Most first-time moms, even if they are not unbearably Type A like I am, are inclined to go into full Girl Scout mode when it comes to preparing for a baby. One of many stages of pre-baby preparation involves running through every worst-case scenario we can dream up. For many new moms, this tendency carries over well into their baby's life. For some, it can be an all-out extreme paranoia or gnawing anxiety associated with postpartum depression/anxiety. For others of us, who are lucky enough to be spared such afflictions, we're merely left to feel a little... obnoxious and mildly insane as we run ourselves in circles trying to keep our fresh babes from any pain or even unpleasantness.
I was definitely prone to both over-planning for my daughter's arrival, and over-protecting her once she got here. I used to sidle up to the far side of our dining room, clutching my infant daughter, so as to not accidentally trip and fall out our living room window, which was 43 feet across the apartment. We wrapped every table and wall corner with foam. I never let her wear open-toed sandals, for fear of splinters, even though we live in the concrete jungle of Queens. It was all precaution, all the time, and this, I've come to understand, is the path many first-time parents walk (in close-toed shoes, of course).
But by the time our son was born, two-and-a-half years later, it was like, who has time to evaluate the efficacy of crib bumpers? I'd had a few years to realize that while some safety measures with kids are just good common sense, a lot of the lengths I'd been going to were unnecessary. And beyond safety, a lot of the stuff I'd thought was so important, and had stressed out about so much, in all aspects of parenting... well, it honestly just didn't end up mattering that much. The thing is, you can't really learn what is worth stressing about with your kids and what isn't until you've needlessly stressed about all of it, and gotten enough distance to see what didn't matter. There's kinda no getting around it (especially since the alternative — over-thinking nothing and getting distance and realizing how much you should've been more concerned — doesn't seem like a particularly advisable course). Either way, my mom-of-two self would like to go back and smack some sense into my mom-of-one self (and then hug her and buy her a beer). Here’s what I found myself panicking about with my first kid, but not my second.
Our first child had us literally wheeling her around the apartment, as her stroller was the only place she’d fall asleep during the day. I swore with the second one we would not be played like that. Plus, with two kids, we didn’t have an extra 20 minutes to chauffeur a toddler to sleep. Kid #2 was unceremoniously ushered into his crib every afternoon after lunch for some rest. He didn’t always sleep but at least our hands were free.
Kid #1 was born at the beginning of winter and if I could have put a sneeze guard on her head, I would have. There was a hand sanitizer station every three feet in our apartment. We bathed her regularly and batted away any food she picked up from places other than her plate. Guess what? She got colds anyway.
Our second child was tossed into the germ stew of daycare when he was 11 weeks old, when my maternity leave ended. I’m sure he snacked daily on dropped Cheerios. He had no more colds than his sister and — I think because of his years in group care — is hyper-vigilant about hand-washing at age five.
Having All The "Must-Have" Baby Gear
Our second child inherited all the stuff our first one used — crib, pack-n-play, bouncy seat, stroller, carseat — so there was no thought given to what he might specifically need. He even wore the same newborn outfits, since we hadn’t found out the sex of either of our kids beforehand. Easy peasy. Whatever meticulous curation went into outfitting out our first kid was forgotten by the time her younger brother arrived. If it wasn’t broken, it was good enough (and we try very hard not to think about to endless hours doing comparative research, and all the money we would've saved had we realized this before the birth of our first kid, and subsequently accepted hand-me-down gear for her too).
All The Fancy Toys They ~Need~ To Have, Lest Their Brains Not Develop Properly
So many ergonomically designed teething rings! Soothing, cooing lamb blankets! Bright, multi-textured soft blocks! My daughter’s joy of playing with any of that stuff lasted a hot minute. So by the time my son was born, we wised up. We handed him an empty toilet paper tube and the cardboard box from the bulk diaper delivery and he was set.
All The School Stress
When it was time to register our first kid for pre-k, I found myself standing in lines at 7:30 a.m. to secure a spot in a free two-and-a-half-hour program, which we ended up not even being able to take because it fell smack in the middle of the work day. And it was worse for kindergarten: public, charter, private options, testing for academic placement (yes, they test four-year-olds to evaluate their academic stamina for programs they will be in through middle school). I had to take huge chunks of time off from work to attend info sessions, school tours, registrations, and to run medical forms around.
Their Tiny Social Lives
Admittedly, the playdates when my first child was an infant were more for me than her. I just wanted some adult human contact! I joined list-serves and baby groups; We did "mommy & me" classes. It was fine, but it’s not like my daughter cared about where we were. She probably just enjoyed that we were hanging out together. I didn’t do any of that with my second child. Playdates took the form of impromptu meet-ups at the playground with whomever else was there with a toddler about the same age. And his older sister became his first frenemy, so I guess that's kinda like having a built-in social life.
Obsessively Only Feeding Them Organic Food
Of course it’s organic! Of course it’s all natural! Of course I chopped everything by hand! Cut to our second child’s introduction to solids, most of which he sampled from the floor. Fun fact: The 5-second rule grows exponentially with each subsequent child.
Doors, Windows, And Other Things That Potentially Pinch Tiny Fingeres
God help you if you took my first baby even into the same room as anything that could theoretically open and shut and potentially trap a tiny body part. The first time around, we baby-proofed the hell out of our apartment. You needed an engineering degree to get something out of our fridge.
When our second child started crawling and getting into things, we had lost the patience required for navigating the safety hinges on the cutlery drawer. We policed him with a firm “No!” and shoved chairs in front of cabinets for quick fixes. He survived. And became an excellent climber.
Images: Bradley Gordon/Flickr; Giphy(8)