This evening as I fed my six-month-old at dinner time, I was forced to pause and wonder, “How did it all come to this?” You see, my six-month-old was not wearing any pants. Sure, he had a diaper on, but he had no pants—something I never would have considered allowing for my firstborn.
Not only was Ender missing pants, he wasn’t wearing a bib, either, so any food that missed his mouth fell right onto his shirt. Peatie wore bibs until he was eighteen months; Goobie was a bib-wearer until at least a year.
And to top it off, I was feeding little Mr. Teeny random smushed food bits from my plate—with my fork. Peatie got homemade baby food and the rubber-tipped spoon for ages; he graduated to table food ground by hand, and he ate with kiddie utensils until he was two-and-a-half. Goober got a mix of homemade and store-bought baby foods, depending on how time-crunched I had been lately. She, too, was treated to the rubber-tipped spoon, and she used kiddie utensils until she was close to two.
Now, part of this predicament is Ender’s fault. He WAS wearing shorts today—until he had the gall to pee out the leg of his diaper. And I WOULD feed him baby food, except that he pulls faces and spits it out, begging instead for food from my plate. Baby spoons are great for getting teeny bits of baby slop, but they’re not great for little chunks of baked potato or nectarine; forks work much better to mush stuff up and serve it. And as for the bib—well, the kid had such bad reflux that his shirt has always been soaked anyhow, and the food he eats is mostly solid, so it creates so little extra mess that it seems silly to bother with a bib.
There are other differences between my treatment of my babies, as well. With Peatie, I rushed to his side at every nighttime noise. (He still wakes often at night.) Once Goobie rolled along, I was so tired that I would lie in bed listening to her fuss, willing my body to get moving—and often, she’d go right back to sleep before I managed to move. Little Third One shares a room with his ill-sleeping big brother, which makes me more prone to dashing to his crib-side lest his brother be an exhausted, whiny beast in the morning. (It’s not helping.)
The list could go on with items big and small. Some are the result of having multiple children; some are the result of my growth (relaxation? slacking?) as a parent; some are dependent on the personalities of my children. Sometimes I feel bad about the differences in how they’re treated. I wonder if my subsequent children (or even my firstborn) are somehow being cheated. Then I remind myself that I am a fourth child, and I didn’t feel remotely cheated; my existence was the only one I knew. I was loved and cared for—perhaps not in exactly the same ways as my siblings had been before me, but it was enough.