When I had my first child, I knew nothing.
Despite spending evening after evening during my pregnancy sitting in my bed, balancing one of my many baby books on my giant belly and devouring all the information I could, I was still wildly unprepared once my daughter was placed in my arms.
When my husband and I brought her home from the hospital, the first thing we did was take her – still in her car seat – right up to her room. After placing her car seat on the floor, we sat down beside her and stared at her little newborn face. She slept. We stared.
“What now?” I asked my husband. He looked at me and sort of shrugged his shoulders.
That became our mantra.
Nothing was easy. I couldn’t get breastfeeding to work for us. For 6 weeks I tried everything from tube feeding to nipple shields until one day, she finally got the hang of it. Sleep? Sleep was laughable. I waited and waited for the day she would sleep for long stretches. It would be two long years before she slept through the night. She teased me with eating. She gobbled down everything I gave her for the first 8 months after I introduced solids. Then suddenly, she became picky. Textures bothered her in a way they never had before.
During each road bump, I would make myself crazy trying every tip and trick under the sun until I was eventually at a loss. I would look at my gorgeous baby’s perfect face and wonder “What now??”
She was impossible to predict.
When my second child came along, just 22 months after my first, I felt only a little more prepared. Maybe I could handle the long nights if I knew there would eventually be an end in sight. Maybe I could handle the complexity of breastfeeding this time.
But from the moment they placed my second daughter in my arms, everything was different. I would soon learn that she was nothing like my first. She was a type of baby I didn’t know much about. She was quiet and content. Okay with sitting in her bouncy chair, watching her older sister run around the house. At 5 months old, she started sleeping through the night. She required no shushing or patting or rocking. I would put her in the crib awake and leave the room. And that was it.
When it came to food, she was slower than her sister to start on solids. But when she did – she ate everything. I kept waiting for the day when she would turn picky. But it never happened. I would stare at her in disbelief as she requested more broccoli and salmon for dinner. Or some of the eggplant parmesan off my plate.
Whatever stage we reached – she did it with ease. She was potty-trained just after the age of two in a few days. When it came time to go to daycare, she cried only once and then adjusted with ease. In her four years, there have been very few bumps in the road.
She is my easy child. She takes everything in stride. She fights me very little. She puts her shoes on the first time I ask. I often say she makes me look like Mom of the Year when we got out in public. Her dentist even once asked me if she was always this perfect or if she was showing off. My second born makes me feel very smug about my parenting abilities.
While my wonderful, headstrong firstborn leaves me guessing, my second child reassures me I’m not, in fact, doing everything wrong. That the way I parent is not going to inevitably result in eternally unbreakable bad habits. And maybe – just maybe – I’ve got a handle on this.
I desperately needed this easy child. We all need the easy child.
We all need a little bit of reassurance in our daily parenting lives. When we feel like we’ve failed one too many times. When we’re sitting on the couch crying at 2 in the morning because our babies can’t latch. Or when we’re making yet another peanut butter sandwich in utter exasperation because our children won’t eat what we make. When we’re beside ourselves with exhaustion because they don’t like naps or wake every few hours at night. When someone tells us we shouldn’t start bad habits. We should avoid the soother. We should never take them into our beds.
This is when we need the easy child.
It goes without saying that I love my daughters equally. The intense, gut-wrenching love that I feel for one, I feel for the other just the same. But when I’m being tested and challenged and I’m failing and faltering, my second born reminds me that it’s all going to be okay. That we are in this together. That we’ve got each other’s backs.
In her quiet, easy way, she reminds me that I am, in fact, a good mother.
And sometimes, that’s all we need.