The baby is six weeks old today, which means the hubs and I have been parents to three children for the same period.
As it turns out, being a third-time parent is something of a watershed. It’s the number at which observers assume — largely erroneously, I might add –that you have this parenting gig sorted.
When you have one child, people like to make fun of your naïveté. They roll their eyes when you hand them purell before you let anyone hold the baby. They laugh at your obsession with bleaching the toys, the floors, and every single surface that your child comes into contact with. It’s not too bad though, because you don’t visit people too often anyway. And its not just because their laissez faire attitude to your precious baby’s health is deeply distressing. It’s more the practical struggle of attempting to pack the baby’s stroller 170 lb travel system, plus their their hockey bag-sized “travel” diapering kit complete with bottle warmer, wipe warmer, ring sling, ergo baby, moby wrap, 14 changes of outfit for the inevitable drool, spit-up and poopsplosions, and 17 kinds of pacifiers quite challenging.
When you have two kids, you’ve paired down the baby gear to just the essentials for keeping the baby alive whilst wrangling a live-wire toddler. When you emerge in public now, you’re slightly more disheveled because you’ve spent much more time arguing with a tiny dictator that pants do not go on the head and flippers are not appropriate winter footwear.
But despite your generally crinkled appearance and the odor of slightly stale milk that now accompanies you wherever you go, people seem less critical of your parenting skills. Why? Well, partly it’s because you’ve fulfilled your biological imperative to replicate yourself and your partner. Yay you! This is upper level adulting at its finest.
But you’ve also given your first child the sibling that our society deems necessary to avoid them turning into an introverted loner or a spoiled brat. Now, I tend to take issue with this characterization of only children. Being one myself, I don’t believe my preference for books over people, or my need to be right all the time in any way correlates with … oh wait.
Well, maybe there is a point with some people, but I think it’s generally overstated … and of course I will argue it to the ground.
But the point is that once you have two kids, you are to be admired for choosing to risk your own personal sanity so that society as a whole doesn’t have to wonder about the weird kid who wanders around with the home-made bow and arrow telling long-convoluted stories about imaginary friends. I just made that up, of course. No-one is that weird.
With three kids though, suddenly you’ve gone above and beyond. Little old ladies who are just on the cusp of giving you a major lecture about why your baby should be wearing a hat and socks and mittens and a goose down parka in 18 degree weather suddenly reconsider when you mention this is your third. Suddenly, appearing anywhere outside your home wearing yesterday’s clothes (or, as I like to refer to them, “outdoor pajamas”) and seeming to function is an achievement.
Your teeth are brushed? Awesome!
Your kids ate more than two bites of breakfast? Winning!
You actually put on makeup? You’re a veritable rock star!
The thing is though, it’s all completely illusory.
I have no more clue what I’m doing with the third than I did with the first. In fact, it’s now been over five years since I read any of those baby books, so I have even less idea of what I should be doing than with the first one.
Someone recently asked me the standard question about the new baby: “Is he hitting his milestones?”. Here’s how the answers have gone:
First child: Yes, at least on time or ahead.
Second child: Yeah, he’s pretty much following what his brother did at this age.
Third Child: Umm … probably? I’m more worried about his older brothers throwing stones at the neighbour kids right now.