I frequently find myself asking David "Did the other ones do this?" in regards to something Terza is doing. Half the time, the behavior in question is delightful and awe-inspiring:
"Did the other ones talk this early?" I'll ask.
"Did they sing like this? Like Star-Search-material?"
"Did they climb this quickly?"
Other times, I'm asking because Terza's developed some undesirable bit of behavior and I'm wondering if it's the sort of thing that self-corects or needs to be actively addressed.
"Were they this picky?"
"Was it this hard to put a diaper on them?"
"Did their shit stink this bad?"
"Did they hate the stroller like this?"
And the rest of the time I'm asking because the baby has taken to doing something so terrifically unpleasant, so abomidable that I am considering contracting a professional -- a baby whisperer, a Super Nanny, an exorcist -- to rectify things.
"Did they throw food in our faces, spitefully, like this?"
"Were they this clingy?"
"Did they bite at this age?"
"Did they have this bloodcurdling horror-movie scream set on repeat-play, too?"
They are, of course, worthless questions. I don't know what I seek to gain from them. Whether or not any of my other progeny exhibited the same marvelous, or horrific behavior wouldn't make Terza's any easier to tolerate or any less spectacular.
Plus, as I've learned from reading Siblings WIthout Rivalry no less than four times, you're never supposed to compare your kids. That is the Number One Golden Rule of Parenting Multiple Kids, or at least, it's the biggie nowadays. In the 1970s and 80s when I was a little kid, this rule hadn't yet been invented. Ether that or my parents hadn't read any parenting books. Whatever the reason, I spent my entire childhood, and my adulthood too, being compared to my sisters, in every possible way -- in terms of looks, grades, behavior, friends, dating, everything. They were compared to me too, and we all had turns being the "good" one and the "shitty" one. Often all three of us were the shitty ones and the good one belonged to another family. Regardless, we made it through with self esteem and a sense of soriorty intact. Of course, I like to think I aspire to a slightly more, umm, let's go with "nuanced" style of parenting than that of my own parents.
So, I'm prohibiting myself from the "did the others do this?" questions. Still, I wish I'd jotted down notes about the early years of the big kids, not just about the milestones but about the weird idiosyncratic stuff, especially the miserable habits; wish I'd scribbled it all into one of those baby books that a busy parent never has time to crack open. Either that, or kept a parenting blog. You know, a funny blog full of diverting anecdotes about my children's peccadillos. What? I HAVE that? I better hit the archives.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.