My wife and I welcomed our second baby girl into the world in May, and I have already realized that the feeling of being a new parent doesn’t go away. Sure, this time around I am a confident diaper changer, bottle maker, and swaddler — but when it comes to the things a Jetson’s robot couldn’t do I still feel like a newbie.
The truth is, you don’t need to have two kids to feel like a newbie every day. Your infant grows up quickly — walks, talks, ask ‘what’s this?’ or ‘Why?’ (Suddenly you find yourself explaining that the reason you can’t color on the walls is because you want to get your security deposit back).
The difference between having 1 and 2 is that with your first baby you recognize that you don’t know what you don’t know — with the second you know what you know, but you also don’t. The shift from 1 kid to 2 kids brings on a new curriculum that in some ways builds on the previous semester (Burp, Bath, Barney) but also introduces entirely new material. You have Literary Theory down pat, but now you have to read Chaucer in Middle English.
With your first baby, you ask questions like -How do we enable our kid to flourish? How do we nurture our daughter into a strong and independent woman? What’s the right Tylenol dosage for a teething baby under 20 pounds?
When baby # 2 is born you don’t stop asking the first set of questions, but you add on another layer — What does it mean to enable a strong sibling relationship as a parent? How do I give my undivided attention to both kids at the same time? Why did you put a sticker on your little sister’s face?
While this is still new to me, I do believe I’ve learned something that makes all of this less daunting: your kids do what you do and not what you say.
How is that less daunting? Isn’t that scarier?
It’s less daunting because you realize that you don’t need to know the answers to all of the questions above. You don’t need to have it all figured out. You need to do what you believe is right, trust your gut.
We want our kids to love and respect each other? It is on us to love and respect. Be curious and not take themselves too seriously? We have to do that too. Read, be open-minded, know a good deal when they see one? Us, us, us.
There is an old parable that concludes that it is worth spending time in a perfume store even if you don’t buy anything, because in the end, you will still carry the scent of the perfume. I think parenting is similar. Your kids aren’t going to buy all the crap you try to sell them, but if you show them that you sell things in an honest and kind way they will carry that lesson with them.
In other words, ones need to continue to learn, iterate and work on the fly doesn’t slow down when a second kid joins your family — you can’t hit replay on all of the stuff you did the first time around. However, your muscle memory is in place and that should give you even more confidence to say: Do as I do.