important to do it all, and there is plenty of time to do it. You’ve got one tiny person in your life, and you think they deserve the very best of everything.
But they also show you what you can’t know until you raise a baby: Half the crap you wanted to do is either impractical, unimportant or your kid literally could not care less. “The very best of everything” looks different than you imagined.
So, the second baby comes along, and you retire the food mill. Their first food comes from a pouch, probably still organic. You save a buck or two buying a regular diaper. Bedtime looks a little different each night. Maybe you even let them have a taste of your ice cream cone before their first birthday.
Honestly, raising baby number two is another kind of experiment. You’re wading through everything you thought it would mean to be a parent, and tossing away the stuff that didn’t end up feeling good to you. There’s still a lot of trial and error.
But it’s not all about letting go of the first-time-parent overachieving. There’s also the beautiful part where you discover how much you definitely got right. You see your victories, and know that this parenting thing is working for you. While your second baby is little, you let go of what you “should be doing” and embrace whatever makes your life peaceful and smooth. You create traditions that you know will last no matter how many babies you end up having. Second babies help you realize that you’re doing an amazing job already.
Enter Baby Number Three.
You have gray hair, stretch marks and you’ve eaten rejected chicken nuggets off your kids plates instead of cooking your own dinner more than once.
But you’re also totally sure that you’ve got this.
Baby number three might have cheaper diapers, or you might have realized that you really prefer your name brand for a reason. Either way, there’s no more agonizing in the diaper aisle. You’ve got an Amazon delivery set up on auto-pay. You’re a pro.
You know how you want to handle consequences and rewards. You’ve got a pretty good rotation of kid-friendly meals worked out. Your lullaby playlist is well-established. By the time that third baby comes around, you can make a bottle in the dark, or breastfeed while signing for a package.
Third babies get parents who just know what the heck they’re doing. Maybe not all the time because kids aren’t robots, and you can’t predict every way they might throw you for a loop. But a lot of the time, third babies get the benefit of a parent who is just really sure that they know how to raise a child.
Third babies might come to us when we are exhausted, frazzled and in the thick of our parenting years, but they also get to come to us when we are confident, wise, and capable.
It’s easy as a parent of a bunch of little kids to look back on what you were able to do for the first one and worry about whether the subsequent kids are getting the best of you.
Worry no more. They are.
They all are.
The first child gets parents who have time and energy to make every moment magic.
Second babies get to have parents who see that there is already magic hiding where you least expect it.
And those sweet little third babies have parents who have learned that kids are full of imagination and stardust, and if you trust them, they will make their own magic and teach you how to see it.
I definitely think third babies are even luckier than the firstborns. They get to come into a family with parents who are already totally killin’ it.
That’s more important than freshly milled organic peas.
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