The way you parent your youngest may be vastly different from the way you parented your first. And that's alright. You are not the same person that brought a tiny, sweet smelling bundle into your home for the very first time. Overreacting to a dropped pacifier? Nope. Calling the doctor the minute a temperature reaches 98.7? Not anymore. Panicking when your four year old decides to eat her dinner under the table when your parish priest is over for dinner? Please. Who even noticed? In other words, if you are more relaxed with the later ones, good for you. You earned it, right?
Compare yourself...to no one. It is easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself and your littles to that family that sits ahead of you in church...the one where every single child sits perfectly still and doesn't play tap dance on the kneeler during the homily. Or to the mom in the pick up line at school who wears a size 2 jean and has a purse to match her shoes and gets out to talk to her friends about the next homeroom party. Don't compare yourself or your family to anyone. No one else alive has the exact same family and the exact same circumstances and interests and values that you do.
A clean house is relative. What is clean to you now with four children and a dog may be vastly different than what was clean to you years ago when you had one little baby that took two daily naps and you had time to not only write out, but also follow a weekly cleaning schedule that involved a bucket, rags, and your hands and knees. Now, if you have time to push a Swiffer around while you are helping a child write a poem about turtles...good for you. And a little dust never hurt anyone, right?
Take your toddler to the grocery store. Talk to her when you push her around the store. Let her pick out the produce and maybe even a balloon. The day will come when she won't fit into the cart anymore, and you will be putting your purse there instead. And you will miss shopping with a little one. You will.
Have a schedule. One that works for you. Stick to it. One thing I have learned as both a teacher and a parent is that children crave structure. They flourish in it. They long for the comfort of knowing what comes next. For some, this is a rigid schedule with life centered around daily naps. And if it is, don't apologize for it. For others, a schedule may be a bit less rigid. Whatever works for you, stick to it.
Parent as a team. You and your hubby are together in this. A parent of teens will tell you, some children are like cute little mice. They can sniff out the smallest crack and try to squeeze between it. Don't allow your children to play one of you against the other. Talk in private and be together in all your decisions. After all, sometimes you need the strength of two.
Allow your children to see you and your hubby in good and in bad. Let them see you laugh together, and share a hug or a quick kiss.You are the model for them as parents. Your children will one day be the parents to your grandchildren. At the same time, let them see you disagree. It is important for your children to see that sometimes, even people that love each other very much can disagree. And show them how to resolve it correctly. If you don't, they will learn someplace else.
And lastly, one thing I know for certain...birthday parties and holidays existed before Pinterest. How do I know this? I had birthday parties without fruit cut into animal shapes and without juice boxes covered in paper and glue and glitter that resemble animals. My children never missed the over the top creations that society seems to be demanding we shower upon them. A party is a party with balloons, presents and a cake...and most importantly, loved ones there to celebrate. Your child will not miss it if you don't stay up all night gluing ears onto Hershey Kisses to make little mice, I promise.
I am no expert. I hold no special degrees. I am a mother. I am blessed to have four precious souls entrusted to me. I am determined to create the best childhood I can for them, so they can go out into the world as healthy, confident, caring, sensitive adults. After all, is there anything more important to a mother than that?