Reflections on a year

My baby girl turns one today. She’s able to stand on her own, and is figuring out the walking thing. She took a step and a half on her own yesterday. It’s also really cute to watch her big brother hold onto her hands and help her walk — and much more comfortable for my back than leaning over myself! She’s got a few words and a great laugh. She’s changed so much from when we welcomed her home a year ago.

Her first birthday also marks the end of my first year of being a mother of three. I have a few observations on year one of having a brood:

1. I still maintain that going from 0 to 1 is harder than going from 1 to 2 or 2 to 3 (or 6 to 7). People who claim going from 2 to 3 is hardest are falling into the present bias fallacy, thinking that how they think now is how they always experienced things. When you have three kids, toting around only one seems easy. But one was the lifestyle change. By the time you’re adding the third, your life revolves around kids anyway.

2. As for that line on switching from man-to-man to zone defense? The people who utter this are probably not the primary parent spending time with the kids. A parent taking care of two kids has already figured out zone defense. It’s only the parent who always has a partner around when he/she is with the kids who thinks three is the big change.

3. Kids are different. My older two kids never went to bed early. The baby goes down earlier than the boys ever did, but they all seem to be thriving.

4. I haven’t seen much in the way of inherent gender differences, though, when looking at toy choices or anything else. My daughter loves cars and trains, most likely because she sees her brothers playing with them, and she thinks her brothers are awesome.

5. I am reminded, again, of how silly the statement is that having full-time childcare amounts to having someone else raise your children. There was a day last week where I was up at 5 with the baby, hung out with her (and then the other kids) until 9, worked from 9 to 5, then was dealing with kids again from 5-9 pm. If you have 45 hours of childcare a week, why are the other 123 hours per week considered irrelevant?

6. I have had to be very aware of my hours at times, and conscious of how I use them. But this has been an amazing year. I’m enjoying having this spunky little girl along for the ride.

In other news:

I have a column in today’s USA Today called Backyards are Over-rated, based on the CELF study from UCLA I’ve written about here a few times.

19 thoughts on “Reflections on a year

  1. Happy birthday, Ruth!! As a parent of 3 kids myself, I agree with many of the points you’ve noted, except perhaps #4. I do find that my daughter, who is my middle one, has inherent gender differences from my boys. It really started showing up at around age 2, so maybe you haven’t seen it yet.

    Enjoy all 3 of them – lots of work but so worth it!!!

  2. YES about the adjustment from 0 to 1 being the hardest.

    The first six months of Joshua’s life were very, very hard for me and my husband. I look back at that time and it feels sort of like there was a dark cloud over us and I wasn’t sure things were ever going to get better. The first baby is a HUGE adjustment, especially if that baby is high-maintenance, and he was.

    I was much more sane when I had my fourth baby, even though I also had a 2 year old, 5 year old, and 7 year old to deal with. It doesn’t make any logical sense, but it’s totally true.

    1. @Kristen – it makes sense. First for sheer logistics: the 5-year-old and 7-year-old would be starting to be more self-sufficient. For that reason going from 3 to 4 may be easier than 2 to 3 (or 1 to 2) because you’re more likely to have at least one older kid 🙂

      But yes, the first months of a first child’s life are a huge adjustment. You go from being able to leave the house whenever you want to do whatever to being completely accountable for your time. It’s a very different mindset.

  3. Oh, I have to add on the gender differences…my sister has 4 boys and 1 girl (the order is b, b, b, g, b,), and that little girl, despite living in a very rough and tumble house full of cars and trains, is the girliest little girl I’ve ever met, though she’s not even two yet. She’s so into shoe shopping, she cries at leaving the store, she turns everything into a purse, and she thinks she’s died and gone to heaven when she comes over to play with my girls’ toys. It really amazes me how different she is than her brothers.

    1. This gender thing would make a great post all by itself… Having had kids — one of each gender — has really showed me that we all have a masculine and a feminine side whether we are biologically male or female and this has helped me a lot in how I see myself and also how I relate to others. Clearly there are some things that are innate and biologically driven for example by say levels of testosterone but I do think both gender kids benefit from being exposed to both aspects of both genders and that is why in a perfect world both mother and father would parent equally and kids wouldn’t be raised without fathers etc. I think it is very rewarding to foster both the male and femaleness in ourselves and in our children and in our adult interactions and I think parenthood gives you a unique view into this as you see an individual from their very beginnings as they develop.

      1. Also think that gender as a social construct like anything puts us all on a contin so that some men like getting manicures or are more “girly” and some women are more athletic, tom boy etc. Not sure if it is nature or nurture or both but it can be a fun thing to play with and to be
        taught to enjoy and adjust based on the situation. You wouldn’t want your daughter going to her prom or a job interview “ugly” or too masculine for her to succeed but I do want mine for example to be in touch with that side of herself so some days for example she does not want to brush her hair I say fine. For example I stress to my girl that sweat and getting dirty are good as I want my boy to be sensitive and in touch with his feelings even though he loves balls and trucks.
        There is a lot of interesting stuff on here about Oct 5th and age and gender of adult affecting child’s birthdate that I just did not know, so I found this post informative !

  4. Statements about innate gender differences bug the crap out of me. Pink used to be a boy’s color. When kids start getting “gender awareness” they start mimicking their own gender. That’s nurture, not nature.
    In my family, being a girl means something different than it does in mainstream society. (Partly it means being bossy, ambitious, forthright, etc.) So for every stereotype about girls, my family produces only counter-examples. Similarly for boys– we produce quiet, well-behaved, emotionally sensitive gentlemen (who then marry women who act like their sisters). Daycare providers stop making the “all-boy” comment somewhere around age 2 (a comment which also bugs me, because I can’t tell any difference in rambunctiousness between the girls and boys in the early toddler rooms). It irritates me that somehow I’m less of a woman because I don’t conform and never conformed to the girly-girl stereotypes, not that I would want to (because obviously if I wanted to, I would have).
    There are some very neat psychology experiments about self-fulfilling prophecies when it comes to gender differences. My favorite is when they show the same tape of the same child to different people with the only difference is they tell the subjects the child is a boy or a girl. When it’s a crying girl infant, she’s sad, when a boy infant, he’s angry. Even though it’s the same video clip.

    1. You can’t tell the difference between boys and girls in the toddler room? There must be something in the water where you live, because I can definitely tell a difference!!

      Until I had children, I always believed it was totally nurture, now I know that there is an element of nature as well. Not true for all, but for most, in my opinion. It’s just that when boys or girls start showing those inherent tendencies, we jump on them and reinforce them, which is where the nurture part comes in.

      1. Not in terms of rambunctiousness. If anything, the girls at our Montessori are more wild. My son wasn’t the only male little sweetheart in the toddler room and there was more than one strong little girl.
        I recommend reading “Why so slow” by psychologist Virginia Valian… it very clearly traces how what we think of as nature is nurture from hour 1. “Failing at Fairness” is another great book at showing how teachers consistently reinforce gender stereotypes in behavior. Possibly the most damning evidence for your hypothesis is that over time as gender norms change, what gets reinforced changes. Being a girly girl for example– men used to wear pink and lace and pay much more attention to their appearance.
        Again, when people are shown *the exact same video* what they see differs by what gender they think they’re watching.

        1. And as a note, that doesn’t mean that kids don’t have different personalities. Of course they do. Just that a lot of what people attribute to gender differences can be overwhelmingly demonstrated to be induced by nurture.
          There’s actual evidence on such things using treatment/control set-ups and everything. I know that’s much less convincing than having a boy and a girl and noting that the girl likes to wear pink and lace and the boy likes to play with trucks (even when other people who have children of different genders find that the girls also prefer trucks– who wouldn’t?). Interestingly, I just reviewed a paper that showed that people who think they’re unbiased are actually more likely to discriminate in hiring situations than people who admit they are biased.

          1. @NicoleandMaggie – We have had a lot of people in and out of the house over the last 10 days. No one comments when my boys push around my daughter’s doll stroller. No one comments when she goes after the cars and trains. When she rocks a baby, however, we notice it more — how sweet and maternal she’s being. It does not take long for a child to be aware of what adults respond excitedly to. I do not doubt that there are some natural differences between men and women. Why wouldn’t there be? But I’m also aware of how cultural norms and stereotypes matter, too. Wasn’t there some study (you probably have the cite!) where young Asian women, when reminded that they were female, did worse on math tests, but when reminded they were Asian, did better?

          2. I think daycare is a HUGE contributor to the “nurture” part of this gender thing, too. Even in the young toddler room (1-2) I’d notice the teachers making gender-specific comments and handing T “girl” toys more often, etc. Her assigned water bottle was pink, the stickers they gave her were princesses, etc. and the boys got dinos/Cars, etc.

            I’m not into those things, but with daycare I chose my battles (would rather they get things with her allergy right than worry about stickers.)

          3. @Laura
            Yes, there are many studies showing various versions of that (many of which are summarized in Why So Slow). It’s called “stereotype threat.” (It’s why sexist and racist jerks like that Bostonian guy on the Davidson gifted forums are such a threat and can’t just be ignored.)
            Part of the reason DC1 may be not as stereotypical is because the daycare director is an expert in child development and trains the teachers to allow boys to nurture their feminine sides without comment (so they get to dress up as princesses, for example) and girls their masculine sides. Still, she can’t control everything so we hear “all boy” and “girly girl” comments quite a bit, except not about our son after a certain age.

  5. My baby turned 12 today. I saw a fb post from a former colleague about her baby tuning 1 . October 5 is the most common birthdate of the year. And anecodotally I would guess October to be the most common month. Going from 2 to 3 was way easier than going from 0 to 1 or 2 to 3 partially because I did notice gender (or individual personality of course) differences between the girl after 2 boys. I was shocked that I could hold her on my lap in quiet places for any amount of time; she was much more wiling to sleep; much more cooperative in feeding, bathing, dressing, getting in to car seat. Although we have yet come into the rockiest years of adolescence with her, I suspect that will go more smoothly with the girl too. There is also the parental experience factor, which is huge.

    1. @Judy- funny on October 5. I would imagine that late Sept/early Oct would be common because it’s 9 months after Christmas/New Year’s. People are relaxed, have more time to spend with their partners, and one thing leads to another. We apparently celebrated two holiday seasons that way as our two youngest kids have birthdays during the busy season. No traffic at the hospital for the baby girl, but when I had Sam three years ago, NYU hospital was booked up. They turned me away for scheduled induction, not once but twice. People were practically giving birth in the hallway.

  6. Happy birthday to your baby girl. Our younger has the same birthday, and I also heard it was the “most popular birthday”. There were tons of birthdays these past two weeks, for sure. For us it was more about trying for #2 right after #1 turned 1 (during the holidays) then about “being more relaxed”.
    I definitely agree with going from 0 to 1 being harder than 1 to 2. I can’t comment on the 2 to 3 (yet, or probably, ever), but I believe it. And I also agree that both girls & boys will have elements of typical “girl” and “boy” preferences—just that we quickly latch on to the gender-fitting ones and declare them “all boy” or “girly girl”…whereas the opposite-gender traits get downplayed (whether purposefully or not).

    1. @Ana- Happy birthday to your little one as well! All things being equal, I’d prefer spring birthdays (May birthdays correspond to August vacation conceptions) but one can’t always time these things.

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