The Same But Different

I have seven children.

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From oldest to youngest – The Bookworm, The Boy, The Dancing Queen, The Princess, The Munchkin, The Fraggle, and The Blessing
See my page, “The Flock” at woolandchocolate.com for more info

I have been raising kids for over thirteen years, now. And practice really does make perfect. That is not to say that my parenting is perfect (because, Lord help me! it is not!), but I do know what I am doing. I have had years of trying things and seeing what works, experience in tailoring my philosophy of parenting to fit each unique child, and have learned from so many of my mistakes. I think I didn’t really know what I was doing until baby number four (that would be The Princess). Yes, it was only after four children that I was confident in discipline, sure of my systems (cloth diapering, for instance), and comfortable with our homeschooling. So, by the time The Blessing, our seventh baby, came around, I was pretty sure of myself.

The Blessing is different. She has a unique set of circumstances. Circumstances which I am wholly unfamiliar with. And it scares me. I read books about raising a child with Down syndrome and they all stress the fact that she is a baby first. “Treat her the same as you would a typical child,” they say. And that sounds great – it’s a relief, even. I can do typical children, therefore I can do The Blessing, too.

But in practice it is not so easy. My heart aches when she cries and my mind questions everything again. Like a first time mom who has no experience, I feel a little shaky. I worry with every diaper change, I watch for any sign of illness. I question if she is getting enough milk and will my supply be enough? I wonder if she sleeps too much. I wait for each developmental milestone with baited breath – will she roll over on her own? or will I have to help her learn that one? I pray that she will live, grow, and thrive. I am constantly aware of her weaknesses and constantly questioning myself and my abilities. Can I raise this child? Will she turn out okay? It’s almost like I am starting over.

On one hand, this is not so fun. I liked the confidence that I had with the later kids. When I wasn’t worried about a little diaper rash or wondering why the baby was crying again, I was free to enjoy the baby that much more. I was so relaxed and happy, knowing that they would walk and talk and run and develop at their own pace eventually becoming the adult they were meant to be. I like not sweating the small stuff.

On the other hand, it has been good for me to reevaluate my parenting. What kind of parent does this child need me to be? I get to learn about infant and child development from a whole new perspective. I am going to have to be proactive in helping her get to the places that my other kids got to on their own. My ideas will be challenged and my skills will be honed. I am going to have to become the mom that The Blessing needs, and that will be good for everyone.

So it is the same, but it is different.

And it is good.

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