I have a secret.
Yes, like any mom – any parent – I have a number of “secret confessions.” I drive my toddler around to get her to sleep – gas mileage be damned. I once let then-5-year-old Ruby watch about 10 minutes of “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” because I was too busy texting a friend to pay any attention to what was on the TV. After a very long day, I once, out a sheer desperation, made myself a cocktail out of gin and Capri Sun and named it the Drunken Toddler (please don’t tell Tim McNally).
But my biggest secret confession isn’t some minor mistake or a moderately embarrassing yet surprisingly refreshing adult beverage. My biggest confession is that, two kids in, I still have no freaking idea what I’m doing most of the time.
I guess that’s maybe to be expected with Ruby; with her, it really is all new, every day. I’ve never had an 8-year-old before. But with Georgia? I’ve done the Terrible Twos already. Shouldn’t it be easier? But it’s not.
I took Georgia to the after-hours clinic last weekend because she was running a low-grade fever and said her ears hurt, and the doctor, after her ears were pronounced clogged but not infected, started lecturing me on what to do when a child has a cold.
“Oh, I know,” I told him. “My older daughter …”
He cut me off. “You have an older daughter?” he said in a voice that clearly implied I was acting like such a rookie mom (bringing a kid in for a cold!) that he was astonished that I had Extensive Mom Experience on my Mom CV.
I was annoyed by his bedside manner but slightly chastened anyway. And yet I still phoned my regular pediatrician the following day to ask how long I could expect Georgia’s poor appetite to continue over the course of her cold.
“I mean, I know this is normal – I have another kid and all – but I just worry extra about Georgia because she’s so tiny. She just got back on the growth chart, you know, and …”
He reassured me it was fine. But I think that’s just it: I wouldn’t have worried about Ruby’s appetite because she has never fallen off the growth chart, but Georgia has. I don’t have any clue how to wean Georgia from her binky because Ruby never took one. Ruby was early and eager to potty-train, but Georgia, who will be 3 in about two months, insists solemnly that she has no interest.
“Underwear is silly,” she said. “I love diapers forever.” The things I do know a lot about, courtesy of Ruby, such as special diets for reflux or how to manage sensory processing issues, have never come up with Georgia, who never so much as spit up as a baby and does not seem to think that having a tag in the back of your clothing or a rough seam in your socks are similar sensations to being set on fire.
They are different kids, in other words, and I know that sounds obvious, but what it really means is that I’m still floundering my way through it all every day, hoping that I’m making the right choices for each of them individually, even if they end up being different choices.
Ultimately, I know that’s all I can do – do my best, love them for who they are, cover them with hugs and kisses, and hope it all turns out OK in the end. And of course, I can drown my anxieties in a couple of Drunken Toddlers in the meantime.