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With the next child, I would do many things differently.
I would take time off during pregnancy and relax more. I would deliver the baby at home. I would know from day one how to change a diaper and how to drape a sling. And breastfeed for the first two years. With the next child.
With the next child, I would take some of these monthly Instagram baby photos telling you weight, length, and age in months. I would document all the important milestones in a handwritten journal (the first steps, the first words). I would send handcrafted birthday cards, and I would host themed parties. I would bake cakes shaped like trains. With the next child.
With the next child, I would be better at managing my emotions. I would never yell when tired or stressed. I would paint more, do handicrafts, and play with toy cars. I would prove more flexibility and be more in flow over the course of the day. With the next child.
To the child I have right now, my biggest mentor, my challenger, and growth motor: Thank you for being right here with me and experiencing all the “woulds,” “coulds,” and “next times,” all phrases that seem misplaced right now anyway.
Because let’s face it: I will continue sending birthday invites via Facebook. And buying cake at the bakery. And going bonkers being woken up every two hours at night. Snapping even if I promised myself I wouldn’t.
And plenty more things that won’t live up to my expectations.
Only to say it again: “with the next child…”
That’s why it’s finally time to say yes to “now.” I am the best mother I can be right now. I am making mistakes, and I will learn from them.
I am growing right here and right now. I am giving myself permission to feel disheartened in one moment, and growing in the next.
No amount of children will make my parenting perfect. And I don’t want to use the next child as an excuse not to make it better for us now.
Even with you, the child I have right now, there will be plenty of “next times.” The next day, the next hour, the next moment; the next time we’re both tired, or hungry, or arguing. Probably I won’t be doing everything differently all of a sudden. I will keep buying cake from the bakery. And there will be situations where I raise my voice and become agitated, even if it’s not really justified.
Then I’ll say: it’s okay. I’m okay. I don’t need a “next try.” Instead, I can see what I truly do want to change: Not the things I see in others. But the things that I feel. And then I’ll try that. With you, my child right here right now.