When my daughter was little, my husband and I foolishly believed that what we did mattered. We “sleep trained” her. We “taught” her to eat vegetables, clean up and have some modicum of manners. We were so very proud of ourselves.
Then, our son was born. We did all the same things with him, but the output values just weren’t the same. We “sleep trained” him only to have him just blithely continue not to sleep. There has been no need to teach him to eat his vegetables, only a constant anguish that he is also eating everything else—crayons, dirt and his sister’s toes. And manners? I’ll let you know what happens when we get there. I still have to tackle this biting thing first.
Nothing illustrates the divide between my two children more than the problem of our stairs. We live in a 90-year-old home, with a lovely oak staircase. However, once we had children, the polished wood seemed less of a feature of the home and more like a stairway to hell. And of course, the curved nature of the railing and the wooden spindles mean that putting a gate on the stairs is nearly impossible. With our daughter, we successfully blocked her access to the stairs by putting an ottoman in front of them until we could teach her how to descend the stairs without risk of brain injury. In fact, she shared our fear of the stairs and refused to walk down them until she was almost two and a half.
But our son? The first day we put the ottoman in front of the stairs, he crawled over, laughed and pushed it away. Since then, we’ve added additional blockades, plastic crates, boxes of diapers and a basket. He either climbs right over or worms his way up by screaming and shoving his little body through the cracks until he can climb up.
Yesterday, I went to grab a cup of coffee and came back to the thudding sounds of my son crawling happily up the stairs, while my daughter, three years old, stood in front of the blockade, bewildered. “How do I get up to my room?” She wailed.
Right then, I realized that nothing I did mattered, they were who they were. Parenting isn’t shaping and molding my children like clay. They came to me in this shape, from this mold, already in their unalterable forms. All I can do is just make them a happy comfortable place, until they are ready to make a place of their own. And also, teach the baby to stop biting.