My dad makes the best sausage balls. He can recite the recipe from memory, and tell you all the tricks to get them just right (like “the cheaper the sausage, the better the sausage balls”). He has made literally thousands of them for church breakfasts over the years. He’s a pro, and he knows what he’s doing. I’ve seen him make them, and even helped him, but when I go to make them myself I inevitably have to look at the recipe I’ve jotted down or call him for advice. I just don’t have his level of experience behind me yet. This is the way it goes with parenting, too. With your first child, you go slower and think through things because you’ve never done it before. You don’t know if that redness around your baby’s mouth is a life-threatening allergic reaction or just skin irritation. (Ok, not all mothers would have rushed their child to the doctor in a panic without calling and parked herself and her calm child in his carrier in the waiting room until everyone came back from lunch. Some do. And then, when the receptionist looks at her strangely and says, “Is he breathing?”, that mom might start to learn the difference between an actual medical emergency and overreaction. It’s a slower learning curve for some than for others. Let’s not judge.)
You’ve all heard the jokes about how differently you treat your first kid from the others, right? Well, they’re funny because they’re true. So today I’ve rounded up a few real-life examples, straight from my non-Pinterest-worthy life, to prove it. Some of you more observant readers may have noticed that I titled this post “1st kid v 3rd kid”, and yet I have 4 children. That’s because not even I know what I did with the 4th one most of the time. Or possibly because being the first girl after 3 boys she actually got special treatment which isn’t as funny. In any case, I’ll use examples from both my 3rd and 4th kids.
With my first two boys, I had a chart that I got from the pediatrician telling me which foods to introduce when. I wasn’t strict about it, but I loved having someone else tell me what to do! Also, there were things like bibs and high chair covers and documentation of those first meals.
(when I went to find this picture, I uncovered an album called “Logan Eats!” with 55 pictures and a video full of encouragement, insights, and spoon choices)
I distinctly remember the day I first gave my 3rd child solid food. It was a random day when I thought, “Hey, he’s probably about the right age to do this?” So I handed my 3 year old my phone to document it and gave him some kind of baby food . My husband walked by and said, “Did you use the chart?” Y’all. I literally had NO IDEA what he was talking about. I said, “What chart?” He reminded me of the “what to feed them when” chart and said, “How did you decide which food to give him?” I said, “Um….I let his brothers pick?”
2013 was a big year for my family. I have a brother and a sister, and that year all 3 of us had a baby. (Well, technically my brother’s wife had their baby) It was my sister’s 3rd baby, my 2nd, and my brother’s 1st. We were together at Christmas and loving all the cousins getting to play together! Sunday we loaded up to go church. When we got there, I realized that my sister-in-law had a monogrammed, fully stocked diaper bag for her baby (first kid). I had a plastic bag with some diapers, a bottle, and a change of clothes for mine (second kid). My sister looked at us and said, “Oh, I guess I should have brought something for the baby. She can use your diapers, right?” (third kid)
Sometime when my first two were little, I had this great idea to host a “busy bag swap”. I got several friends together, we all made cute little toddler activities to share and swapped them. One of the activities was an empty wipes container filled with fabric scraps that you could pull out and push back in. My kids liked it ok, but by #4 I was all like, “That’s way too much work. Here’s an actual pack of wipes. When you’re done I’ll just shove them back in and they will still work
(I don’t know what happened to the wipes container I was supposed to use for this activity, but clearly I handled it. Some things never change - I’ve just never been a Pinterest mom!)
I think we’ve already established my level of medical crazy for my first baby. I would also bring a list of questions and things to discuss to each well visit.
Now those well visits are an exercise in bribery, apologies, and lies.
“Here kids, you can have the tablet and snack and crayons and binkies and all the things if you will just sit quietly while I talk to the doctor”
“I’m sorry, doctor, I promise they’re not always like this *all lies*, I don’t know what’s gotten into them”
“Pass an object from one hand to the other? Sure, he can do that. *How am I supposed to know if he can do that? Give him a block and see*
Is she saying any words? Ummm… *tries to remember if kids are supposed to be talking at this point*....yes? Maybe a couple? *doctor looks like I got it right. Score*”
“Yes, he eats a lot of fruits and veggies”
“She has an ear infection? Really? She wasn’t showing any symptoms. *right? She wasn’t, was she? I didn’t miss something, right? I mean, babies are fussy...she probably wasn’t.*”
3rd kid “monogramming”
But seriously, I want you guys to hear me on this. I am NOT making fun of first time mamas and neither should you. Because #1 we’ve all been there. And #2 how are you supposed to know what to do? All of a sudden you’re responsible for this tiny, seemingly fragile human being who needs ALL THE THINGS and you’re bombarded with messages telling you to GET IT RIGHT OR ELSE. Plus Google. Oh Google, we love you but you’re scary. So yes, that red spot could be a strawberry stain or brain cancer. Or one of a million things in between. How are you supposed to know the difference? You can’t, that’s how. And what are you supposed to do with them all day long? Here’s a true story: When my first child was a couple of months old, I sat him in a bouncy seat and waved spices under his nose. Because I got a BabyCenter email that suggested it as a good sensory activity. (Another thing I quit doing several kids in was reading BabyCenter emails. I did not, however, quit receiving them. Ever. 30 years from now I’m going to be getting an email with the subject “Your 36 Year Old This Week: Applying for a Mortgage”) So you keep on doing you, mama, however you can. They’re going to be ok - 1st kid, 3rd kid, 8th kid, whatever - because you love them and you’re trying. You can’t ask for more than that.
Sarah O’Dell spends her days taking care of her four small people (3 boys and 1 spoiled rotten baby girl) and trying to come up with creative responses to “You sure have your hands full!” As an extrovert who spends most of her time at home with little people, she is frequently found on Facebook sharing the details of her less-than-Pinterest-worthy days to make other moms feel a little more normal.