I get it. Kids are special. But I’ve met some mamas on this kibbutz who I am pretty sure think their child is the Messiah. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I offer the following snippets of conversation as evidence:
1. “You should have seen what my son did yesterday! He pooped three times in the potty! Such strength, that one. Such endurance!”
2. “Look how Avinoam holds his crayon! He’s a genius!”
3. “My daughter, she ate potatoes!”
Some of these imas are young. Others, not so much. Some are new immigrants. Others come from families that trace their lineage in Israel to Judah the Maccabee. Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi–doesn’t matter. Some wear sweat pants. Others, skinny jeans.
But there is one thing these mom’s have in common: They all have one child.
When I had one child, I’m pretty sure that I may have thought my kid had messianic tendencies, too. After all, was there anyone else in the whole wide world that had poop as fragrant as my daughter’s? (Really! It smells like a mixture of yogurt and honey! See? Just give it a sniff? Come on!) Was there another baby who had learned how to pick his nose and eat his boogers by only seven months? (Pure genius!) Look! She laughed! (Call the newspaper!)
But within a week of bringing Little Homie home from the hospital and watching M. try to strangle him, it crossed my mind that maybeeeee she wasn’t perfect. And in fact, that dump she took in her diaper a few minutes later in fact smelled like… shit.
From my experience, it was a lot harder to obsess about my daughter after my son was born. And in fact, when my pregnant-for-the-second-time-around mama friends ask me what it’s like having two kids instead of one, I tell them the truth:
Ok, let me qualify that. The physical demands are draining. There is nothing like playing whac-a-mole with a colicky infant and sick toddler in the middle of the night to make you dizzy with exhaustion. But, psychologically it’s easier. Emotionally it’s easier. Because while all babies are different, you are more likely to realize this when you have a second or third or fourth kid, and take it all in stride.
At least that’s how it happened for me.
When M. didn’t walk until she was–gasp!–14 months, I called her pediatrician with daily updates (“She stood for 8.5 seconds, and sat down again! Do I need a referral for a physical therapist?”). And by the time she did start walking, I wanted to put bumper pads on her precious tush, lest she fall down. But when Little Homie didn’t walk until just shy of 15 months, we weren’t worried. Instead, we clapped and cheered and enjoyed the moment. When he fell down, we picked him up, kissed the bump on his knee and told him to keep on going. This isn’t because we love him less. It isn’t because he’s a boy and we’re giving into some misguided gender stereotype that boys should be rough and tumble. It’s because he’s the second, and we’ve come to the earth shattering conclusion that it takes more to break a baby than a bump on the butt.
Now, this isn’t to say that all parents of only children will see their kid as the harbinger of the Messianic age. Nor is this to say that parents with a softball team of kids will not see one as more special than the others. And of course, none of this is exclusive to the Kibbutz or Israel, or Jews in general. But I know this to be true: A second child helped me realize that I am the imperfect mama of imperfect children. And while I hope I am raising my children to be mentsches, in between the ups and downs, lost in the laundry list of things I’ve forgotten to do, I’ve reached a mental space (somewhere between Nervous Breakdown and Zen) where I take my kids–and myself–less seriously.