We used to (before we had four!)

When we were expecting our fourth child, our last baby, everyone would say, “He’ll be so laid back,” “What’s one more?” or “If you survived three, four will be a breeze.” So when our handsome last baby joined our family, we were not prepared for him to be the HARDEST BABY EVER (Read HERE if you don’t believe me)!

parenting-big families-baby-parenting styles-spirited kids-two year olds-terrible twosMaybe we were overconfident, but we were also on our feet from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. bouncing and affirming, “You’re okay, baby! It’s okay, baby!” All the while tag-teaming the needs and demands of his three siblings, none older than seven. We were tired. We were stressed. We tried to remember if we used to be like this with the other three…

We used to chart the ounces ate and the diapers made.

We used to read board books (as to not bend the pages) every night before bed.

We used to eat vegetables months before we allowed fruits.

We used to never go outside if it was too cold or too hot or too anything other than 70 degrees and slightly overcast.

We used to pack a diaper bag with three days supply of clothes, food, toys, and a flashlight, you know, just in case!

We used to do a lot of things that we, in the trenches of another newborn just didn’t have the capacity to fuss over anymore. And to be honest, two years later, we still don’t!

So the other night, when I read that two year-olds should be saying up to 50 words, I looked over to my son standing atop the kitchen table, throwing his mac and cheese onto the floor and grunting in some android sounding language. I cocked my head and silently calculated the number of words he clearly speaks. I was a couple dozen away from 50.

Maybe I need to do more of what we used to do? That thought lingered in my mind a little while before I remembered that what we used to do is now nearly impossible…

With Baby #4 we have things we didn’t have when the older three were tiny. We have school, and homework, and teacher emails, and neighbor friends. We have basketball and soccer practice. We have feelings and arguments and more feelings. We have movie watchers, game players, and goers of every germy place ever created. We have talks of strangers, safety, and sad things that happen to other people and other places. We understand when people tell us, “Keep them young. It’s easier!”

Reflecting on my baby android, I realize we also have help. Something we didn’t have with his siblings. Three potty trained mini people tell me what their brother needs, “Baby wants his sippy.” The oldest brother gets him out of bed in the morning, turns on a show, and gives him a Gogurt. His big sister tells me when Baby is sad or mad. Who needs to talk, or think for that matter, when three other people will do it for you?

Our last baby is a lot louder than his limited vocabulary lets on. “Spirited” as the doctors call him. “Just like his daddy!” as his grandma reminds us. He is stubborn, sneaky, and slightly sour! For a little boy who was “supposed to be” laid back and calm, he knows what he wants, when he wants, and by golly knows how to get it. Without even saying a word!

Outsiders will all too often comment on one of the above behaviors, “You got your hands full, mom!” “You must be tired, mom!” It’s true. I do. I am. But the insiders get to meet a sweet and snuggly boy. A silly and smiley boy who cackles every time we sing Twinkle Twinkle. He is smart, strong, and speedy fast. He is as his name proclaims, “A gift from God.”

With the sun setting at 4:45, signaling that Iowa winter is coming, the kids and I were soaking in the last warmish day of the year. The older three and I decided to play Hide-and-Seek while Baby rolled Hot Wheels down the driveway. Just as I thought life couldn’t get any cuter than “hiding” beside a three-year-old, two tiny arms wrapped around my back and a tiny little voice, clear as day, piped, “Found ya!”

I laughed from a place of pure joy. I grabbed that sweet, snuggly, and silly little seeker. You found me buddy. You found me.

In that moment, where the wind turned crisp, the sky dark and fall to winter, I fell into the grass grasping a little boy in my arms. He is not hard. He is his own. And I am grateful for every sweet and sour ounce of him.

Fred Rogers-quote-parenting-love-babies-boys-two year olds-How did your last baby change you?

XO, Erica

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