Conventional wisdom takes one of two arguments. Some say the transition from one to two is the hardest; others say the real change comes at three, when the kids outnumber the parents for the first time. But everyone agrees after that, it doesn’t make any difference. Four or eight, it’s all the same.
I beg to differ.
I was the most serious of mothers out there. Total breastfeeding, cloth diapers, attachment parenting, homemade baby food–cereal, vegetables, meats, the whole works. Boxed cereal, begone! Low carbon footprint. No TV till age two. No stupid useless toys whose only purpose is to pad the pockets of toy makers and battery operators, no irritating characters who do everything twice. I’d waited three years for the privilege of motherhood, pondering, planning, visioning, and choking on opinions I wasn’t allowed to share because I didn’t have the experience. When the time came, I was ready.
Alex was parented that way. Julianna threw a huge wrench in the gears, starting in the OR when she was born with low blood sugar, and they gave her a bottle of formula. But even through illness after illness, and medical personnel freaking out because they wanted to know how much she was taking in, basically she was breastfed. They learned quickly that she couldn’t take from a bottle.
As Alex got older, we inherited some toys we would rather not have had, but by and large I have kept my parenting philosophies intact. By the time Nicholas came along, we gave up on the TV prohibition and just tried to keep it in control. (How do you keep the younger kids from watching age-inappropriate material when their older brother gets to watch it?)
But Michael? Adding the fourth child pitched our household from “chaotic” to “complete and utter madhouse.” I can’t even get the diapers washed sometimes; if I didn’t feel so passionately about the environment, I might chuck the whole works. It takes massive amounts of brainpower and focus to make sure I have the kids practice the piano, do homework, do their chores (the middle two are supposed to clear the table, Alex to sweep the floor). Alex keeps taking things away from Michael, like, I don’t know, puzzle pieces, and I wave a hand and say, “Let him chew on it! I don’t like that puzzle anyway!”
I absolutely dreaded the onset of solid food. The idea of preparing all those food cubes, cooking that rice cereal, having to think through a balanced diet separate from the rest of the family, just gave me the willies, especially now that we’re packing lunches for two older kids to take to school. (Who likes which cold lunch option? Is there something not sweet in this lunch bag?)
When we were packing for Mackinac, I caved and bought a box of rice cereal. I couldn’t see any way around it while we were on vacation.
The first time I prepared a meal using that box, I was flabbergasted. No microwave? No stove top? No crusted pan to scrub afterward? Where have you been, O Boxed Cereal, for the last seven years of my life? This is so easy!
That’s it, I decided. No more cooking meats, grinding them in the food processor, freezing them in cubes and fighting the baby on texture (because the texture never comes out right). No more battling rice cereal. I’m still doing vegetables, fruits and finger foods myself (mostly), but there now resides on the canned food shelf a small supply of Gerber and Beechwood bottles with beef and chicken meals inside. And let me tell you, pulling them out is like a breath of fresh air. I don’t have to wrap my brain around a meal with multiple components to be prepared? GREAT!
I may be copping out, but you know what? At this point, I don’t care. I’m mellowing. I’ve got more important places to expend emotional energy.