Dear First-Time Moms,
I have a confession to make. It's something I'm not proud of, but here it is: sometimes I think you're silly for being so uptight about your kid.
It's not that I haven't been in your shoes. I remember when I, too, had just one. I wanted so badly to be a perfect mom. To have a perfect child. To do everything by the book. I read all the studies ... disciplined the way this expert suggested and potty trained the way that expert suggested and only bought organic hormone-free food with extra DHA and AHA added for brain development and served it in a BPA-free dish because that's what those experts said I should be doing. I was so, so afraid to mess up - like one little misstep would send my son hurtling toward a future of misfortune, all because his mother let him watch one too many minutes of non-educational TV or fed him too much processed food which irrevocably altered his mental chemistry.
But then I had another kid. And another. And another. (Yes, I know how these things happen.)
Having multiple children - in my case, four - changes your grand parenting plan. Dramatically. You realize that you can actually trust your own instincts, and that not every expert opinion is right for your kids. You start to relax in your approach to parenting. For example, when you see your toddler heading for an electrical outlet ...
First-time mom: (gasp) No no, sweetie! We don't get within five feet of an outlet! Those plastic covers are there for your safety!
Mom of more than one kid: I wouldn't touch that outlet if I were you. Or at least put down that fork you were running with first.
Okay, so perhaps I'm exaggerating a smidge, but you get my drift. When I just had one child, I'd have called the doctor in the middle of the night for a sniffle; now I battle raging flu viruses at home without blinking an eye. I've always thought that first-time moms and their ambitious parenting styles were sweetly amusing, yet secretly relished my own level of experience, thinking, I'm so glad I'm not like that any more.
Until I realized something the other day, watching my eldest son walk uncertainly into his fourth-grade classroom and into a new year of firsts.
No matter how many kids you have, you're always a first-time mom. Because as your oldest child grows, there are challenges you've never faced. Things you've never thought of. Times when you feel paralyzed with fear that you'll do something wrong. Any time you have to make decisions on behalf of your child, you agonize over whether you'll make the wrong decision - especially if it's a situation you've never been in before. Every year, every age, brings some element that you didn't expect, and you parent by trial-and-error. But you ask around first. You do research on the best way to handle a situation. You read articles. You make your best guess. You lose sleep.
When your second or third or fourth or fifth child is in the same situation, you know what to do already. You've been there, done that, figured it out.
But when it's your oldest ... your firstborn ...
... we're all first-time moms. Forever.