Baby Talk

Whenever someone tells me how many kids they have, I usually respond with, “Well, I only have two and believe me, that’s all I need. I am happy with the two.” One of my friends has seven kids. In this day and age, she may as well be telling people she owns a White Bengal tiger. She is always quick to say that no, she is not nuts and yes, she wanted seven kids. She is happy with the chaos.  Considering some days I can barely handle the two I have, I bow down to her Super-Mama-Greatness.

But maybe she just had lots of practice. I would hope by the seventh child, you’d have some idea of what it takes to be a good mom. Could I be a Supermama, too? Could I ever possess that calm, clear-headed confidence she has? I had my doubts.

I know my four year old is my last child. Every milestone that goes by, my husband and I sigh, “well, no more diapers, no more binkies, no more sippies, no more tantrums” (she still has tantrums, but I prefer to call them diva moments now). Watching my kids grow out of these trying stages, we are relieved and sad at the same time. So it was surprising that I decided to take on a friend’s three month old baby this spring.

She is all sugar-n-spice and instantly charmed me with her drooly toothless smiles and the rolls on her chunky thighs. Oh and her feet, they’re so tiny! And look at her little fingers wrapped around mine! Oh! And she’s light as a feather! I can’t even pick up my own kids anymore, so this was something that warmed my heart. The first day I babysat her, I was gone. I nestled her little body in the crook of my neck and gently shushed her to sleep. I never thought I’d be holding a baby so soon again. And I realized something as the months flew by–she was easy. Easy to feed, easy to change, easy to play with, easy to put down for a nap. It was remarkable how good I was at this baby thing. Have I become the Baby Whisperer? I said to my husband, man, I could have had three kids and I would have been just fine. After years of second-guessing every mommy move I made with my own kids, I discovered that when it comes to raising a baby, I can do this! And do it well.

I didn’t always have this confidence. I was that constantly frazzled and worried helicopter mom. More like a dive bomber plane ready to swoop in at the first sign of distress. Now, looking back, I realize sometimes my swooping only made the situation more anxiety-filled. I hovered over my firstborn son, fretting and trying to anticipate every thing that could go wrong (but never did). Add to that the seed of mommy guilt sprouting in my mind that I wasn’t doing the “right” thing, I was a mess those first few years of my son’s life.

Yo, Mama! Chill out! I won't be this young forever y'know...

I’d be on edge listening to him on the baby monitor. Was he crying? Was he okay? Was he breathing? I’d take him out for a walk in the stroller. Is the sun too hot? Is the wind blowing in his face too much? Does he need his binky? Will he be sucking on this binky until he’s 15 years old and suffering from the world’s worst overbite?  Shouldn’t he be potty trained by now? Will he be the first kindergartner to wear diapers to school? Why does he keep calling milk “guk”? Shouldn’t he be fluent in three languages by now? Oh, the pressure I put myself under.

I think back to this old state of mind and shake my head. I wish I could tell that woman to chill out a little, enjoy your son while he’s still young.  Thankfully, by our second baby I had a chance to push all of those little nagging fears out of my head. I didn’t rush every milestone. I knew that most likely, my daughter would learn to walk (i.e., tear apart the entire house) and talk (i.e., never stop talking) in her own time.

Why rush things, Mama? Look at how sweet I am!

On top of this, I had to endure the constant “advice” from others (moms and non-moms alike). You’re not breastfeeding? You’re not bottle-feeding? You’re not cloth-diapering? You are cloth-diapering? You’re not playing the baby Mozart tunes in utero? With my first child I actually used to listen to these comments. Now, I couldn’t care less what others think about how I’m raising my child. I figure out what works best and go with it. Simple.

And with this new little baby I’m taking care of this summer, it’s all gravy. Why wasn’t it this easy with my own kids? I suppose I have the benefit of taking care of her on a full night’s sleep. I enjoy her giggles and coos for a bit and then get to hand her back to her parents at the end of the day. Must be how grandparents feel.

If only I had lived more in the moment when my kids were babies, if only I had the sense to let all of those insignificant anxieties go. Thankfully, my kids are still young and I can redeem myself and know I have the chance to savor these moments.

And wait to be a grandma.

Me and my baby brother (showing off my nurturing side already!)
My dad, showing me how it's done.

37 thoughts on “Baby Talk

  1. Your children are beautiful (and two sounds like a perfect number to me) and I think you’re doing a wonderful job! My only advice involves vodka. But that goes for everyone. 😉

  2. Oh, I think you are being hard on yourself, Darla. Something tells me you did the mothering thing perfectly the first time around – perhaps a bit more perfect the second time around simply because you realized babies were not as fragile as glass. (smile)

    And, I’m willing to bet you lived in the moment when they were babies. Though perhaps, the sleep deprivation during that period of time cause the memories to be short lived. (just as the crazed memories were short lived (thank goodness).)

    Yes, the joy of being a grandparent. I believe the grandparent stage offers the best of both worlds – the opportunity to love a newborn with a purity of heart, and the ability to return the beloved newborn back to its parent’s, so you can enjoy an uninterrupted night of sleep. (smile)

    You wrote this beautifully, by the way.

    1. You are too kind, Lenore. I would say my intentions were pure. I just didn’t realize how much more fun it would have been if I had been more sure of myself and let the stupid little things slide (I suppose that’s true for plenty of first-time parents).

      I know it’s a way off, but I know I’ll be a kick-ass grandma! I can wait though, no rush. I’ve figured out that if my son has a child in his early 30s like I did, I will be…umm…more than ready by then. 😉

  3. John Erickson

    I think you ARE suffering a bit of “granny-itis”. After all, if the kid goes nuclear on you, you can always return her to mom! That takes a HUGE load off! 😉

    1. As always, you put it perfectly, John. So far I’ve been lucky the baby I’m watching hasn’t gone nuclear yet. She saves that up for her parents, (like most kids do!) Payback time I guess: You brought me into this world, I can make yours miserable if I want. 😉

  4. Great post! I have to say from my perspective, it is easier with #3. By the time Noah came I wasn’t nearly as anxiety riddled and helicopter-ish as I was with Maria and Matty (especially Maria!) about every little thing. There is something to be said for experience and having BTDT I think…

    ~Laila 😀

    1. Whew, I’m glad you know about the helicopter thing, Laila! I am so embarassed at how strung-out I was back then, but I had my reasons. I knew I should’ve had that third child–Jim and I would’ve been ol’ pros at it.

  5. How wonderful to be able to take care of your friend’s baby and see just how far you’ve come. Fantastic. So nice to mellow with age and experience. Why wasn’t it this easy with your kids? Sleep deprivation, no job experience with the first child, a feeling of the stakes being so very high, raging hormones, and the child’s different temperment (if that’s the case).

    When my son was born, I went into a depression followed by years of sleep deprivation, and a high needs kiddo. Having just the one is perfect for me. No, I wasn’t a helicopter mom when he was a toddler. I wasn’t riddled with anxiety. From the moment he squeeked out his first attempt at breathing, I knew he’d be ok. Every child and every experience is so different.

    Lovely piece, as always.

    1. Thanks, Sue. See the sleep deprivation was a HUGE part of it. You are so right. He was very sick in the beginning, had surgery, hardly slept at all as a baby…and I was suffering from a horrible case of PPD for about a year afterward. The panic attacks contributed to my anxiety and worry for sure. But I do forgive myself. It was what it was. I can’t change how things were back then, but I can move forward with a new perspective and truly savor the time I have with my kids more. This little new baby in my life just validates my confidence in being a good nurturer!

  6. Hi! I have 2 kids. I am where you are at with trying to just enjoy it.

    It is so wonderful that you are able to help your friend and take care of her baby. Your relationship with the little one does remind me of how my kid’s grandmothers are with them.


    1. It is great to have a baby around again, if even for just a little while. I see you have two young kids as well. If I could just get time to slow down a bit, I’d be happy. Thanks for stopping by, Louise! 🙂

  7. Deborah the Closet Monster

    The couple of times where Ba.D. (who is making it very difficult for me to type a serious, thoughtful comment by quoting Team America incessantly) and I have talked about #2, who is much more imminent in my mind than his, I’ve had to reassure him #2 will not involve the same struggles as #1. There will be new ones, certainly, but I won’t believe Li’l D is apt to drop dead instantaneously because I didn’t feed him the moment he was hungry, or couldn’t get him to breastfeed for weeks (all pumping all the time), or to stop crying, or . . . any number of things I was absolutely convinced would be the end of my son when he was very little.

    After a couple of weeks/months of Li’l D at daycare, I felt so much lighter of heart about everything. It’s been such a comparatively easy journey. It’s still hard being the person with most the financial/practical responsibility, but I’m much lighter of heart now and that makes all the difference in how much energy I have left to really just adore my little one instead of focusing on absolute perfection in meeting practical needs.

    Loved this. 🙂

    1. “but I won’t believe Li’l D is apt to drop dead instantaneously because I didn’t feed him the moment he was hungry, or couldn’t get him to breastfeed for weeks (all pumping all the time), or to stop crying, or . . .”

      Exactly. This fact alone will make your next baby that much easier and less stressful. I had issues with breastfeeding my son, too. I ended up pumping exclusively for a few months and wow, that was an experience in and of itself! With my daughter BF’ing came easier (still had some issues) but I didn’t have to pump…it seemed like I won the lottery. Actually a lot of things were easier with the second: sleeping, eating, changing diapers. Experience is everything. So to sum up, yes, you and Ba.D. should have another baby soon. 🙂

  8. Margie

    It is much easier to look after little ones when you know they don’t live with you full time! That is the absolute best part of being a grandma – loving them, then sending them home at the end of the day!

  9. Adorable photos 🙂 I feel the same way you do, although my youngest (of two) is only 15 months. As a mom to my daughter (now 2.5), I was certifiably crazy, helicopter-y and suburban (I mean that in the derogatory sense): worrying about things that don’t need to be worried about, sharing silly fears and questions with other moms in the same boat, buying unnecessary gear . . . then with the second, I realized that you don’t have to do ANYTHING and the darn kid will be just fine. Simple is definitely it. Don’t think it and definitely don’t overthink it. But that’s easier said than done, especially in retrospect, I suppose!

    1. Oh, yes, I was certifiably crazy–that is a good way to put it! And oh lord, the unnecessary gear I wasted money on. I had a bottle warmer, a wipe warmer (?)…we put up these sticky foam cushions on the edges of anything my son might run into (the coffee table, the walls…lol) so he wouldn’t get hurt. Thankfully, with my second child I didn’t buy any of those things. And the toys he never used like the johnny jumper you put in a doorway…y’know that baby slingshot thing so your child can bounce like a maniac into the sides of the door? Wish I could have my money back on that purchase.

  10. I had to laugh a little at this post. The first baby always suffers the most from mom stress. With each baby, the fears and insecurities subside. By the time the 5th one came along, it was pretty much “whatever, she’ll be fine.” Not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

    “One of my friends has seven kids. In this day and age, she may as well be telling people she owns a White Bengal tiger.”

    So true. I wonder how many times she’s heard, “You’ve got your hands full.” The most annoying phrase EVER. 🙂

    1. Yes, my friend hears that one all the time. Also, “How do you do it?” which is really their nice way of asking, “Why haven’t you gone mad?!” They’re her kids, so I imagine she does what she has to do and moves forward, like all of us moms. Although I do have to bow down to you moms with more than 2 kids. My own mom raised six kids (5 of them boys!)

  11. It’s never to late! I got pregnant with my 3rd at 45 yrs old!! NO, not on purpose either! Ha!
    I was infertile (so needed lots of help) with the first two, and had 9 miscarriages between my now 25yr old and my 21yr old.
    Then BAM pregnant at 45 with NO PROBLEM with my now 8yr old!
    So go ahead have another! 🙂
    Enjoyed your post…good writing.

    1. Thank you, gerknoop!

      Isn’t life funny that way? Full of pleasant surprises when you least expect it. I have an 8 year old (going on 18) as well. Great age, isn’t it? He makes me laugh every day.

      I will be 41 next week, so not sure if I could handle having another baby at this point. Doesn’t matter anyway though, as my husband had a vasectomy and I had a partial hysterectomy! Me and babies are sadly, D O N E. (until grandbabies come along…)

  12. critters and crayons

    I’m with you- it doesn’t matter how others judge your parenting style- I think the hardest thing has got to be not rushing to rescue or break up an argument beween kids. I try to observe before I step in when there is conflict after listening to a speaker at a conference say that “90% of kid disputes are resolved between the kids. (I’d like to see the stats on that assertion)…sometimes I regret not stepping in when one of them mops the floor with the other- other times I’m glad I got to watch some toddler diplomacy. At any rate, I know I still struggle with that helo mom syndrome! Great post!

    1. I sometimes struggle with when to step in, too. My mom used to say that whenever my brothers would fight, she wouldn’t interfere unless there was blood. I used to laugh at this statement, but now I see it to be effective– she was on the right track. If my kids are arguing, I try to let them work it out themselves (unless one of them is deliberately hurting the other, of course, my daughter has been known to hit her brother) Fighting is a normal thing with siblings and I think it helps them stand up for themselves and be more independent overall. My brothers were pretty rough and tumble so I did grow up with more of a thick skin.

  13. I don’t think there’s a mother alive, if she’s being honest with herself, who doesn’t wish she could do some things differently.Unfortunately, there are no do-overs in parenting, so you just have to do the best you can. The kids seem to turn out just fine—in spite of us. Excellent post, Darla. Made me think back to my days as a young mother.

  14. Love this post! I was a very laid back mom from the start, guess I’m just a pretty laid back person in general. But I can totally relate to everything you’re saying. People so enjoy giving you their 2 cents about everything, and motherhood and parenting in particular. Whether or not it’s practical, sensible or even good advice, they like offering it all the same. So glad you learned to tune it out. Babysitting is fun. I did it a lot when my own kids were young. I had the luxury (read: poor by choice) of staying home full time w/ my 2 daughters and would often field for friends when their work schedules were crazy. I can see the appeal of having more kids, but I’m w/ you. 2 is good enough for me!

    Love your blog. 🙂

    1. With my first, I let people give me advice. And lord did they give it to me! I was pretty unsure of myself and my parenting abilities. With my second, I completely changed and realized that the best advice is no advice–just figure it out on my own and do what I think works best for me and my child. Such a relief to have that stress off my back!

      Like you said, I’m babysitting because I want to stay home with my daughter one more year until she’s in kindergarten full time (and I could use the extra cash of course!) And the baby I watch is a pure joy. It’s all worked out great so far. Although, I think my days of babysitting are numbered as next year I’m going back to school again (gulp!)

  15. You’re so right – we ARE mommies in training with the first one. It’s a wonder more of them don’t need extensive therapy when all is said and done.

    Children are remarkably resilient, though, as long as they get food, shelter and love.

    If I had it to do over, I would have had more children. But maybe I’ll get another go-round with grandkids some day!

    1. I think back to those early hectic days and it’s a wonder both of us didn’t need therapy! I realize now that I didn’t have to be perfect and get everything “right”…that is is okay to mess things up and make mistakes in parenting. Kids are super resilient, like you said (thank god) I hope we both get another go-round with grandkids. 🙂

  16. I don’t know, Darla. I’m just guessing here, based on your writing and the image of you I’ve formed over the past year. But if I had to put it into words, I’d say you were — and are — exactly the mother your kids have needed since the day they were born. And I’d also bet that someday, they’re going to tell you the very same thing.

  17. Pingback: Change of Plans « Georgette Sullins's Blog

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