Today our oldest son is four. Last night, while praying for a coworker heading to the hospital for an induction, eager to meet his first child (just like we did exactly four years ago), I got really sentimental. Thinking back, I marvel at how naive we were, and how amazing it was welcoming this sweet boy into the world. David and I were completely unprepared for the all-consuming transition to parenthood, and I don’t think we’ve looked at anything in our lives the same since that day. Children truly change everything in a way that is simply indescribable.
On my trip down memory lane, I considered whether I’d gained any wisdom in the past four years. I don’t know if these are things I wish I’d known, things I never quite understood, or just things new parents might want to read. Regardless, here are my four things:
1 – Schedules matter, but so does flexibility.
One of the only things I did to prepare for our firstborn was read Baby Wise. I had my plan for how to get our newborn on a schedule starting the first week. Funny thing, try as I may, he really never followed that schedule, or any other schedule. Dominic was just the kind of baby who didn’t want a schedule, much to his parents and daycare providers’ dismay. He did reasonably well with nighttime sleep, but his napping was all over the place, and it was EXHAUSTING, but you know what? We survived, and so did he. Ironically, he’s now a kid who absolutely thrives off routine, but we’ve also learned that there’s often room for the occasional break in routine, and kids need to learn how to adapt, too.
2 – Every kid is different.
I used to go to my more experienced mom friends for advice, and they had some good tips, but they didn’t have real answers, and I didn’t quite understand why at first – they’d already been there, right? Then when James was born, he looked so much like Dominic, and I naively assumed everything to follow would be similar, but it turns out that our boys couldn’t be a lot more different. They have the same eyes and many of the same interests, but they have different hair and different builds, and completely different personalities. They have different strengths and weaknesses, they respond differently to rules and discipline, and they need different things from us at different times. Parenting Dominic did not fully prepare us for parenting James, and no one else’s experience can fully inform yours.
3 – You know your child best.
Even when you first meet your baby, you know them best. Doctors, and childcare providers, and books and mom groups know a lot about kids, but remember, every kid is different. Professionals can only make highly educated guesses based on the information they have available; it’s our job as parents to provide that information as well as to advocate for our kids when we aren’t sure the professionals are correct. We had to push a few issues in the last four years, and for the most part, our instincts have been right. That said, even though you know your child better than his doctor, please also remember that your doctor knows your child better than your Facebook mom group or Google.
4 – Whatever it is, it’s just a phase.
In the moment, all the woes of every phase seemed so big. From the cranky baby to the sassy toddler, 4 months of colic to 3 weeks cutting molars, or nursing struggles to supper-time battles — that, too, really did pass. All of it. It’s true for the good stuff, too – the sleepy newborn snuggles, the baby giggles, the endless peek-a-boo games, and all the “firsts” (foods, steps, words…). They each happen so fast, and it seems they become distant memories almost as quickly. Even so, I don’t ever wish we could go back. I hear that sentiment so often, but I don’t want time to stop or rewind. Each new phase has brought challenges, but it has also brought unbelievable joy and amazement.
Today Dominic is four. He knows all of his letters, and is grasping the concept of words. He loves books, and I think he’ll be reading sooner than later. He has an enormous imagination and loves telling big stories. He’s a good helper, and is eager to assist with any task he’s able (and some he may not quite be ready for). He’s gotten really good on his balance bike, and he’s decent at hitting a ball off a tee. He’s learning to process and articulate his feelings. He is inquisitive and well-spoken, and he understands logic and numbers. He’s an incredible kid, and he (with his brother’s assistance) has taught me at least four things.