Two of our best friends recently had their second child.
And since the birth of their first child preceded the Peanut's by almost a year, they have always somewhat served as our parenting guinea pigs. In many ways, they are like our Lewis & Clark, bravely traversing ahead of us on that great continental divide known as Parenthood and selflessly warning us of all the potential pitfalls that we may encounter along the way.
Actually, that might be overstating their importance. Sorry. THIS HEAT IS MAKING ME INSANE AND RUINING ALL MY METAPHORS!
On second thought, they're more like the best friends you call on a Saturday night to ask why your newborn child is filling up her Huggies with what looks like the remains of a Shamrock Shake.
Anyway...like us, our friends were very anxious parents on the first go-around. They read all the parenting books and took all the right classes. No baby-related purchases were made unless they had been researched on Consumer Reports and cross-referenced with the databases of the FDA, the CDC and CPSC. Heck, they even had professional safety experts come to their apartment and ensure that everything was 100% child-proof. It was their first child! Who could blame them?
But for kid #2? Ehh...not so much.
Seriously, we went over there last week and I swear that I saw their newborn baby sucking paper clips out of an electrical socket.
Now, I'm not saying that my friends don't care about their second child. It's just that I think we all eventually learn that much of the anxiety and stress we experienced with the birth of our first child may have been a tad bit out of proportion. That's ok. In reality, that's how it SHOULD be. Having a child for the first time is a major life-altering event and should be undertaken with only the utmost seriousness.
I hear stories all the time about parents obsessively sterilizing for hours and hours anything that came in contact with their first child! By the time the third one comes along, these same parents are licking the germs off the pacifier with their tongues and wiping them off with their shirt. Somehow, it's just not as big a deal anymore.
I've also noticed this phenomenon when it comes to naming one's children. Before the Peanut was born, I'm not kidding when I say that BossLady and I had a huge Excel file listing all of our preferred names by both gender and alphabetical order. We would spend HOURS lying in bed and trying to come up with those "special" names.
But as I look around at couples with multiple kids, I realize that even things like names become less and less important. With the first child, it's always, "Oh, Sweetie! You were named after my favorite relative, Grandma Eden, who lovingly raised me when I was a young child. I'll always have a special place in my heart for her and, when I look at you, I see her beautiful soul shining brightly inside of you."
By the 4th kid, it's like, "Your name? You were named after a fucking sandwich. Now, go get your brothers and sisters, Reuben!"
As for me? Heck, I've only been a parent for 21 months but I can already see that my over-protectiveness of my daughter is starting to wane a little bit and that my lax attitude is slowly manifesting itself in subtle ways. How?
Well, here's what I've noticed so far...
- I used to bathe the Peanut every single day. Now, I only do it when there's maple syrup stuck in her hair or when she starts smelling worse than the dog. I've been busted more than once wiping her down from head to toe with a wet paper towel.
- I used to prepare every single one of her meals from scratch using only the freshest organic ingredients. I still do this quite frequently but let's just say that now, my daughter squeals like a little chipmunk whenever we pass by a McDonalds.
- I used to sit for hours on the floor with the Peanut reading her 20 children's books in a row. Now, I make her sit on my lap as I read her passages from Phillip Roth's new novel or the Sports Section. She's not learning quite as much but I was pretty proud when she turned to me the other day and said, "Yankees suck!"
I think because the Peanut is turning into this walking, talking human being with her own strong sense of individuality and personality, I feel less inclined to be so neurotic or overprotective. After all, what good does it do to sterilize all her sippy cups when, two minutes later, she's outside shoveling mounds of dirt into her mouth like a geophagic member of a Zambian war tribe? Seems like a waste of time, doesn't it?
Heck, by next week, I'll probably just change her diapers when the poop starts leaking out the sides. Of course, I'll have to wait until she's done playing in traffic and juggling the steak knives...but that's cool, right?