All I know about children is from having my own and from babysitting when I was younger. I read the magazines and I've seen the talk shows and various documentaries, and I've watched the way other people behave with their kids, but really, you don't know kids until you have your own.
With Oldest, it was a whole new experience, because never in my babysitting jobs, did I have to care for a newborn. The youngest child I cared for was around a year old, and the rest of them were toddler-aged. I learned as I went, discovering there were different cries for different things, I learned her facial expressions and which ones meant she was pooping. I watched her observe and learn to do things on her own.
When Middle came along, I expected similarities. I knew they would have different personalities, I just expected the same learning curve. How wrong I was!! Middle was content to sit in her crib in the mornings, until someone came along to get her out. Oldest would rattle the gate of her crib and eventually learned to climb over to escape her caged bed.
Middle stubbornly held onto her bottle until at 2 years old, I confiscated them all and hid them, so she had no choice but to conform to a sippy cup, showing her obvious displeasure at using one. Oldest was happy to move onto regular cups just like Mommy and Daddy used.
While Oldest was somewhat easy to potty train, and she was out of night-time pull-ups for good by 3 years, Middle refused to relinquish her pull-ups and it took lots of coaxing and encouragement to get her to use her new underwear. Finally at 3 1/2 she was using the bathroom on her own and no longer wearing pull-ups.
When Youngest came along, I had lowered my expectations and figured that she would be somewhere in between the two older sisters. I am completely blown away by everything that Youngest has accomplished at the age of 2, and I just have to write it down for my own memory's sake.
She kicked the bottle habit before she was one year old, wanting to use a sippy cup just like her sisters did. She is almost completely potty trained, with the exception of her pooping. She has skipped over the pull-ups and has been wearing underwear for about a week now and runs to me, doing the pee-pee dance, singing "pee! pee!" and we rush over to the little potty to pee. Today, she has refused to use the little potty and wants to use the regular toilet. How cute it is to see her little butt balancing on the edge of the toilet seat so she doesn't fall in, her little hands gripping my arms for support.
When I cook, she drags the dining room chair over to help. And I do mean help! She says " 'tir! 'tir!" and tries to grab the spoon to stir whatever it is I am stirring. She names everything she sees on the counter-- knife, bowl, pan, oil, pepper, spoon, towel, 'nana, and more. She puts away the clean silverware and puts them in thier proper place in the drawers. She knows where I keep pretty much everything, as she follows me around most of the day and if I ask her to go and get something, she will go straight for it and bring it back.
Youngest talks in sentences and makes herself understood pretty clearly. In fact, I understand her better than I did Middle. Middle mumbled and made exaggerated mouth movements that made it nearly impossible for me to lip-read her and Hubby would shrug when I asked him what she said. Middle has only recently started talking clearly and has done a complete 180, from mumbled words to clearly spoken sentences. Youngest, on the other hand, talks and signs and lets me know exactly what she wants, and she does know what she wants!
I often wonder that this baby inside of me will be like. Will it be one that is reluctant to give up comforts and resistant to change the way Middle is? Will it rail against being "trapped" in the crib and protest gates in the doorways like Oldest? Will it watch the older kids and learn from them the way Youngest has? Or will it be different and develop on it's own pace, marching to the beat of it's own drummer?
I've definetely learned that I cannot have expectations for the way they develop, but I can have expectations for the way they should behave at a certain age-- learning that they need to pick up their own messes, help around the house, be respectful to each other, to name a few. Being a mother is a hard job, but is rewarding at the end of the day. I might be ready to pull my hair out on some days and start wondering if it is bed-time yet, but I can say that I wouldn't change a thing! I love watching them discover something new, seeing the awe on their faces and joy when they laugh. I love when they run to me and hug me. Each child is different and they all have different needs and I have learned how to react to Oldest and then change tactics for Middle and yet again for Youngest. I wouldn't change a thing!