“Don’t forget Mason!” my wife yelled from the driveway, as we loaded our kids into the truck for a run to the grocery store.
Of course I would never forget my 10-month old son, it just kind of resembles a metaphor for how scattered the mind of a parent who has multiple young children can be.
We had Ava just over five years ago, which doesn’t seem like an awfully long amount of time, yet in the same breath, feels like an eternity.
In the weeks leading up to her birth and subsequent months at home, I certainly recall being focused on every aspect of her life. I remember sifting through hours and hours of information on the internet, contrasting and comparing her developmental accomplishments and conferring with the team of pediatricians at our practice. I even remember silently assessing her skills in comparison to my friend’s kids during play dates.
When Ava was about ten weeks old, I made the decision to stay at home with her full-time. In my transition from fast-paced executive into primary caregiver sitting on the living room floor talking gibberish to an infant, I used my extra time to become not only focused, but a precision-guided parental unit, with laser-like capabilities.
I was anxious to see my child meet her milestones earlier than the suggested age, assuming that this would be tangible evidence of me succeeding at my new job.
Let me tell you, that gets exhausting. Not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
And it’s patently not true.
What I began to realize was that things just started happening on their own, without me necessarily having to cheer from the sidelines with the pit crew wearing custom-made hats, t-shirts and flags that said ‘Go Ava!’
Before I knew it, she was a year old, knocking down all of the expected developmental landmarks. And then we found out that my wife was pregnant with Charlie.
Nine months later, when he was born, it was time for me to start this whole cycle over.
It hadn’t been that long, so a majority of it was still fresh in my memory PLUS we never even had a chance to cycle out any of Ava’s old stuff, so all the newborn gender-neutral gear was still out in the open.
My son and daughter weren’t so far apart in age and it wasn’t until they hit [almost] two and three, respectively, that we found out Jen was pregnant with Mason.
And that brings me to today, a stay-at-home parent with three kids under five.
I feel scattered most of the time.
With Mason, I can anticipate what he’s going to do at 10-months old.
I can’t predict what Ava and Charlie are capable of doing, given five minutes without supervision. It could be action-figures in the toilet, leaves pulled off of the basil plant or lipstick all over my son’s arms and legs. The two kids attend pre-school half-days, Charlie going two days a week and Ava every day, in preparation for kindergarten next year.
On the days they’re at home, I have to be uber-focused on them… one slip-up (aka potty break without an audience) can cost me quantum amounts of time in clean up. I spend a lot of time working with them on colors, shapes, letters, numbers and am hopeful that they’re where they ‘need to be’ at the expected time. I’m helping Charlie with his potty-training and making it through the night without the help of a pull-up. They both need help with the obvious things like sharing, manners and right vs. wrong. With all of these uncharted waters ahead for the older two, I sometimes find myself leaving Mason on auto-pilot.
What I realize is, that he needs just the same focus that I devoted to Ava and Charlie and with my mind operating on so many different levels, I occasionally expect too much from a baby that isn’t even one yet. Last week, I nonchalantly told my wife that Mason had taken two steps while she was at work. Rookie move.
I didn’t even think anything of it. My wife was completely freaking out, asking if I had taken pictures or video and why I didn’t text or call her the moment it had happened.
The reality is that it never happened. For some reason, I had blended my kid’s life events together and in my sub-conscious thought he had taken a few steps, when in reality he stood up, took one step and went down like a sack of potatoes. I suppose I just expected him to have done that.
I need to constantly remind myself that Mason needs to be challenged and requires non-stop one-on-one time with me (or sometimes his siblings) to work on his basic motor-skills, as well as just keeping him engaged and active.
I feel like by now, I should be a pro at this, but I’m not. I feel embarrassed that I might need to go back and reeducate myself on what he should be doing at this stage in the game, but I shouldn’t.
I did a fair job of chronicling my parenting successes and failures on my blog, but my wife has one-upped me.
For the last few years, I’ve noticed her, from time to time writing in journals. I was either too sleepy (because it was late at night) to ask what they were or just assumed that maybe she was keeping a private diary, journaling her thoughts about how good of a cook I am and how clean I keep the house – lol. Turns out, it wasn’t either of those.
She’s been keeping a separate journal of daily accomplishments for each of our kids…the ultimate reference source. So I’ve been going back, not only to give myself some inspiration and reinvigorate myself to ‘keep up the daily parenting grind’, but to see what Mason’s brother and sister were doing at his age. What better way to measure his abilities and accomplishments than this?
The truth is, all kids are created [very] differently… and when we start comparing and contrasting their skills and abilities at various ages it can be exhausting and defeating. Sure, there are typical milestones that all age groups are expected to meet, but the race isn’t “on” to see who can teeth first, who can sit up longer and how early we’ve taken steps.
So to the parent spread too thin, I say to you: Enjoy the journey… stop for a moment and really take in all that is happening around you, because the world is a much better, brighter place the second/third/fourth time you’ve been introduced to it through the eyes of your child.