Things change. With my firstborn, I concerned myself with making sure he knew the basics. Cows mooed, dogs barked, where his eyes and ears are, and how to count as early as possible. But with 3 boys comes more mess, more bickering, more of everything except time. I know they’ll eventually learn the basics, but out of necessity, this mommy’s priorities have changed and now it’s important teach a few other basics.
When Diego was 18 months old, I cleaned up the toys after Diego was in bed. There weren’t that many toys, and frankly it was easier and quicker. Now, there are a lot more toys. It is no longer easy or quick. So, Justus is learning sooner to put toys away. In fact, he’s very proud of it when I ask him to put something away and he runs off in the right direction (I really have no expectation of it ending up in the proper place, but at least he’s trying!)
When Diego spilled his snack as a baby, I probably just picked it up for him and didn’t give it a second thought. Earlier today, Justus tripped and spilled his snack and I told him to clean up. Happily, he picked each bit up and brought it to me. Out of necessity, things change.
Playing well with others is another necessity. Diego learned to play with others during playdates. With Justus, he has two live-in playmates to get along with, so learning how to play well together started at birth. It’s one thing to pacify behavior knowing that in an hour, the playmate will leave. But it’s a completely different thing knowing the playmates are not leaving. How to get along is an ongoing lesson that all my boys need and are working on, Justus is just getting an earlier start on the lesson.
I was much more willing to spend a long time trying to figure out how to make toddler Diego feel better when he was upset for unknown reasons. Now, I’ve realized, kids cry. A lot. Sometimes for no reason other than they’re awake. And nothing makes it better except time, no matter how hard you try. So today when Justus woke up grouchy, after trying to snuggle an inconsolable, thrashing toddler, I just put him back in his room so he could finish his fit before joining us. And soon enough, he was ready.
It’s not just that basic lessons have changed, it’s also that the boys are so different. I can see just how much Justus absorbs, more than I thought possible for a kid his age. I didn’t notice that with Diego…I don’t think I knew to look. And Justus is a very different kid than Diego (duh, of course!) Diego played with the toys I put in front of him because that’s all he knew. Justus never wanted baby toys because his big brothers had cooler toys. Justus crawled, walked, and ran sooner than the other boys because he’s more motivated and determined to be part of the gang. He’s learning to talk, wrestle, and defend what’s “his” much sooner, too. It’s part of being #3.
Someday Justus will learn to moo and find his ears. But for now, this mommy is working on teaching her basics: cleaning up messes, playing well with others, and learning to be part of a family.