People generally believe that once you've been a parent, you become an expert for life in all things parenting. Not true. I believe there should be a refresher course with every new child, especially if there's been a gap of more than two and a half years since the last one.
And there's another truth I've discovered – just because you raised one child in a particular way doesn't necessarily mean you will have success raising the rest in the same way. You could force it, but things might not end up the way you expect.
My older kids are constantly pointing out that hubby and I allow our youngest to do stuff they could never get away with when they were younger. One of the reasons for this is because I realised early that using recycled parenting methods on her was an exercise in futility because she is a creative (of the painting, drawing variety) and comes with a very different temperament from the other two.
There is also the fact that parents mellow as they grow older. Ever wonder why last-borns are so spoiled? It's because parents use all their energy trying to get it right with the first born. When the second child comes along, usually close on the heels of the first one, they muster up what energy is left to correct the things they didn't quite get right with their oldest.
Then the third-born comes along by which time parents are running on what is left in the reserve tanks, but still trying to make the best of things. After all, we all want glowing tributes from our beloved children on Mother's and Father's Day, right?
By the time 'Baby' finally arrives, the parents are simply exhausted. They have absolutely nothing left, which is why so many older kids are tasked with the job of raising their younger siblings!
And if 'Baby' is one of those unexpected packages that come after many years, any atom of parenting energy you might have left is spent on overcoming the surprise and preparing for it. The result is last-borns who are allowed to have ice cream for dinner and carrot sticks dipped in yoghurt for breakfast, yet their older brothers and sisters absolutely had to have good, body-building foods like pumpkin mash and beans or arrow roots and milk. Who said life was fair?
So yes, there are a few things here and there that hubby and I have allowed to slide with the last born because the energy from our younger parenting days simply isn't there... And yes, he still refers to the now 13-year-old young lady as 'Baby'.
Back to the refresher course all parents need but few take. A couple of years ago there was a family event at my mum's house and we all turned up with her grandkids in tow. One of my younger brothers had a toddler at the time and his wife sent him ahead with the baby and requisite baby bag. She would follow later.
After about an hour and a half of hanging out, it occurred to me that the little boy might need a change and so I asked his dad if he had extra diapers. He handed me the bag (with a look of relief) and off I went to change my nephew's diaper, not giving the task ahead any thought. After all, how many times had I – seasoned parent that I am – changed baby diapers? As it turned out, I was beyond rusty; I just didn't know it.
In between trying to get the child to lie still and trying to remember how diapers work (my youngest was 11 years old at the time), I finally got the job done.
But something didn't look right and I couldn't tell what it was. I looked and looked at the diaper... and then I got it – I had put it on back to front! Yet this was something I had done countless times when my kids were babies; in fact, it was a job I could have done with my eyes closed back in the day!
So I had to start all over again. More wailing and wiggling and flying lower limbs until finally, I had the fresh diaper on the right way. Something that should have taken three minutes had lasted a good 20.
When I got back to the others and shared what had happened, my story was greeted with hoots of laughter as my older sister said I was very brave to even consider going back down that road.
After that experience, I think I can safely put my baby parenting days behind me and look forward to the days when, as a doting grandmother, my only responsibility will be to thoroughly spoil any kids I come across.