Can you be the same parent twice? Would you even want to be?
As a lover of consistency and economies of scale — heck! I even called having three sons the “ultimate in recycling” — I was a very good candidate for being exactly the same parent to each baby.
There are many variables for how each child grows up beyond simply having the same genes and set of parents, but the two biggest are:
• Baby’s temperament
• Lifestyle factors
Let’s start off with baby’s temperament. My first son was a child with a loud voice and a few digestive challenges. As he has grown, the tummy trouble has gone away, but his need to be the boss has not diminished. He is simply a person who wants to be in control (born to a mom who wants to be in control).
My second son was so laid back that I had no choice but to think I had improved as a mother. Ha. He would patiently wait for his turn. And just in case I thought I was getting pretty sweet at this Mom Thing, my third son has the delightfully domineering personality of my first son.
While I have eased into relaxing some of my need to be right all the time and even grown into choosing some battles, I have to conclude that the biggest differences in my parenting the first, second, and third sons is environmental.
What are these lifestyle factors? When I first became a mother, the culture shock was complete. Like many other first-time moms, I was so nervous to screw things up and I read all the parenting books. Our son received a lot of individual attention from me and my husband as well as both of us doting on his many needs. Bathtime, for example, was done by both of us.
When our second baby came along, like many other second-time parents, we had to switch to Zone Defense. We couldn’t afford the luxury of staring too long at the baby’s toes in the bathtub because someone had to be diapering the toddler or preparing dinner. Besides infants don’t need to go the playground, zoo, or trains, but little brothers get to do all that. Our home was now full of toys, noise, and two kids in diapers demanding a lot of attention.
By the time our third baby entered our family, we were pretty solidly identifying as “Parents” and “a Family” so we had no major identity crisis. Instead, we ran out of hands. Zone Defense evolved into Triage: instantly determining which tears meant blood and which should be ignored to see if they escalate. Figuring out whose needs were most urgent in any given moment takes some finesse. We also had older boys who could help with the baby, whether by bringing me a diaper, decoding baby’s cries, or putting on their own pants.
Given these variables, it is no wonder that each of my three beloved little ones experiences their mama a little differently.