Don't Wait Until Your Second Kid Comes Along to Learn to Trust Your Gut

The other day a dad-friend of ours confided that his two-year-old still drinks milk from a bottle. “Everything else is an open cup but milk. Whatever. We didn’t push it. I guess that’s our fault.” I admired his casual attitude and chalked it up to the fact that the toddler is his second child. Second children are the beneficiaries of a lot of lessons learned, including one of the most important ones: Whatever “it” is, your kid will grow out of it sooner or later.

For example, contrary to expert advice, your child will not be living at home at the age of 35 if you let him suck on a bottle past the age of 12 months. Also, chances are your teenager will not be sleeping in bed with you if you let him cuddle up at the age of two. And, despite the advice to stick to pacifiers, your determined toddler will find his thumb once the binky has hit the bin whether your doctor likes it or not.

In fact, speaking of the contradicting opinions of experts, second-time parents have learned that you’ll always get the textbook answer to any question, even if that answer conflicts with another answer you were just given. Case in point: Stop cuddling your newborn. Just put that little warm bundle of love down and let him go to sleep! Okay, fair enough. So, I start sleep-training day one, then? No! Don’t sleep -train until they’re four months old! Wait. What? So if I put my newborn down and he cries, I’m supposed to cuddle him? But you just said not to. Cue new parent panic: I’m ruining my child!

The second-time parent response is best exemplified by a mom-friend: “Changed, fed and in bed on his tummy,” she answered matter-of-factly to my familiar “how’s the baby sleeping” question. What about all that pediatric back-is-best advice? “I spent six months trying to get my first to sleep on his back only to listen to him wail all night. When I got over the fear, gave in and put him on his tummy we all finally got some sleep. Lesson learned.”

Other things second-time parents tend to be a lot cooler about include weird sleep habits, “Oh goodie, this one sounds like a nuclear power plant instead of a barnyard,” the inability to nap, “you can snooze in the car while I take your sister to story time,” and even the unwillingness to potty train. The best conversation I heard this past weekend was between a friend of ours and his soon-to-be 3-year-old:

Dad: Are you going to use the potty?

Son: Yes.

Dad: You’re actually going to sit on the potty and go?

Son: Yes.

Dad: Are you lying to me?

Son: Yes.

Dad: Okay, at least you’re honest about that.

Turns out they had to threaten their oldest with not being able to go to preschool unless she used the potty. It worked for her, so something will work for their son, too. If the first child teaches you not to panic when life goes against the experts, they also teach you that you’re an expert at getting your kids where they need to be. Which makes me wonder why more people aren’t having more than one child. It’s the chance to go from freshman to senior year in the blink of a sleepy eye.