One brick, two bricks, three bricks, four, crash “WAAAAAAA, Daddy, Daddy!” my distressed four year old shouts from the bottom of the back yard “What’s the matter? ” I calmly shout back whilst seated on the couch sipping my required second coffee for the morning.
I stick my head out the back door to see what’s happened. “I hurt my foot” he says sadly. He is no longer crying but his eyes are a little bit red. I inspect the foot “no blood” I tell him before kissing it better and sending him back to the pile of old house bricks he has been stacking and riding his bike into.
I know what you are thinking; aren’t you worried about the possible dangers involved in a four year old riding his bike into a stack of bricks? And the answer is no, I’m not. He is wearing a helmet, his training wheels are secure and he is under the astute supervision of the family dog and the real truth of it is that he is my third child. I can guarantee you my reaction would have been much different if my first child found himself in the same situation.
When you have your first child, you love them so much.
You can’t believe you created this perfect little person. They become your world; your every moment is devoted to them. You believe a combination of you and the world could destroy the child so you protect the sh#t out of them but by child number three you realise the world is not out to get your child and that they are fairly hard to break so you relax a little and just let things take care of themselves.
In the scenario above, child number one would never have made it to the bricks. In fact, he would never have made it outside without Mum and Dad acting as spotters; treating every step as if he was doing the most difficult gymnastic routine on the parallel bars at the Olympics, every slight bump treated like a life threatening emergency. In fact, if he dropped a piece of food on the ground you, as a new parent, would dive on it thinking just one bite and the germs could make him explode but by child three you consider rubbing his sandwich on the ground because you think it will be good for his immune system.
I think the different ways I’ve parented my three children both subconsciously and deliberately can be directly linked to their personalities and the little people they have become. Child number one was over protected and over corrected; he clung to us in social situations but we learned as he learned so what we ended up with was a child that is a bit of a softy, socially awkward but who is extremely intelligent and tech savvy. Not one for manual labour, he is more likely to construct a web domain then a physical one!
By child number two we loosened the reigns a little and let her experience more for herself. In social situations we were more comfortable letting her explore but we took for granted that she would learn all the stuff the other one did, not realising they don’t come preprogramed and that you the parent play the role of person programmer. It’s up to you to get the basic knowledge into their heads. So what we ended up with is a second child that was more outgoing and more rugged but a bit of a dumb dumb… She is pretty so she has a future; let’s just say we are looking into the best magician’s assistant courses money can buy.
By the third child you take the mistakes you made with the other two and make them their strengths. You do less but it has more of an effect I like to call parenting smart. Having older siblings around means they pick up the basics themselves, you trust the world can’t break them so you almost take away the chain all together. What you end up with is a massive handful early on but a more rounded person in the long run. Your lack of overbearing influence allows them to find themselves in a more organic way.
So what I’m saying is; next time you’re describing the differences in your kids to someone; before you say “I’m not sure how they all turned out so differently”, guess what – you did it.