Four years may not seem like a long time, in parenting years, it’s a lifetime. Parents adapt a remarkable ability to forget and move on from early parenting challenges. From the late nights, the tantrums, and the teething, there are numerous things that are easy to forget after kids move from newborns to infants to toddlers. With our third child, we’ve had a stark reminder of all of these challenges.
Parents know that the problems change every day with kids. Teething becomes tantrums and sleep regressions turn into two-hour bedtime requests for stories, hugs, kisses, and books. With everything in frequent flux, it’s so easy to forget the issues from early childhood when kids grow up. We’re tuned to adapt to new circumstances and forget about the old ones as time passes so that we can better meet the new situations. Because of this, I largely forgot many of the biggest day to day challenges of parenting an infant, until we got reminded with our new baby.
These are the ten biggest challenges I forgot until now
- Sleep regressions. It’s impossible to forget the sleep deprivation and frequent wake ups that accompany infants, but one thing I forgot was that just as things finally start to get better around four months, there’s a major regression that frequently occurs and takes things back to the beginning. Then it gets better again for a bit, but every few months another regression occurs. This doesn’t end until they go off to college.
- Teething. I hadn’t forgotten about teething in general, but I did forget all the things that come with it. Random screams, wake ups minutes after finally getting them down to nap, chewing on everything, and the tortured screaming that just won’t stop are all the fun things involved.
- Ceaseless rocking. At around six weeks old, we finally found a magic bullet for our twins to get them to sleep; their rock and play rockers. Of course, since every child is different, this is nowhere near as successful with our third child as it was with them. He’ll scream non-stop in it if he just isn’t interested, or if he’s over-tired. The issue is that we never know if he’ll fight sleep for another hour, or minute, so we just keep rocking. My thigh muscles are in the best shape they’ve ever been in thanks to an hour long routine each evening.
- Pacifiers that just don’t work. I don’t understand how there can be dozens of variations of pacifier, and yet they are somehow subtly different enough that only one will actually work. In general this baby has far less interest in pacifiers than the twins did, so we can’t depend on them at all. While he can chew on his hands for hours thanks to teething, any attempt to give him a pacifier just results in it popping out seconds later.
- Inability to plan around naps. Some naps are twenty minutes, others are four hours and there’s no way to anticipate it before hand. This makes heading out of the house, doing chores, or even grabbing a nap ourselves impossible. While I wish our toddlers slept longer, at least I know almost exactly how long they’ll be asleep.
- Impossibility in getting out of the house. I can’t believe I forgot about this, because it was worse with twins, but it takes absolutely forever to get out of the house with an infant. Every time we’re about ready to head out the door he either needs a change or decides he’s starving. Then by the time he feeds, the toddlers have to eat or go potty or have invested themselves in some game they can’t tear away from. Every time we manage to get in the car feels like a minor miracle.
- Spit ups and blow outs. Ah the joy of five outfit changes in a single day. Between spit ups, diaper blowouts, and the ceaseless drool from teething, we go through more clothes for the baby than we do with two toddlers who aren’t exactly the neatest eaters. Plus, every blow out seems to occur the second I change a diaper.
- Baby pattern baldness. Just as babies are getting to the peak of their cuteness, they shed like a Labrador in the spring. Baby hair doesn’t really stick to things, but you do find weird dingy rings basically everywhere the baby spends any time. If I wanted a small Buddhist monk, I’d convert.
- Doggie love. Our toddlers love the dog too, but there’s something special about babies and dogs. The dog is fantastic with all the kids, but he clearly prefers the baby and sees his duty to protect him. He loves to wrap himself up around the rocker and crib and just keep an eye all around. Around others, he’ll shove himself between perceived strangers and the baby, though he doesn’t get growly or aggressive at all. He just likes to assert his present. And the baby clearly loves him, lighting up with a smile every time the dog is near and even reaching to stroke his fur when he can.
- Baby smiles. The absolute best part of a baby is the huge smiles when they recognize you and the bubbling laughter when you make a silly face. I can regularly get a smile and chuckle from the toddlers, but the baby beats that with massive room-brightening smiles that make me forget everything else. Those times he sees me and realizes his daddy is near and beams a huge grin make the whole parenting thing worth it.
I know in a year or so I will forget all of these again as the baby grows into a toddler and the challenges change. These will be entirely replaced with other challenges, many of which I also can’t clearly recall details of from the twins’ early toddlerhood. I know bedtimes and his interaction with the twins will always be interesting, but who knows what else with come with his growing up. Regardless, I’m sure those challenges will slowly fade as time passes as well.