Thursday, July 16, 2015

Snowflakes and Fingerprints

Below is my rejected submission to Scary Mommy. I'm feeling very vulnerable sharing it. I pretty much over-share every bit of my life on here, but I don't handle rejection well at all.


You hear it said all the time that no two children are alike. If your first kid is a fussy eater, your next one will be a walking garbage disposal. If you have one that wakes up on the hour like a crying, pooping coo-coo clock, the next one will sleep like their Father. (Meaning they'll sleep so soundly that not even a shrieking infant will cause the slightest stir.) Like everything else in life, no matter how many times you hear information from others, it doesn't truly sink in until you're smack dab in the thick of it.

Once your first child reaches a certain point, you get comfortable.  You think you have this Mommy thing in the bag.  "What would it hurt to have a second child?" you might ask yourself.  After all, you've got experience. You survived those first few months of little-to-no sleep, spit up everywhere, liquid baby poo, and the many other joys that go along with having a new baby. Maybe you even made it through potty training or some other major milestone that would garner an abundance of knowledge. With a second child, you could use that expertise to avoid a lot of uncertainty, putting you right up there in the pantheon of the super Moms you admire. Hell, with the next kid you might even become one of those women whose children are always clean and don't have permanent bedhead! 

And then the second child comes along.

Immediately you start digging into your brain's archives, thinking back to the times you struggled when your first baby was born. You recall that they wouldn't latch on without a nipple shield, so while you're in labor, you request a pair from the nurse in anticipation for the inevitable booby struggle. But there is no struggle because within minutes of being born, baby #2 opens wide, inserts nip, and starts nursing like a pro. A false sense of security envelopes you like a warm light beaming down straight from the heavens. This is going to be a piece of cake!

Once again, pulling from your bag of tricks, you recall that when your fussy baby wasn't hungry and didn't have a dirty diaper, the binky was a lifesaver. Since you're a second time Mom, you don't waste a moment trying to sanitize it. Oh no! You pop that sucker right out of the package, give it a lick, and stuff it in the red-faced infant’s mouth, anticipating the calm that will follow. But the calm never comes. The binky hits the floor, the crying gets louder, and you are left slack jawed at your unexpected failure. How can this be?! It's a foolproof fix! So you try again, and again you are met with disdain for this rubbery nipple impostor and an increasingly angry baby. You think back to the wealth of other ways you soothed your first child, but none of them work. What in the actual hell is going on here?! You're supposed to be super Mom! You're a pro, remember?! What is wrong with this kid?!

Time passes and baby #2 is now a toddler. The milestones come more-or-less in the same time frame as before, so you mistakenly continue referring back to your first child as the benchmark for your parenting technique. Everywhere you turn, you hit a brick wall. This kid doesn't respond to any of the methods the first one did. You're not the all-knowing queen of awesome that you thought you'd be at all. In fact, you're now less awesome because you're navigating life with this alien child while also taking care of the first one. It's double the work, double the confusion, double the daily lessons. It’s a frustrating battle that you’re obviously losing.

Then one day, somewhere between your fifth cup of coffee and your millionth diaper change, it hits you: every child is different! Suddenly your mind races with all the ways your children differ from one another. For example, where one is content playing independently, the other prefers to cling to your leg as though they physically cannot function unless one part of their body touches a part of yours at all times. Where one child makes deliberate and cautious movements so as not to stumble or fall, the other one is balls-to-the-wall crazy, doing back flips off of the couch and standing up on the seat of their ride-on like they're surfing. One is calm, the other wild. Of course all the things you’ve been doing with kid #2 haven’t worked because they’re a completely different person!

In the throes of this epiphany, you hear the echoes of all those more experienced parents constantly drilling into your head how unique each child is and you finally understand what they were talking about. It isn’t just in the way your children respond to your parenting. You see it in the blue eyes of one child and the hazel eyes of the other. You hear it in the way they laugh. You write it in their baby books, as one says "Mama" first and the other's first word is "Dada". Calm and wild, day and night, sunset and sunrise. Equally beautiful, equally fun, but each one with its own qualities. Possessing characteristics that are exclusive to them, and them alone. Like snowflakes and fingerprints.

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