You’ve probably heard people discuss the entertaining differences between babies and their birth order. There are three of us in my immediate family. My dad always referenced how the pacifier was treated. He said that with the first child, it was lovingly sterilized when dropped. With the second (me!), it was washed off under water quickly. And by the time the third baby came, he maybe swiped it across his pants when it fell on the floor. Maybe. My personal standards have been consistently low, I guess, because I never took the time to sterilize a pacifier with even the first baby. Poor kids!
I’ve noticed some other differences though. Specifically regarding why, perhaps, I’ve been “babying” the baby. I, too, have three children now.
(Photo courtesy of Hardwig Photography)
I was never going to treat the baby any differently than I did her older sisters. I believed I could keep her from being the “baby.” I don’t think that it’s just my is-this-my-last-child emotions that interfere with cultivating her independence. I could be wrong and that’s an entirely different post…but practically, I’m outnumbered! I have more children than I do arms. She has to fit into schedules and demands that the others did not have to…playing and (trying to) nap around preschool drop off and pick up and bus stop runs and errands. Instead of giving her instructions about how we put our coat on our right arm and then our left, I find myself just grabbing her and doing it for her. Instead of instructing her about how we hold hands on the steps down to the car and how we look both ways when we cross the street, I just strap her into the car seat and carry her out to avoid expending the extra energy. Instead of using all of the other helpful language I lovingly spoke to my older daughters because there was more of me and less of them to go around, she kind of gets what’s left over. By that time, it doesn’t usually feel like I can handle any more explanations or instructions!
Since she’s been walking, I’ve developed this habit of grabbing her hood. You know, like any good parent that wants to control their toddler!? Instead of, “please stay on the sidewalk while we wait” I just followed her around holding on to her hood. No “use your walking feet on the sidewalk so you don’t trip on the uneven cement.” I just “caught” her each time by hanging onto the hood. This way, I had time to chat with other parents at the bus stop and keep her “safe.” Dare I say I could then scroll through my news feed or glance at emails to make sure I wasn’t “missing” anything?
Thankfully, she didn’t go flying face first into the cement (although she does already have a chipped tooth; this girl is rough!) or running out into the street. But as soon as it happened, I realized that the hood that was no longer attached to her coat was not the only thing that was out of place. Something was out of place inside of me… my heart ripped a little too. I noticed that hanging on to her hood seemed like a perfectly clever solution until I realized with that rip, I had not been teaching her how to thrive and grow. I was just helping her survive.
Now don’t get me wrong. We ALL have those days-okay, those seasons-where we just need to do whatever it is to get through and keeping everyone alive IS a win! However, the hood helped me see where I needed to grow so that I can become what all three of my children require. The hood made me realize how making choices with a “just getting by” mentality instead of in an intentional, sacrificially loving way weakens a relationship. Practically, my method weakened the relationship between the thread that connected the hood to the jacket. Personally, I realized that I weakened the relationship of mom and child by trying to control behaviors and circumstances and this little life instead of taking the time to pour into her even in the difficult, time pressured, I’d-rather-do-one-stinking-thing-I-want-to-do moments.
There are a number of benefits I can see now that the hood is gone. Sometimes things have to be ripped away for us to get a better view of what’s really happening, right? The very fabric of our relationships with our children is strengthened by the life we share and the gift of our presence. I’m reserving the hood for the extreme moments from now on, and I’m setting aside some other “things” to get to the heart instead.