My better half suggested I write about what it’s like watching a “first time mom” go through the phases from my vantage point. She said, “You know, how I have unreasonable expectations and think #5 is a genius.” This seems like it could go badly. She does like when I tease her but, I’m also dealing with a woman here, a mother no less.
Yes, there is definitely a difference in our perspectives but she might be surprised that this isn’t a “just wait, you’ll see” kind of post. I’ve been a stay at home, 24/7 kind of mom for 12 years with 4 kids, 5 kids since last year. I’m pretty experienced. I’ve single handedly parented the kids when my ex-husband traveled, when he was gone 8 out of 18 months at a time. I’m not saying that what I’ve chosen is better, just that I’m around kids a lot. I was a first time mom once too. I had visions of what it would be like, goals I wanted my kids to achieve, hopes that I would do everything right, teach them all kinds of things, read to them, play with them, educate them. I’m kind of jaded at this point. Chaos quickly took over through my choice to have 4, 3 of them only 2 years apart each. I started down the path of “survival of the day is our goal”. It became easier to clean up after them then to spend twice as long getting them to do it. Or potty training them on their terms because the intensive week long method was too overwhelming when you have a newborn and an older one to deal with at the same time.
But instead of feeling like she is unrealistic and unexperienced, it has been a breath of fresh air. It’s nice to have someone in the house that has expectations, hopes and dreams again. I love how she can focus on spending a few minutes with each of the kids, read a book to #5, and remember to brush his teeth. I love how she thinks he’s the smartest kid in the world. Sure, I roll my eyes a little, but only to tease her. (Gotta keep her from getting too big of a head sometimes!) He is (one of 5 of) the smartest kids in the world! (She may just have to work on her semantics a bit. “You’re one of my favorite boys!”). He’s a crazy talker. His vocabulary is through the roof! You can tell he is a smart little cookie, although vocabulary isn’t really my indication. Some of the kids talked at the “normal” time, and the others not until they were two. You worry at the time but I know now that this isn’t really an indication of intelligence, since #1 is off the charts sharp and he didn’t talk until he was 20 months.
I think it’s super cute that she looks forward to well-child checkups to hear the doctor say how brilliant he is. And why shouldn’t she? He is, and what mom doesn’t want to hear that? I’ve really lucked out, gaining one more adorable genius in the brood!
I feel like the one who should be changing her outlook is me. She helps be bring back those hopes and dreams that I started out with. Her outlook has refreshed mine. I feel rededicated to staying at home, starting to plan again about how to teach the little boys the alphabet and colors and art projects, instead of wishing they would just go play and leave me to the cleaning. Instead of “finishing” full time staying at home with the little ones before they start school, dragging and tired of the job, I can finish strong and excited about the time I have with them. How it’s fun to sit and play or read to them. When do you lose that outlook? Why do we as moms hope the new mom learns to be jaded and discouraged just like them? Why isn’t it the other way around?
Where experience has paid off is knowing what phases are coming up (heading into the terrible twos, we have another stubborn one on our hands!), or that the cough or fever he’s got is normal and he’ll survive just fine. Or that sometimes they just pitch a fit in the middle of the night for no other reason than they are almost 2 and that’s what two year olds enjoy doing. Hopefully this is a helpful perspective and not too annoying. I think it’s a really great mix of experience and excitement that we are at different viewpoints with #5 as well as the other kids. It’s been a steep curve for her to become a mother of 5 from ages 1-12 in a year and I’m sure extremely challenging learning the ins and outs of each age and stage. But it’s again brought me to reevaluate my own views on more than one occasion. Things you assume are just what 10 year olds do, may be right, but doesn’t always mean they can’t learn more, do more, or be better about certain things. A better example of what I’m trying to say is, I used to be a nanny before I had kids. Parenting seemed pretty straight forward and simple. I knew exactly how to parent and couldn’t figure out why this seemed so difficult to the parents of those kids. They were letting their subjectivity get in the way. Then when I got into the trenches, I became the same way. Parenting was complex and there wasn’t always a right way! I could spend a lot of energy wringing my hands and not knowing what to do. People who thought there was a simple way just didn’t know what they were talking about. I couldn’t see the trees for the forest. Now, however, I can enjoy being challenged by seeing both perspectives. It’s perhaps realigned me back into the middle of the spectrum where I can see the complexity of each child but still the objectivity of stepping back to gain the full perspective. She’s definitely brings balance into my world, on this and every other aspect of life.