I am sitting in the middle seat of the Taylor bus sitting next to the infant carrier. I never understood why people did that, was that a helicopter parent thing? I have always viewed the front seat as the power seat; the grownup seat. It was something I didn’t want to compromise on as a parent. No matter where we go, I sit up front. Caption of the Taylor ship. Lately Cece has forced me to sit in the back since she is not a “car baby” like the other three were. I am not used to a kid that isn’t magically put to sleep by the car moving in reverse down the driveway.
I am so fortunate to have the unique parenting perspective that comes from having two kids (22 months apart), taking ten years off, then having two more (18 months apart). The way to do this: drink a lot in college. Get pregnant right before graduation. Have baby, buy house, have another baby so they will be close in age. For those keeping score: Baby 1 – unplanned. Baby 2 – planned. Try to figure out life with small kids for a while. Wake up one day and wonder who the hell replaced those stinky babies with smelly pre teens. Send them on spring break with their grandma since every year a family vacation just seems slightly out of budget. Act like kid free parents for a week and drink a lot. Surprise! Baby. Insert tears of joy because (finally) it’s a boy! (from Daddy). Start over at baby. Buy house. Skip period, take ten home pregnancy tests, have doctor confirm with ultra sound. Wait, I can see the arms and legs on that baby. How far am I? Twelve Weeks?!? More tears of joy because it’s not a boy! (Mommy and Daddy). Final Score: Planned 1; Unplanned 3.
In less than two years we went from a family of four to a family of six. Strangers often remind that I have my hands full. I just smile. I don’t really look at my situation as having four kids rather than I have two sets of kids. The first two are pretty self-sufficient.. but are quickly becoming teenage girls. Bring on the constant eye roll and deep sigh. The second two are completely dependent on me so the first set has to help. I am lucky to have the Adult Jr. squad around to help with things like “can you get your brother off the kitchen table?” Getting to do the first ten years over is a learning curve, but it has taught me so much about how I look at myself as a parent. A view from this seat is too amazing not to share. These are some of the things I have learned in the first few years of my parenting do over.
I don’t live in Neverland. By that I mean I try not to be that parent that starts sentences with “I will never”. Yes I will. I will never sit in the seat with my kids while driving. I will never have another baby (after 2, then after 3). I will never let my kids sleep with me. I will never be able to breastfeed. I will never be able to wear my baby. I will never sleep again. I will never let my kids get a cell phone. I will never let my kids see me cry. Kids are not a one size fits all adventure..they are all different and require an open mind. They won’t sleep with me forever, they will eventually learn to use the toilet, they won’t be scarred forever if they cry it out, they will grow out of that phase and if not I will learn to accept it as their unique wiring.
It’s ok to fail and be vulnerable. I put these together since I always have. Mistakes and failure reek of vulnerability. I had Cece in her infant carrier, Jackson in a stroller and Liv helping me take them to lunch with a group of co-workers. Since there was food involved, Liv was only about 60% present. In between situating Jackson (aka pulling up the Lego game on my phone), she asked when the food would be out about five times. I used the high chair to put Cece’s carrier on the stand. I turned to situate myself and her carrier flipped off the stand. I quickly grabbed it but not quick enough to avoid the barrage of concerned stares. “Sadly this isn’t the first time..” I joked. I no longer care if the concern is judgment. With four kids, parenting fails are going to happen more often then I would like so I am embracing it. So far Child Services has not knocked on my door…
It’s ok not to be cool. Whatever that means. As soon as I had kids, I began my quest not to look, act, dress, and be the typical mom. I don’t want my kids to be the thing that defines me. I want to still be the first to know about the latest music or movies or trends. I am typing on a laptop. Seriously, who types on a laptop anymore? Unfortunately, adults are not cool to teenagers. Even Justin Timberlake. Me: Did you guys know that Justin Timberlake is about the same age as me? Layla: oh, I didn’t realize he was that old. To be honest, being “cool” is exhausting. “Mom that is so 2011” Liv said the other day. Wasn’t that last year? Nope. I am clearly not cool. I will talk about my kids to who ever will listen, I will over share their precious faces on all social media, I will introduce myself as a mother of four, I will admit I haven’t heard of that band or seen that new movie or read that book. I will embrace this mid thirties; I don’t give a shit version of myself. Hell, maybe one day I may even get a mini van.
I am an over documenter. I write and take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. “Layla, when you were born digital cameras weren’t common.” I said. “And they definitely not on our phones”. Whoa. Teenage minds blown. “ha-ha dumb phones” Liv said. I have had a Snapfish account since Liv was born. Once I got a digital camera, my obsession with taking pictures exploded. Now, when I miss that baby phase, all the pictures are in one spot. I am even worse with round 2, but I know that this moment will pass like the flash on my camera. I also started writing again. A lot. I jot down random thoughts whenever I can. My journal is my best friend. It laughs at my witty jokes, cries when I do and always is there to listen. It doesn’t have to be Pulitzer winning essays, just a release of those hormone laced thoughts that go through my (lack of) mom brain.
Now, when I see these back seat parents, I will give them a nod of understanding and approval. Like how people who have Jeeps beep at each other because they live with the shared knowledge that owning a Jeep is awesome. As a back seat mom, I was able to write, apply a full face of make up, take a decent selfie, pluck my eyebrows for the first time in three years, ignore social media, embrace new music, and (almost) feel cool.