The sniff. You’ve seen it. The parent hoists the diapered bottom up in front of their nose. They smell. They hope it is not theirs. It is. They hand the baby off. They did the last one. They compromise. They’ll do it together. I’ve even used the finger technique. Our old neighbor and friend used to find all of this quite disgusting. Runny noses equaled absolute horror. A mom friend of mine confessed that she thought she’d never be one of those moms who let their children have snotty noses, but now she realizes that the fight isn’t worth it. So, you just let that battle go as your child beams through the crusted snot and coos at all those judgmental faces who have either forgotten or never experienced parenthood.
With each subsequent child, more and more of your self-inflicted standards get washed away. Things you thought you’d never do, you do. You thought you’d never let your child cry-it-out: you do. You thought you’d never give your child peanut butter before two: you make enough PB&J to feed the local elementary school. You thought you’d never drop your child off at the nursery: you do, eagerly. Sunday is your big day off! You thought you’d never give your baby fruit snacks (a poorly disguised piece of candy): you have a year’s supply in the car.
You never wash off the pacifier. You no longer own baby toys. Subsequent children are more interested in their brother’s things anyway. Nap time? The youngest sleeps on the go. When he finally drops the morning nap, you celebrate your new sense of freedom. You begin pushing that afternoon one from 12 to 1 to 2. When you had your first, you scheduled your whole day around that nap. It was your sanctuary. Now with the last you can’t wait until they are no longer napping, and you can be free. Free to go and do, whenever. No more rushing home from the grocery store so he doesn’t nod off on the car ride home and ruin the whole thing. The whole blessed two hours to finally: do laundry, unload the dishes, clean out the van, check e-mail, call back your friend, read your book, or take a nap.
The oldest didn’t start preschool until four, the youngest gets signed up at two-and-a-half.
But aren’t you better, this last time around? I think I am. I’m more relaxed. I have a better view of it all. I’m cherishing my last, relishing in the present, and excited for each new phase of discovery. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes keeps us all young and new and realistic.
We moved next door to my parents almost two years ago. My mom recently told me, “This is a happy time in my life.” And it is. She is benefiting from the multi-generational approach to living. She and my father seem younger than they did just three years ago. They happily volunteer to watch the boys. (At least this is what I have chosen to tell myself.) My dad eagerly checks the henhouse for eggs with my second. They beam when our youngest child reaches for them. They know this is just a segment of time. They can look back at their lives and remember how life furnishes living in chapters.
And so that is why I sniff and check with no regard to those looking on and being totally grossed out by my parenting choices. I’m fully immersed in this current chapter. Like a good book, I am defined by my lead characters. And currently they are one, three, and five.