I have no baby pictures of myself. Seriously. It’s not that there are only a few baby pictures of me. There are no baby pictures of me. That’s because I’m the youngest of three girls born to parents who desperately wanted a boy. They didn’t even pick my name out until they were in the labour and delivery room. When it occurred to them that I might not be a boy, they scrambled in search of a name and chose mine based on an actress who was on TV in their hospital room at the time.
Being the youngest child, I’m not complaining about having no baby pictures of myself. I’m just thankful I have a name!
And so I promised myself I’d be different when I had kids. I’m going to treat all my kids exactly the same, I told myself before I became a parent, knowing that being the youngest child in a family often makes one feel like an after thought or less important.
Then the other day I noticed that my house is full of photos of my son, the firstborn — but I had to search the house to find one single framed photo of my daughter, who is our youngest. Ugh, I thought to myself, hoping my daughter is still too young to really notice her older brother has clearly gotten top-firstborn billing around the house.
But, even though there may be fewer framed photos of my daughter around the house, she has the advantage of having a more experienced mum. There are a ton of things that I did with my firstborn that I’d never do for my daughter — because I know better! — like these:
1. Hover. Okay, so she doesn’t have a baby book, but she doesn’t have a mum who’s scared she’s going to break either.
2. Check her breathing every two minutes. I’ll check her breathing, just not every two minutes. I’m going to lighten up in general. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled!
3. Hang around in the parking lot at preschool. When my big one went to pre-school for the first time I cried. I was nervous about his happiness and wondered if he was in the right place with the right people. So I’d hang around just in case, which was silly.
4. Force her to go on every playdate. When it came to my oldest, I wanted him to have friends so badly that I forced every Tom, Dick, and Playdate on him whether he liked the kid or not. Turns out, playing with kids you don’t really want to play with isn’t that fun. I’ll let her choose her own friends.
5. Go to boring baby classes. I did every kid class possible with my first child, despite finding most of them excrutiating and boring. I was afraid to admit the classes weren’t interesting thinking that made me some sort of failure as a parent. So with the second child, I’m not doing any class unless she really enjoys it.
6. Breastfeed even when I don’t want to. I applaud those who can or do breastfeed their younger child or children for as long as they did their first. I wasn’t able to and in fact, didn’t want to. Everyone seems fine and I didn’t have to figure out how to keep the big one entertained while sitting and nursing his sister.
7. Spend hours making baby food. The first time around I slaved over a hot puree and made all my son’s baby food. It was incredibly time consuming, terribly messy, and probably not that good. The second time around I bought those handy little jars of baby food they have at the store and spent the time doing something else, like playing with my kids.
8. Panic over solids. I remember very strict guidelines for starting my son on solids. Those rules either changed by the time my second was born, or I ignored them. Regardless, she had strawberries, nuts, and other solids earlier than her brother. It seems to have worked out. She still likes strawberries!
9. Stress about choking hazards. Of course I got rid of serious choking hazards, but some things (like her brother’s smaller toys) couldn’t be avoided. Maybe she did larn that Legos aren’t edible at an earlier age than he did — but she’s fine!
10. Rigidly follow the advice of parenting books. The only thing I was an expert in by the time I had my second child was realising I never learned anything from parenting books and that they actually made me anxious. So I tossed them. When I need a baby resource, I ask a friend or our pediatrician.
My youngest may not be able to find a photo of herself in the house, nor will she ever get to read her baby book, but she also won’t have nervous parents. And while I may have done a lot of things differently for each child, I’ve loved them the same. And that’s all that really matters.