Just You Wait

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    Sleeping through the night at eight weeks. Nursing like a champ every four hours. Potty training at two.

    “This one’s reading all the baby books,” the pediatrician joked.

    He meant the baby, not me.

    My mother maintains God gave my husband and me this kind of easy baby for one reason: so we would have more. Each pregnancy, and the labor and delivery that ensued, were textbook, too.

    “Born to bear!” my dad was fond of saying. Funny thing is, nobody who knew me, not my mom or my sisters, and none of my friends, pegged me as someone who would definitely have kids. And until I met the man who would be my husband and started seriously considering marriage, I never thought of myself as someone who needed to have children to feel complete. Now, of course, I can’t imagine life without them.

    But even with these perfect little robot babies – yes, we had three of them – who loved sleep, who shunned pacifiers, who climbed up on the big potty by themselves because Mommy wasn’t moving fast enough, I still remember wondering how we would make it to the next stage of parenthood with both our marriage and our sanity intact.

    There was a lot of mumbling: What were we thinking spacing them only two years apart? Why was breastfeeding such a good idea? Does it really matter if we have two in diapers at the same time? How did your parents survive with six kids?

    “Just you wait,” my mother would say. “This is the easy part.

    How quickly our starter home filled with plastic someone had said we needed: the ExerSaucer and all its attachments, a Lego building station, the water-play table, and for a short while – a treadmill for babies. The rocking cow was awesome, I’ll admit. But did we actually purchase a toddler treadmill? That must have been a gift.

    How quickly the baby journals filled with Mommy and Daddy’s memories. First bath, favorite food, first complete sentence. “I want my Blues Clues flatware,” Sam said clear as a bell. Really.

    Yet for each new baby girl Schwartzkopf, the entries I scrawled in the books were surprisingly similar. There were a few deviations now and again, but for the most part, the milestones seemed to follow suit with each baby daughter: giggle at three months; tooth at ten months; first step at thirteen months.

    All in good time, and all according to plan. Maybe they had been reading Dr. Spock. Someone knew what they were doing.

    “Just you wait,” my sisters would say. “This is the easy part.” They had teenaged sons and adolescent daughters, after all. Their sleepless nights had more to do with missed curfews than ear infections

    Today, sneaking up on ten, twelve, and fourteen, you can hardly tell my girls are sisters. Each blazes her own trail. Their dispositions are as different as their favorite foods, fashions, and colors. This one’s an artist. That one’s an academic. She’s one of a kind. As sure as one of them could live on peanut butter, the other one’s allergic to it. Every day writes its own plan – three times over.

    “Just you wait…”

    When I think back to a time when Mommy and Daddy actually called the shots, I can’t help but recall my strategy for achieving one of the most significant skills of self reliance there is – for a toddler at least! – learning to use the toilet

    Here I was, poised to put my potty plan in action for the third and final time. As if to herald the official end of an era, our youngest decided on her own that it was time to hop the potty train. Truth be told, I could have waited a little longer, at least through soccer season, but there was no holding this one back.

    So there we were at the soccer field. After a quick stop at the minivan to snatch the toilet seat insert, a cushy Elmo number with blue handles, we headed for the porta-potty.

    “All done,” Lindsey said, and with a shift of her not quite 2-year-old bottom, down the Elmo training seat plummeted – plop! into a stew of nasty human waste.

    Forlorn, my baby girl looked at me and back into the hole. A look of resignation came over her face. She knew there would be no heroic rescue. “Bye-bye Elmo!” she called out mournfully. She was still waving as I plucked her from the box.

    With Lindsey now perched safely on my hip, I took one last look to confirm the furry red monster’s fate.

    “Just you wait,” Elmo seemed to say to me. I shook my head. That was the easy part.