So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

First-time parents are the cutest, aren’t they? I sure was. With my first baby, I was the typical newbie to the world of motherhood. I worried about his every move, every minute of sleep (or no sleep), and how long he nursed and on which side. He was perfectly swaddled for every nap and bedtime and slept within inches of me for months. All poops, pees, and rashes were carefully diagnosed, inspected, discussed in graphic detail with my husband, in front of other people. Was this normal? What color was it? Was it runny or solid or somewhere in between?

And then, as he grew into a toddler and eventually entered kindergarten, my helicoptering really didn’t wane. I remember one morning rushing a water bottle to school because he forgot it at home. A water bottle. I can remember the front office manager’s face when I explained my reason for such a frenzied rush into the building. And I can probably guess what was going through her mind. 

I’m sure she had seen lots of parents just like me over the years—first timers. Naive. Worried. Thinking their kids would perish into dust without access to constant hydration all day long. Every breath, every moment I was awake (and asleep) was consumed with making sure that little boy was warm enough or cold enough or had a full belly or a good snack or enough sleep or wasn’t scared or had friends or knew his letters and how to wipe his butt and tie his shoes. 

Now, five years later, my third child is in kindergarten. And when I think of the type of parent I am to him, in comparison to my first, it sometimes looks like they had two different mothers.

My third child almost never brings a water bottle to school because he kept losing them. Shockingly, he has lived to tell the tale. 

And he even forgot his entire lunch the other day. Did I bring it to school for him? Nope. He ordered hot lunch instead that day, whether he liked the choices or not. 

When #3 has a belly ache, I often ask myself when was the last time he pooped? What has he eaten today? Because I honestly have no idea. 

The thing is, I don’t love my third baby any less than kids #1 or #2. I’m just more seasoned. That green, newbie mom of 10 years ago has learned a thing or two. Like, for example, my kids are tougher than I thought. And by letting them go a day without gloves, for example, and having cold hands, I’m teaching them to be more responsible and pack appropriately for the weather. And if my son really does want to have a water bottle on his desk, he needs to remember to fill one up and bring it home. Or else he can just use the water fountain like kids did for generations and turned out just fine. 

But I sometimes worry that my 3rd child will find out all that I did for his older siblings and think I do love him less—when, in actually, I just know that he can do more. (Also, by child #3, I ran out of hands and arms, so there’s that too.)

Mostly, however, it’s just the learning curve of motherhood that’s brought me to where I am today. I am sure that today, I do more for my 10-year-old (my oldest) than I’ll do for my last when he turns 10. Because by then, I’ll know what 10-year-olds can actually handle. My first pancake kid, my guinea pig child, the one who teaches me how to be a parent at each new stage, gets a mom who doesn’t quite know the drill yet. 

My last child gets a mom with a couple rodeos under her belt. He gets a mom who might be a few minutes late to pick him up, but who knows he’ll be fine waiting at the front door of school after basketball practice.

My first child had a mom who made herself close to crazy with worry about his nutrition—he had to have a cup of milk, protein, and a vegetable at dinner every night! 

#3? Well, between his older sister’s gymnastics and his older brother’s tennis lessons and his basketball games, that kid is lucky if I toss a few chicken nuggets at him in the backseat. 

My first (and probably second) were never allowed to go out in the winter without a coat, hat, gloves, boots, back-up gloves . . . 

#3 often hops in the car in a just a hoodie on a 30-degree day. And his mom says, “Meh. Whatever,” hops in the driver’s seat and pulls out of the driveway.

I followed my first child to the top of the playground and encircled him in an endless safety net, always free of danger and the potential for bumps and bruises.

#3 tore across my yard on a dirt bike the other day. I didn’t bat an eye. 

#1 had a strict bedtime. Lights were out at eight on the dot. Screen exposure was limited to Thomas the Train and Paw Patrol. And he may have had one cookie for a sugary snack—only after eating a complete dinner. And only between the hours of 5:00-6:30 so the sugar wouldn’t “keep him up”.

My third watched Transformers (rated PG-13) last Friday night until 10 p.m. and fell asleep covered in Skittles.

Do I not care about his nutrition? Or his overall health and need for sleep? Or his exposure to the occasional swear word? Of course I do. I just know that if he does stay up past 8:00 once in a while, and if he does have more sugar than I deem necessary, that he’ll be OK. The PG-13 movies? Well, that’s just the product of being the third kid.

So yeah, nowadays when my kids go tearing across the street to catch the bus, sometimes my five-year-old has a hat. Sometimes not. Sometimes I helped him pick out his clothes. Sometimes I have no idea what concoction of pants and shirt he’s wearing. Sometimes he brushes his teeth for two full minutes and flosses. Other times I wince at his breath when he kisses me goodbye.

I know that he’s OK. He’s the toughest of my kids. After never having a real bedtime and taking all of his naps in the car or at the park and breastfeeding in the back seat most of the time, he’s the least high-maintenance. 

I don’t stress if he doesn’t eat his dinner. Or if he’s overdue for a bath (sorry, teachers). Or if he forgets an extra layer and it’s chilly out. 

I’ve seen that child deal with being a little hungry, stinky, tired, and cold. And he usually (not always, because kids, but more often that not) happily plays right through it, eventually falling asleep on the couch or in the car, and gets carried up to bed by mom or dad. 

Dear third child, it’s not that I love you less. I love you just as much as your siblings. (Sometimes a tiny bit more because you’re my baby. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone.) I’m proud of the little boy you’re becoming. Because of parenting your brother and sister, I know that you can handle things. I know you’ll be OK if you have to face a challenge. And now that I’m a mom who’s a bit more seasoned, I know that the world won’t end if you haven’t eaten a vegetable in a few days. (But because I love you so much, I’ll probably keep trying.)

You may also like: 

Dear Daughter, Do Not Be Perfect

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here!

Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson is a freelance writer who is known on social media as The 21st Century SAHM. She is an assistant editor at Sammiches and Psych Meds, staff writer and social media manager for Scary Mommy, and is the author of I Brushed My Hair Today, A Mom Journal for Mostly Together Moms. Follow Karen on Facebook, Twitter , and Instagram

There’s Just Something about a 4-Year-Old

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
4 year old girl smiling outside

There’s just something about a 4-year-old. The way their bubbly laughs and sweet little faces still have some traces of babyhood while they’re transforming into more and more of their own unique person right before your eyes.  The way they ask questions about everything under the sun, listen wide-eyed to your clumsy answers, and believe every single word you say. It’s so innocent (and scary) the way they believe absolutely anything you tell them—just because you’re “mommy.”  The way their still-a-little-chubby hand finds yours. And the way they still come running to you for a hug and kiss when they’re hurt. Or...

Keep Reading

Dear Preschool Teachers, I’m Going to Miss You So Much

In: Child, Motherhood
preschool teacher sitting with kids on her lap

Dear preschool teachers, There’s just no other way to say this— I’m going to miss you so much. You are the first adults outside of our family to spend your days with my children, and watching your relationships grow and develop this year has been the most bittersweet privilege. I’m going to miss the bright smiles that light up your faces every time my kids come bounding toward you on good days, and how tenderly you hold their little hands and guide them away from me on the tough ones. RELATED: Dear Preschool Graduate, I’m So Proud of You I’m...

Keep Reading

You’re Graduating From Kindergarten and the First Part of Your Life

In: Child, Motherhood
Mother, father, and little boy in graduation gown, color photo

To my little graduate:  I’m so proud of you. I used to think graduation ceremonies at this age were just a cute, end-of-the-year celebration. Now I see how much they really represent. I watched you in amazement this year. I saw all of your hard work. Not just academically but socially and emotionally as well. You learned to make friends without me there. You learned how to make your place in the world. You have learned to deal with disappointment, stand up for yourself, and the awkwardness of not being friends with everyone. You dealt with teasing because of your...

Keep Reading

He’s Outgrowing My Lap But He’ll Never Outgrow My Heart

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood

He’s five now—my baby, the third of my three children. I feel like I’ve taken the time to enjoy each stage, but no matter how much I try to savor, it still seems to go too fast. Like grains of sand slipping through my fingers—if I try to hold on too tightly, the years just seem to escape faster. We were sitting in church this morning. He had asked to sit in church with mom and dad instead of going to children’s Sunday school. And we let him. He’s gone from a squirmy toddler to a little boy who can...

Keep Reading

Dear Son, Don’t Ever Lose Your Helping Heart

In: Child, Kids
Young boy carrying two gallons of milk, color photo

When you carried two gallons of milk on our way out the door at Aldi, I smiled. You insisted to take them from my hands. You’re growing out of your shoes and shirts, and my prayer has always been that you’ll reach your full potential as a young boy growing into a young man.  You’ve always had a drive inside you that is seen big on the soccer field, and I pray you’ll always desire to work hard and serve strong wherever you are. RELATED: Let Us Raise Boys Who Have Respect Running Through Their Veins I pray you’ll work...

Keep Reading

9 is Changing Right Before My Eyes

In: Child, Tween
Girl sitting in car holding stuffed animal, color photo

“You are officially tall enough to ride without a booster seat,” our pediatrician tells my daughter after reviewing her measurements. It was her 9-year check-up, and she’d grown three inches in a year, landing at the 96th percentile for her age. She’d likely been tall enough for months, but I insisted we wait for her doctor’s confirmation, comforted by the imminent discussion on sitting safely sans booster. My girl gleefully melts into the car’s fabric and buckles her seatbelt, flashing a smile that showcases an assortment of adult and baby teeth. Reality hits me like an airbag in the face:...

Keep Reading

Goodbye To the Preschool Years

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Mother smiling with giggling preschool daughter, color photo

For me, personally, I feel as though this is the first gut-wrenching string I’m letting go of with my little girl.  Although when she started preschool I felt nervous and I missed her like mad, I knew I still had two weekdays with her as well as the weekend. It has been perfect—freedom and growth while at preschool—but still time for us.  School is on the horizon. The year of starting school has come quicker than I was prepared for. It has literally flashed before my eyes.  I have spent every day with my girls since they were born. Every...

Keep Reading

Don’t Ever Lose Your Sparkle, My Child

In: Child, Motherhood
Smiling little girl

I wish I could freeze this time, right where we are now. Right in this moment. Nothing is more bittersweet than seeing you grow.  People say time flies, and I didn’t really know how much it did fly until I had you. Until I held you in my arms for the very first time.  Since then, I have watched a little girl grow, right before my eyes. I watched her first steps. I heard her first words. I wiped her first tears. I held her hand the very first time. She grew. She keeps on growing. I see her smile...

Keep Reading

Dear Son, Will I Know You Tomorrow?

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Smiling boy

When you were a newborn, I knew you as well as it’s possible to know another human being. I was your everything; you were mine. I knew what each cry, each smile, each grasp intended. I anticipated your spit-up, your hunger, your fatigue. You grew into infancy, and we remained nearly as intimate: your laughs, your budding motor skills, and your newfound interest in toys were my complete delight. I was there with my camera to document the first time you sat up and played with toys on your own. I knew every single food you had eaten and its...

Keep Reading

Down Syndrome Does Not Define Her

In: Child, Motherhood
Infant in hospital bed, smiling, color photo

Riley’s story starts April 23, 2019. We had opted to get the 3-month scan and NIPT test with our third pregnancy just for the extra ultrasound. The tech brought in the maternal fetal medicine doctor, and he pointed out that there was an increased nuchal translucency measurement and that it was common with different trisomies. He suggested we have the materNit21 test to see which specific trisomy we were at high risk for. We opted for it. I got the call a few days later that the baby was at high risk for trisomy 21, otherwise known as Down syndrome....

Keep Reading

5 Secrets to the

BEST Summer Ever!


Creating simple summer memories

with your kids that will  last a lifetime