She’s sitting next to me during my son’s basketball practice holding her fourth baby in her arms. Her other kids are quietly playing around her while her newest baby fusses for some food. As she tells me about all the challenges she’s had with this baby, she says “I really should have known she was going to be like this because all our others were so easy, but I just really hoped our fourth baby would be our easiest. Instead, she’s been our hardest. And it sounds so bad, but I just really wish it was easier. I really didn’t know a baby could be so hard. I just never understood.”
Ironically, as I listened to her say these words, I too am holding my fourth baby in my lap—a baby that was born easy.
I’ve been raising kids for almost nine years now. And while nine years of parenting does not make me a parenting pro—I hear pro status can only be reached when you’ve survived the adolescent years—I certainly have been bumped from novice level of parenting to at least an intermediate level after the birth of my fourth child. So I just have to share something I’ve learned that I feel no parent should go without hearing:
Children are not born the same and neither is parenting.
One day when my oldest son was two, we took a little trip into Walgreens to get something that was so insignificant, I have no memory of what it was. But the tantrum my two-year-old had while I was in that store will forever be etched in my memory (believe me, I’ve tried to block it out). Because at one point I seriously considered selling tickets to what could only be described as the “tantrum show” he put on. It was a little bit funny, but mostly humiliating as I drug him out of the store kicking and screaming and literally learned why that phrase was created.
And I think what made that moment the hardest was that I did not relate to his strong will at all. Instead, I was the easy-going and laid-back peace, love and joy type as a kid not the hell and fury type. But for my son’s second year of life, he decided to drag me into a whole new world of “hell hath no fury like a toddler who has their laces tied out of balance with one another ville”and he kept me living there for the better part of 18 months despite my intense desire to move away.
And the main food served in my new little world was humble pie. Because there was not a day that went by where I wasn’t humbled by the things I used to say about the children I would one day have before, of course, having children. I remember coming out of his twos exhausted. Madly in love with him still, but barely holding on for life. If I had been awarded a plaque to describe my year, I would have had the words, “It wasn’t pretty, but I survived!” engraved.
And I survived just long enough to welcome my next son into his terrible twos. But ironically when he turned two, I wrote these words on his obligatory mom Facebook dedication, “Well sweet baby, you’ve been easy to raise and easy to love.” When the memory popped up on my Timehop, I couldn’t help but laugh as I was yet again in the trenches of the terrible twos with my third son. Easy to love is how I described his twos?! If it hadn’t been myself that wrote it, I wouldn’t believe those words were a possible description of someone turning 3.
In sum, my second son has required about half as much energy as my other two have. And the amazing part is, I am the same mom, with the same parenting techniques yet my children are completely different to raise. Now I ask you, was my second son easier to manage during the terrible twos because I learned some magical parenting technique or was he just an easier little guy at that age? I would say it’s the latter. In fact, I know it is. But so many people don’t. They assume they are the one completely responsible for the personality of their child which can cause a subconscious sense of arrogance or a sense of shame. So today I just want to spread the message, whether your child is an angel or hell on wheels:
Don’t take too much credit.
Whether they were born a baby that never cried, slept through the night at two weeks, learned their alphabet at 16 months, potty-trained at 18 months and never knew the word no existed until they first read it in a book at 21 months and asked you what the word was…thank God for them but don’t take all the credit.
Or whether they came out crying, never stopped until they were one, never napped, didn’t know their colors until age 4 and wouldn’t eat anything more than Nutella and chicken nuggets until age…okay they still eat that and they’re 9…thank God for them, but don’t take all the credit. Because they were a gift to you. But they weren’t your creation.
Yes. Parenting has a huge and profound impact on our children. The methods, the follow-through, the tone, the love we show can NEVER be negated. Please hear me say, our choices as parents absolutely mold and shape the children we are given. I believe this from the bottom of my heart, which is why I write about parenting and choose to read as much as I can about the best ways to parent my children.
But at the end of the day, we are still only shaping the little souls we were given. And just like play-dough, sometimes those souls start off easy and pliable to mold from the start, and sometimes they start off dry and in need of a more focused intent of the pressure of our fingers to mold.
So if you feel your journey in parenting seems like it has been significantly harder than your neighbor next door, there can certainly be truth in that. Because some children take more energy than others. And that doesn’t make them bad. It makes them THEM. What is bad, or rather sad, is when parents walk around thinking they are better than other parents, instead of realizing they have been given the gift of a child with a naturally easy temperament. (And of course good parenting too!)
And I say this because I know that if I had my second son first, I would have been Miss Judgy McJudgerson toward all the other moms struggling with their wild kid’s issues because I would not have related at all. I think that is why God gave me my first son first. He knew I would better to be humbled from the start. And it was better because it made me appreciate the ease of my second son and not take the bumps with my third so seriously. (PS…my oldest son could not be any more well-mannered and respectful nowadays and horrified by the thought of causing a scene.)
So if you have had the privilege of having easygoing kids, bless you. And please help and encourage the next mom you see who is struggling. And if you are in the midst of a struggle with one of your kids, remember that you are not alone. There is a whole world of moms fighting the good fight just like you are. And most likely, you will end up with an easy temperament kid next, which may be a reason to keep going if you planned to stop. But until then.
Don’t take too much credit. Just thank God for the gift of them.