7 ways I'm a better parent with my third kid
I’d be lying if I said my first-born didn’t get significantly more undivided attention from me when she was a baby than my younger two. And my middle child, my son, happened to be on the receiving end of a years-long “special Friday” with me, thanks to a work schedule I didn’t yet have with my first. Lunches, games, walks. It was great for both of us.
But my third kid, despite being born into a loud, hectic house and being at the mercy of her two siblings’ schedules, friends and activities, is the lucky recipient of the best parenting version of me yet. I may not be able to give her a massage followed by 42 books before bed each night (cough — first-born — cough), but there are a few things I’m able to offer her (as well as myself, to be honest) that I couldn’t with my first and second.
Here are seven ways I’m a better parent with my third kid. Third time really is a charm.
1. I know how to enjoy the stages
Right now, my youngest is 19 months, and while there are challenges presented daily, I now barely notice them — because I don’t focus on them and I know they won’t last forever. Sure, it’s frustrating when my daughter repeatedly tries to climb out of a shopping cart, rendering errands basically impossible. And I could definitely do without her grabbing her older siblings’ art supplies off the table while they’re in the middle of a nice, calm project.
But! This is also the most adorable time! Her ever-expanding vocabulary! The way she takes a sip of water and says, “I thirsty.” Her little ponytail that points up like a sprout! Her baby belly! Instead of harping on the difficult, messy and annoying things that can accompany toddlerhood, I’m soaking up the precious moments. Because I know this phase will be over before I know it.
2. I now know every kid is different
Like, really different. My eldest was basically reading “War and Peace” by the time she was 2, as first-borns are wont to do. (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but she talked a lot at a young age). My son? Not so much.
While he could build a block tower better than most adults before he was in undies, I couldn’t have an actual conversation with him until he was about 3. Did I worry why he wasn’t on the same communication timeline as his older sister? Of course! Just like how before he was born, I spent a significant amount of time wondering why my daughter would only pee, not poop, in the potty. (Spoiler alert: It all worked out.)
My youngest child is happy, healthy and smart — which is never lost on me and I’m forever grateful for — so I never worry if she’s “on track” or if she’s doing things at the same time as other kids her age, or sooner or later than my other two. It’s fine. She’s fine. We’re all going to be fine.
3. I'm more relaxed
I can’t lie, my third’s bedtime is much more open for interpretation than my other two kids’ ever were. She’s already had ice cream a few times. And if I catch her devilishly standing on our (very low to the ground) coffee table, I’m not always quick to take her down, especially if I’m in the middle of something. I don’t hover over her or cling too tightly to schedules, because it's just too hard with two other kids and a job. The result of this by-default-laid-back parenting? A curious, happy kid (and happier mama), who has some serious hands-on learning under her belt already.
4. I have my two ‘big kids’ — who are basically stand-in babysitters
In the middle of a hectic, rushed morning the other day, it became frustratingly apparent that my toddler needed a quick bath. The bowl of oatmeal she was eating kept her occupied while I packed lunch boxes and cleaned up breakfast bowls, but there was a price. She was covered in food in a way that stretched beyond a simple wipe-down with a wet cloth. After I gave her a record-breakingly fast bath, my two big kids swept in and finished the job with lotion, a diaper, fresh clothes and even a cute hairdo. Thanks, kids!
5. I have my mom network
If you have a network of moms to turn to before you have your first child, you are incredibly fortunate. I had no such thing. As I imagine it goes for many first-time moms, I blindly tried to figure things out with my oldest through trial and error, by asking co-workers and acquaintances and via the Holy Omniscient Being: Google. It was tough sledding at times.
As my first two kids have gotten older, though, I’ve met friends through preschool, elementary school, other friends, yoga, neighbors, etc. While there are obvious challenges that come from juggling a baby and two other children who still have very real and valid needs, it’s incredibly comforting to know I have a group of friends whom I can count on in an instant. It makes me feel supported and loved, which yep, makes me a better parent.
6. I’ve learned from my mistakes
Obvious? Sure. But valid nonetheless. From bedtime battles to first day of school tips to sneaky ways to stop tantrums, I’m definitely armed with more knowledge about what to do in certain situations this time around. Actually, if I’m being totally transparent, I’m armed with more knowledge about what not to do in certain situations. Trial and error, OK?
7. I’ve realized: I’m the mom
While I’ll never plug my ears to a good tip — parenting or otherwise — something that’s now firmly rooted in my belief system is this: I’m the mom and I know what’s best for my kids. There was a time when I was sure that the key to parenting was tucked away in a book or on a website or in somebody’s Instagram feed. Not true. And there was also a time when I felt the need to explain my parenting decisions to other people. Not necessary because … who cares?
When you spend every day caring, learning about and loving on three small wonderful little people, there’s no better decision-maker for these people than you. Three kids into parenthood may seem like a long time to figure this out. But better late than never, right?