Isn’t that what parenting is partially about? Learning to eat your own words and throw out your preconceived ideas of child-rearing? I’m constantly doing just that… It’s humbling and liberating at the same time, because I’m reminded yet again that I don’t know everything and that I don’t HAVE to know everything… And I’ve also seen the evolution of myself in these situations. This time, I’m shaking my head at myself over not sticking by the “treat all of your children equally” rule… I keep finding myself treating the youngest differently than her older siblings were treated at her age. I never understood how anyone could let their youngest kid, aka “the baby”, get away with so much that the older kids didn’t.
I Swore I’d Never Do This…
The situation that smacked me in the face on this topic happened this morning in the grocery store… And this wasn’t the first time I let LLL get away with this… I carry her when she gets tired of sitting in the grocery buggy. And I continue to push the buggy with my other hand. This would have NEVER been allowed when the older Herd Members were younger… I probably would’ve popped their leg or hand and forced them to calm down and stay seated for the duration of the shopping trip. With her, I just pick her up and keep going… And I’m starting to realize why I allow her to do things like this. One rationalization is that she couldn’t really hear until a couple of months ago and is behind her peers in talking (although she’s made serious strides in catching up) that makes her more of a baby…right?!? I mean, since she seems younger to me… She’s actually like a younger kid.. So giving into her is ok, right?!?
I know I’m wrong here. I really, really do. I feel guilty over it for several reasons… A) I’m kind of cheating her out of the structured discipline I managed to enforce with some continuity for the other three, and so far it’s stood them in good stead behaviorally… B) Seeing the other kids watch her get away with stuff, knowing I wouldn’t let them get away with it (sometimes I lie to them.. Saying they DID get away with whatever she’s doing). Fostering jealousy and hard feelings between these kids is not what I want to do… Yet I can see it in the Princess’ face sometimes when she realizes an injustice. I’ve come to realize that my treatment of her stems from a couple of things… One of which is that she’s a very demanding child and has been high needs since birth. I’m so used anticipating her needs and doing whatever it takes to keep her happy, in order to preserve harmony in our home, that it’s become an outdated mode of operation. I’ve been in no rush to potty train her, even though she’s showing signs of readiness. She doesn’t always need the allowances I keep making for her… And I realize that the biggest reason I treat her differently is that she’s my last baby. As I celebrate each milestone of her accomplishments, I’m inwardly mourning loss of her shrinking babyhood… And I know that I will never watch one of my children go through whatever stage she’s going through. Parenting isn’t just about raising children into productive human beings… It’s also a realm of growth for the parent… And I keep reminding myself of that when I feel selfish for holding on to her a little too tightly.
Her experience as a child will be different from her older siblings because she doesn’t have another child being born on the heels of her entry into toddlerhood. Her brothers are 14 months apart, Sundance and the Princess are 21 months apart, and LLL and the Princess are 25 months apart…. She’s older than 25 months now, I’m not expecting another baby, and more than likely will never do so again… So her position of the youngest in birth order is relatively safe. It kind of scares me to think about there being no babies to raise after her… But I’m trying to focus on the opportunities that having older kids will bring…. And eventually the time High Roller and I will have as a couple. But for now.. I’m just going to enjoy her… And try not to let her turn into a spoiled brat… Even though I’d still love her anyways. She may not have the benefit of tighter structure like the older ones… But she does have the benefit of a more mellowed out mama.