I belong to a mom’s group on Facebook. It’s pretty tame as far as mom groups go, mostly swapping recipes and kid’s clothes, but last week there was some controversy over a Luvs Diaper ad that played during the super bowl. This ad depicted the difference between a first time mom and a mom with three children. The first time mom was busy sanitizing everything while the mom with three little ones handed her baby over to grease covered mechanic in order to pay her bill. (Haven’t seen it yet? Watch it here).
Some of the moms in the group were offended by the ad, feeling like it painted new mothers as inexperienced or silly. The conversation got me thinking – I wasn’t insulted by the ad because I could relate to it. When my oldest, Jayson, was born I had so many ideas about parenting and children. I wanted to be the perfect mom and I worked hard at it. And then I had Aiden and Dominic and over time my parenting style and my ideas changed. A lot. I never stopped wanting to be a wonderful mother, but my idea of what a good mom was changed to accommodate my children’s needs.
I don’t think I was a better mom then and I don’t think I’m a better mom now. I’m just a mom who knew when it was time to reevaluate. I love for things to be clean, but I’ve learned that it’s important for my kids to do the messy things too. I did and still want my children to be safe 100% of the time, but over the years I’ve learned that protecting them too much robs them of the opportunity to learn important life lessons on their own. I’ve learned to relax the standards I set for myself, because being sane is better for my kids.
And sometimes my outlook has changed just because it’s no longer practical. When Dominic was born I wanted everything to be safe and sanitized of course. I even convinced myself that I could achieve a sterile baby environment with two young boys already at home. His first day home I took him out to pick up Jayson from school. It was raining and juggling a 5 year old, a toddler and a newborn is… something that takes practice, so let’s just say this wasn’t my most stellar mom moment. When we finally pulled into the driveway I was so relieved! I got the kids and pulled out the car seat, ready to head inside, when I saw Dominic’s pacifier had fallen to the ground. No big deal, I’ll grab a new one in a moment. I turned to close the car door as Dominic began to fuss, and before I knew what was happening Jayson, wanting to be the most helpful brother he could, picked up the pacifier from the dirty, wet driveway and just stuck it right back in his newborn brothers mouth. I was frozen for a moment, do I yell? Call the doctor? You know what’s not fun? A five year old and a five day old crying in tandem while we stand out in the rain. So I took a deep breath and we all went inside and took off our boots and Dominic got a new pacifier and I had a glass of wine (just kidding, I was breastfeeding, so I probably just cried until my husband came home). And that was the moment I realized having three children was going to be a very, very different experience.
Anyway, my thinking brought me to this list: 10 things I’ve learned from my third child:
1. Swings, bouncing seats and singing mobiles are over-rated. You know what puts an infant to sleep quickly? The sound of his older brothers screaming over who gets to choose the next Ninja Turtle episode on Netflix as his Mom desperately shushes them to no avail.
2. Potty Training is over-rated. With my older boys I couldn’t wait to potty train them and stop changing diapers. Shoving four people in a bathroom stall while trying to get the smallest on the potty and stop the older two from touching everything they can or hitting each other? Not my idea of a good time. I’d rather stick to changing diapers the car! He’ll be using the potty before preschool (I hope!).
3. Silence is never golden. It only means someone is sticking something up their nose.
4. A child will always find a way to get stuck. Baby proof all you want, you can’t stop a child from getting stuck in himself.
5. Some day your child may pick an M&M up off the school auditorium floor and eat it before you can stop him. You’ll be less horrified than you imagined (if you thought the driveway pacifier was bad, you definitely don’t want to know what other things Dominic has put in his mouth. That may be the topic of my next list).
6. I’ve become faster and more efficient at doing just about everything, but I’m also late everywhere I go, all the time.
7. When my oldest wasn’t saying 8-10 words by his first birthday I scheduled a doctor’s appointment to address my concerns. When Dominic turned two and was still using dinosaur roars as his only form of communication, I was relieved that my husband and I were finally able to identify what some of them meant.
8. If you think you’ll never utter the words “Well, if he falls off of it maybe he’ll learn not to climb up it”, wait until you have three kids.
9. Screaming, crying and loud bangs no longer phase you, but a child’s voice yelling “Don’t worry, we’ll clean it up!” can strike fear into your heart.
10. You may have tried to keep your older kids away from electronics for as long as possible, but don’t be surprised if you’re one day caught saying “Two years old and you don’t know how to use the iPad? Here, let Mommy teach you!” (Hey, a Mom’s gotta shower). The same goes for candy, junk food and television.
And you’ll also learn that some of the things you may have judged parents for in the past aren’t so bad. Spending all day trying to fulfill the irrational demands of toddlers, mediating constant arguments and trying to keep a group of children occupied is demanding and exhausting. There was a time when I would have balked at the idea of handing my two year old a lollipop and sitting him in front of the TV, but I’ve learned the tradeoff – a mom who’s had a moment to relax, refocus and maybe browse pinterest for a craft idea using all of those empty paper towel tubes – is a good one.
Sometimes when I see a mom out with her first child I do smile. I’m not being mean. I’m thinking back to when I was just like her, before my sanity was hijacked by sticky hands and irrational, high pitched demands. I’m probably thinking that someday she’ll look at her children, as I do, and remember a time when she carefully cut the crust off of a child’s almond butter and organic jelly sandwich instead of tossing them an Uncrustable from the freezer and yelling at them to let if defrost a little before they start eating it.
In the end, we’re all just doing what we think is best for our kids, and that’s what counts. How did you feel about the Luvs commercial?