The Evolution of a Parent

 

Slap me. If I claim I’m the same parent to my fourth child that I was to my first child, please slap me.

I held my first son eleven years ago and instantly fell in love. I was intoxicated by his newborn smell. I spent days watching him sleep. I devoured the parenting books, since my plan was to be the best mother of all time. As soon as he could sit unassisted, I signed us up for Gymboree class. Before he could crawl, I enrolled us in swim class. The day he clapped, I found the perfect music class for us. We hit the library every Thursday. And I fancied myself a favorite of the librarian since I was the only parent who didn’t smuggle goldfish into storytime. I read him three books every night. I rocked him every evening in the glider, where I recounted for him every single thing we’d done that day. Right down to what he’d eaten for breakfast.

I took myself seriously. And I took my job as his parent even more seriously. The night before delivering my second baby, I stood next to his crib and whispered to my sleeping son, the boy who’d stolen my heart, “I will never ever love another boy the way that I love you.”

Imagine my surprise when baby number two was another boy, and I grew to love him sometimes more just as much! I tethered the baby to the front of me, and braved Gymboree, music, and library. For obvious reasons, swimming got the kibosh.

I continued that pattern of giving birth to babies and wearing them as an accessory while attending classes I was convinced would boost their older siblings’ IQ scores social skills until my husband finally had a vasectomy my aching back could take no more. My aching back held up long enough for us to have four kids. All of them boys.

My fourth son has seen and done things to which I’d never have exposed my first son. He’s as nimble as a monkey because he’s never been on a playground that’s age appropriate. He’s three years old and knows every Ninjago, Pokemon, and Harry Potter character. His voice is the loudest in our house because he learned early that it’s the only way I’ll hear him. I’ve taken him to storytime at the library exactly once. We may have been asked to leave.

I still take my job as their parent very seriously. But I no longer take myself seriously.

I’ve learned resourcefulness.

When the sink is full of dirty dishes, the homework hasn’t been started, the lunches still need packing, it’s bedtime for the younger two, and a new episode of Breaking Bad is about to start…I ask one of the older boys to read their brothers one short bedtime story.

When I can’t muster the energy to bathe them after we’ve spent seven solid hours at the pool, I remember that swimming in the pool (yes, even the pee-pee baby pool) is the equivalent of bathing in summertime. I gave birth to four non blondes. Nobody’s hair is at risk of turning green. It’s all good.

When my taxed bladder threatens to give out, and I’m in my minivan at Target, I’m faced with a dilemma. Schlep four boys into the ladies room (two of them are borderline too old for that, and the other two will inevitably lick the sink), or toss them Angry Birds on my iPhone while I crawl into the trunk and relieve myself in a Dunkin Donuts cup? I’m going with the cup every time. Ask my kids…they’ve become Angry Birds experts.

I was at the gym recently waiting to sign my kids into babysitting. Ahead of me was a Mom with one son. I watched the seconds turn into minutes, as she, with no sense of urgency, made nametags for: her son, herself, her son’s diaper bag, her gym bag, and her son’s two stuffed animals.  It took her long enough that I had time to mentally review every curse I know. She then held the sharpie hostage while she debated with him who should pick up the stuffed animals he’d thrown onto the ground. When my inner monologue had run out of expletives, I vowed to work more yoga into my routine and smiled at her. I recognized her. She was a Mom with her first son. A boy who’d stolen her heart. She was taking herself seriously…and her job as his Mom even more seriously. I bet she’s never urinated into a cup in her car.

evolution

I glanced at my first son, the boy I’d rocked in the glider every night as a baby. He stands almost as tall as I do. I struggled to remember the last time he’s sat on my lap. Has it been a year? I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, which promise to be as broad as his Daddy’s, and took a moment to breathe in the scent of the first of four boys to steal my heart. I am not the same Mom to four kids that I was to one. But I will never ever love another boy the way that I love you.

*An abridged version of this piece appeared in the Huffington Post on July 13th in the Parents section.

54 thoughts on “The Evolution of a Parent

  1. Uh, Didn’t you know I was depressed, now I am crying again, Thanks A Lot! (lol, I am just kidding, hopefully you will get to know my twisted sense of humor.) This was beautiful! I am vertically challenged so my 8 year old is almost as tall as I am now. I HATE it! I still try to pull him onto my lap as he rolls his eyes at me and laughs at my struggle. There 4 year gap between First Born and Lil One and the amount of things I did with the first far outweigh what I have done with the second. And I only have 2!!! I have noticed though, that my Lil One is more patient, and is able to share much better than my First Born. Lil One is also more resourceful and a bit funnier, too. So we may be teaching them different things but they are learning non the less. Great post as usual. Much Love!

    • Michelle! You are crying because you’re passionate! Thank you so much for reading and your kind feedback. Waldorf hasn’t sat on my lap since the 3rd grade mother/son overnight, and he’s starting 5th grade in September. Not because I love him any less or he’s outgrown it…because my lap is always occupied. I’ve had to adapt a pack mentality and carve out 10 minute increments to enjoy moments with each of the kids. Sometimes I nail it…sometimes I fail miserably. But I’m trying…isn’t that the parent we want to be? The one who’s trying?

  2. “But I will never ever love another (boy) the way that I love you.” I have used a similar line so often over the past six years. No doubt a special “obsession” with the first, but I have undoubtedly developed a different kind of special bond with my “baby.” (As far as numbers 3 and 4, I will just have to trust you on those as I can say honestly, those are experiences I will never have.)

    • Yes, Ron, there is a definite obsession with the first! I originally thought I’d never love another baby as much as my first. But the heart just grows exponentially to accommodate the size of the brood. We love them just as much (yes, sometimes more) at different times and for different reasons. My oldest has been asking when we’re having another baby. The poor kid looks at the calendar, realizes I haven’t had a baby in 3 years, and thinks something’s wrong. Thanks for reading!!!

  3. Beautiful post, Bethany–and you will continue to be a good parent even
    when they are grown and have children of their own!

    • Thanks, Mom! How could I not with the great role models you and Dad have been:) XO

      Oh, by the way, can we come down the shore next weekend;)

  4. This is a wonderful post and so timely for me as I prepare to send my first-born to Kindergarten in the fall. I feel like this is our “last summer” and then I’m sending him off into the world. It’s killing me (although I know that I will also feel some relief) that this first born boy, who also stole my heart, is growing up so fast! thanks for a great read!

    • Oh, Elsje, I know the feeling. I send my youngest to school in September. Real school. Full day pre-k. All four kids at the same school. It will be the first time in 11 years that I will have two consecutive days without a little man by my side. It’s time. I’m offering him nothing but trips to the grocery store at home. Doesn’t stop my heart from hurting, knowing it’s officially over.

  5. I was introduced to your blog by a friend and I just love it!! As a mom of three all very far apart in age, I can truly appreciate this one. I remember bringing my 2nd home from the hospital and just breaking down and sobbing when I saw my oldest hanging half off the bed asleep with mismatched pj’s on. I mentally apologized about about a zillion times for the terrible thing that I had done to her… given her a sibling and made her 2nd fiddle! lol! Now as I listen to my just turned 5 year old yell across the house “Moomm, I just hit Jordan in the boob!” I KNOW I am not that same parent anymore. *sigh* Thanks for sharing your amazing writing!

    • Kathy, thanks so much for reading! After I had my second, I spent nights standing next to my oldest’s crib (they were 19 months apart, so we had two cribs) with tears rolling down my cheeks. He’d be sleeping, and I’d be whispering, “I’m so sorry. I love you, I’m so sorry.” My husband would catch me doing it…and look at me as though I’d lost my mind.

      At this point, I rarely get involved in their disputes unless there is blood shed. You know the routine. Survival, baby. Survival.

      Thanks again for reading!

  6. …a biased opinion for sure but this piece seems particularly poignant to me…
    …just so honest, so refreshing, so real…
    …certainly a window into the author’s soul…

    …anxious to witness the first time each boy comes to the realization that he won the mom lottery the day he opened his eyes for the first time and found himself in your arms…

    • Very true…yours is a biased opinion. Coincidentally, it happens to be the one I value most. Thank you for my four loves. The same four kids who will have you running, not walking, back to work on Monday upon my return from my Moms Gone Wild weekend at the shore.

  7. Tears : ) I can totally relate (aside from the pee in the cup..lol). I am loving the evolution…just wish it would slow down some time…growing too quick!

    • Amy, you’re a runner! Peeing in cups (and in the woods) is what we do! Our bladders are ruined! Longest days, but shortest years, aren’t they? I look at my guys all together and think, “one day, they will all be looking down at me”. 4 men. My baby boys will be 4 men. Different, unique, opinionated men. And cue the tears.

      Thanks for reading!!

  8. *sob* boys really do steal your heart. My cal is with my sister in sic for 2 days and I miss him so much….pathetic. I can only imagine what 4 boys do. Painful. Such saps.

    • They do steal my heart! And who is going to change my diapers when I’m old?! *sob*

      Maurice Sendak said it best, “I’ll eat you up, I love you so.” *sob, sob*

  9. I loved it! As a fellow member of the MOB (mother of boys), I can totally relate, even with only half as many as you. I love my buddies more than words csn describe and actually couldn’t picture me as a mother of a girl now, isn’t that strange?
    Still trying to picture the logistics of peeing in a cup IN THE TRUNK… I could see it in the back of an SUV or a van, but in a trunk??? Is the hood closed???

    • Jen, I think people assume that I am bummed that I don’t have a girl. I’m happy with my boys. I’d have been just as happy with girls. It is what it is. Truly, I don’t have time to think about it. I’m too busy on Facebook avoiding the kids I have.

      I drive a minivan. There is practically standing room in the trunk of my model of minivan. When it’s not full of lacrosse equipment, rubber boots, footballs, strollers and school bags. Which is rarely.

  10. I remember the feeling so, so well!! But lucky me, I can tell my sweet girl that she is my MOST favorite girl and my best boy is my MOST favorite boy, forever and ever, world without end. Amen.

    Of course, one of them inevitably asks who my most favorite KID is….but I don’t fall into that trap. I’m no amateur, you know.

    • You ARE lucky! And, their childish mind games are no match for you. Sometimes I go with, “You’re my favorite 6 year old boy in the whole world.” That confuses the younger guys…they still buy into it. The older two are hip to it.

  11. “. . . and the other two will inevitably lick the sink.” I burst out laughing at that. 😀
    This was wonderful! And I do remember that first mom feeling . . . I wonder if it’s the same with grandchildren? Another good one, Bethany. <3

    • Thanks, D.D.! It’s true about the younger two! I’d be lucky if they were only to lick the sink. It could be the floor. Or a railing. Or…deep breath…a public toilet seat.

      My Mom says it’s the same with grandchildren. I know this because I had the first grandchild. She has been smitten ever since:)

      Thanks for reading!!

  12. Yes, yes, 100% yes. I feel the exact same way with all three of my girls. My 18 month old will watch a entire 90 minute movie and I would have NEVER let my first do that. She had peanut butter on accident at 11 months because one of her sisters spilled peanut butter captain crunch on the floor. She doesn’t even have a glider in her room because by the time I had her, her two older sisters got the bigger room and she got moved to the smaller bedroom. This is so true. And it brought tears to my eyes at the end:)

    Also, note to self: Keep dunkin donuts cup in back of my van.

    • Katie, keep the Dunkin Donuts cup in the back of your van…NOT the Gatorade bottle. I made that mistake before. In front of two of the kids. Scarred them for life. Yes to the 90 minute movie! And, it’s not always an “appropriate” movie. Um, Raiders of the Lost Ark is probably not the ideal choice for a 3 year old. I started giving my youngest whole milk at 10 months. I didn’t even lie to my pediatrician. He knew I was a complete psycho at that point. And luckily, that none of my kids had milk allergies.

      My oldest, probably like yours, watched a Baby Einstein DVD (in my case, it was a VHS tape). And I probably sat next to his bouncy chair and offered commentary through the entire thing. I hide from my youngest now. I am a terrible person.

      Thank you so much for reading!!

  13. Gee, Bethany, thanks for making me cry while I am on vacation. Just kidding — as with all of your blog entries, I love this. I am Mommy to only one little girl and sometimes I cannot even imagine loving another child as much as I love her. I sometimes wonder how women with a lot of kids do it all (I consider more than two kids a lot of kids!). But, as long as they are loved, that’s all that matters!

  14. Thanks for making my day complete by readig another of your fabulous post.
    Do you think you will ever get tired of hearing us all sing your praises…nah, I wouldn’t think so.
    Though I only have half the number of kids as you, 2, and they are the opposite sex, girls, as a Mom I can still totally relate to this blog. How do you do that?
    Sad thing, is even though I am “old enough to know better” I felt almost the same way when our second grandchild was born. Maybe some people never learn huh…

    • It’s a wondrous thing…the way the heart grows to create room for all of these babies (and grandbabies). Thank you so much for always reading and always finding the kindest things to say. I will never get tired of genuine people like you telling me that something I wrote has made you smile, laugh, cry, or all of the above. People connecting with other people…that’s all we are really looking for, isn’t it? When you take the time to tell me you read something I wrote, I will always take the time to thank you. Thank you for always taking the time to do that…because it means a great deal to me.

  15. I am a mom of 3 boysand am sometimes simply amazed at the things my 3rd child knows, says, does, etc… and what I know, say and do as well the third time around! I am so thankful to have had friend introduce your blog to me. I look forward to reading your posts and finding comfort in reading about someone else’s similarly crazy, but loving life.

    • That’s exactly what it is…a “crazy, but loving life”.! It’s wild the things that the youngest knows…that we would NEVER have allowed our first born kids to watch/learn/say. One of my FB friends said you do a better job handling the inconsequential things once you have more kids. Translation: You ignore the kids more often.

      Thanks so much for reading!

  16. Thanks for sharing! It’s so funny, and hilariously true! Our first, Maverick (now 12) had uninterrupted naps as a baby/toddler. Our girls, Meredith (8)and Miranda (6) learned to nap while being dragged to prechool/school/soccer practice. When Maverick was a toddler and needed to potty, I’d pull over and quickly find the nearest bathroom. With the girls I figured out how easy it was to turn the van into a portable potty! And yes I have used cups for myself as well. We do what we must!:) And when I ran errands with the girls when they were younger, I would see a moms whose well groomed children were wearing clothes that actually matched and then I would self consciously look at my little Cyndi Laupers who only sometimes allowed me to get the matted tangles out of their hair (sometimes I just couldn’t deal with their emmy award winning screams) wearing their favorite snow boots well into spring. I couldn’t help but smile and feel proud…of them and myself! Thanks again for sharing! 🙂

    • Crystal, Cyndi Laupers…yes! I love snow boots in spring! My guys are big fans of wearing Halloween costumes all year round. Fine with me as long as they are wearing something. I used to wipe my oldest son’s face until it was nearly raw. These days I wait until just before he goes to bed to wipe my youngest son’s face. I probably would have been a very good parent to 2 kids. Somebody is always falling through the cracks with 4 of them.

      Thanks so much for reading!

  17. Being a two-for-one special (a twin mom), I may never know what this evolution is like…But, that look you were giving to that woman at the gym? I do that every time I go to the grocery store and I see a woman in clothes clothes–not gym clothes–putting one of those cover things in a pattern that matches her diaper bag on the grocery cart, then calmly walking over to her car door (a sedan) and reaching in and lifting her one child out and gingerly buckling her into the cart, while I’m in a sweat with one or two children in a headlock who won’t sit still in that “car” double wagon thing, the only one we fit in (if we happen to find it in the parking lot) or are not happy in their strollers as I load it up with groceries like a gypsy and bribe them with food. Yeah I should do more take out.

    • Amy, baptism by fire (aka twins first) gives parents an entirely different perspective. Instant chaos to the 12th power. I went to the grocery store in clothes clothes yesterday (not workout clothes) with just my youngest, and Tyrone (who oversees the self checkout lanes) asked, “Where are the other 3? And why are you dressed so nicely? Shower and everything?” Typically, I’m a hot mess. Barking out orders. Revoking dessert privileges. Bribing with food. Survival.

      Thanks for reading!!

  18. I love your blog Bethany! I have four boys under 6. We are in pure survival mode here, and my first child self, would be so wide-eyed and scared of the way my fourth child self runs things! She would probably talk bad about me to her friends! Ha! I go to bed every night feeling I’ve failed one (or all) of them in some way…does that ever end? And you may have just convinced me to try yoga!

    • Yowza! 4 under 6…you are in the throes, Megan! Survival is absolutely right. I know the Mom guilt well. I live it everyday. Take a deep breath. Sign up for yoga. Give yourself that time. And know that you have given the kids one another, which is the best thing you can do for them. Ever. And make sure you have dates with your husband!!

  19. You manage to bring tears to my eyes while laughing and snorting wine out of my nose. You are my guilty pleasure that I don’t mind sharing; keep up the good work Bethany – you ease my ‘mommy sanity.’

    • Amy, thank you so much!! You are very well behaved if I am your guilty pleasure!! Take your Mommy sanity wherever you can get it! Thank you so much for reading!

  20. I am the mother of 5 boys. I know I am a different mom than when I started but with each subsequent child, I knew my heart would grow and that I would love them just as much as my first. My sons have made me a better person and I adore them.
    My oldest is going into 7th grade and he’ll tower me by the Fall. His 9 year old brother is not far behind.

    • Jen, I love that you say your sons have made you a better person…I feel the same way! And sometimes I stress that I don’t have more time to give each of them individually. But I get past it quickly because it’s not changing anytime soon. So I just keep juggling. And try not to drop any balls.

      Thanks for reading!!

  21. What an awesome post! I’m a mom of a 2.5 year old and a 10 month old, and I can already start to relate to this. I can’t even imagine having four, yikes! Someone once told me that a mother’s love is like a candle’s flame. You can light a whole bunch of candles with one flame, but the flames on the other candles are still just as big and bright. A mother’s love grows infinitely.

    • Julie, I love that candle metaphor! I’ve never heard that before. One thing I didn’t say in this post that I should have is that I’m just as well intentioned with my fourth as I was with my first. I want to connect with him everyday and make his childhood magical. Just as much as I did the first time around. His older three brothers just get in the way of our magic.

      Thanks for reading!!

  22. I never know if I will need tissues for my face from crying or for the other end because I laughed so hard I peed in my pants! Today was a face day! I have the blessing of two boys ( but it feels like 8)! Thanks for the remembrances of their little selves!

    • Thanks, Lanie! After our 2nd son was born, we realized almost immediately that 1+1=8 when counting children. Adding one more is exponentially more everything…difficult, messy, scary, fun, loving. We are both ridiculously outnumbered.

      Thanks for reading!!

  23. Hey Bethany! I am a new reader and I too am a mother of 4 under 8 years. (3 girls and 1 boy) This post is spot on and hilarious! Thanks for the giggles. Love your style and honesty. I have 2 sister-in-laws both with 1 child and I can’t believe how differently we parent? It’s survival for me. There are no rules. I just do whatever works or causes the least amount of drama.:). Keep writing!!!

    • Hi, Ronda! Survival is exactly what it is…particularly for you because your gang is still super young. I had 4 boys in just under 7 years. I fully admit to wishing away most of the first years of my kids’ lives because I was so completely overwhelmed. Now, I’m occasionally able to be present with them and once in a blue moon I actually enjoy myself. Then I go back to counting heads.

      My husband was disciplining our youngest last night, and he turned to me and said, “It’s so much harder to discipline him than it was with our first child. Why? Have we gone soft?” I think we have gone soft. We’re sticking to it because we don’t want the little guy to be a monster…but some aspects of raising them get easier, and some get harder. And we haven’t hit puberty yet over here. We only have smelly feet. Promises to be very interesting…

      Thanks for reading!

    • Hi, Krista! I thought my 3rd son was a girl…I was CONVINCED he was a girl! Corinne. I had packed a pink outfit to bring her home from the hospital. When the doctor announced, “another boy!” I called my Mom and said, “I’m gonna need a blue outfit. Not newborn size. It’s a boy, and he’s enormous.” She asked, “Bethany, WHAT HAPPENED?!” Clearly I’m a penis incubator. It’s not uncommon that my little boy whom I thought was a girl is my favorite.

      Glad you speak my language…thank you for reading!

  24. I just followed you over here from the Huffington Post. Is that weird? Maybe. I just had to tell you that when I saw YOUR piece, I laughed out loud because it is so-been-there-done-that for me. I have three boys, 7, 4 and one and a half. And, if I had another, I seriously can’t imagine what life would be like for him. Dinner out of a doggie bowl? Putting himself to bed and making his own breakfast at six months? Loved this and am glad to meet you, albeit, virtually.

    • Melissa, thanks so much for reading…and commenting! Dinner out of a doggie bowl is very close…two days ago the 4 kids and I destroyed a bag of Sun Chips. And I considered it “lunch” for the 5 of us. I think (ahem, hope) that I am a better parent now than I was 3 kids ago because I don’t sweat the small stuff. I can’t. I’m sure my kids will uncover the answer to that when they go to therapy as teenagers and adults. I will follow you on Twitter as well!

  25. I was turned on to your blog by a friend, and cannot stop reading and laughing and crying! I am that mom with the first boy that stole her heart, but after reading this, I’m going to try to take myself just a bit less seriously. Maybe just two name tags at our next visit to the gym. ;-). Thanks for sharing your stories!

    • Dana, I was that Mom too! Some days I am relieved I am no longer that Mom…and some days I wish I could be her again. Because our kids deserve that Mom. Stick with the multiple nametags for as long as you can! Taking yourself seriously just means you care. On a daily basis I say things like, “Your penis is not a stick shift, please stop handling it like it is,” “What do you mean you used your underwear to wipe after you pooped?” Occupational hazard of being home for a decade with boys. But I now take myself much less seriously. And I have them pegged (correctly) as a bunch of fools.

      Thanks so much for reading!

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