... I learned from my second child (with apologies to my firstborn).
Like all new parents, my husband, David, and I made sure that our first child, Conrad, had everything he needed.
1. Don't be such a boo-boo drama queen.
Watching Conrad play on a jungle gym was like listening to me do my best Howard Cosell impression: Careful up the steps. Okay, he's holding on to the railing. Waaatch out. It's slippery. Go down one step at a time. Ooh, he lost the railing. Ooh, his foot is dangling. Aah! He's down! My gasping and constant Are you all right? refrain made Conrad think he should be more hurt than he really was. He saw the fear in my eyes and got frightened himself. Now, at 7, when he takes a spill, no ice or ice cream can ease his pain and his china-doll attitude irks me. I know he'l live - why doesn't he? We're working on bucking up a bit. I vowed to be different with Dash. I silenced my gasp. I kept my distance and waited for the tears. Often enough I was busy chatting with another mom at the playground and didn't even notice Dash's incidental boo-boos. My indifference paid off: With every hysterics-free stumble, trip, or roll off a step, Dash got a fresh coat of tough-kid Teflon. In Dash's world, there is no extra attention to be had by sitting on the sidelines. He always gets back in the game, and his self-taught stamina is inspiring.
Gifts follow first children like fairy dust. I swore not to repeat this pattern with my second - enough already with the toys!
2. Happiness is a quick goodbye.
The only thing worse than being away from Conrad was saying bye-bye to him every morning before I left for work. He'd see me reach for my purse and toddle over, clutch my leg, and wail, Mommy, stay! My guilt would mount and a process that should take five minutes would drag on fora minimum of 40.1 was raised on a dramatic Italian goodbye, but when it comes to kids, lengthy farewells create unnecessary anxiety. The longer I stayed, the more he cried when it was finally time to go. I was killing him softly, and the best thing I could do was reduce our morning routine to two words: distract and disappear. My sitter, Mildred, would plop him in front of Elmo, and I'd sneak out. It was a solution, but it just made him suspicious and clingy.
When my maternity leave with Dash was ending, I knew I needed to come up with a better exit strategy. An enlightened friend suggested that I be honest, say goodbye, and let the kids see me leave. Be honest? I laughed in her face because that scenario scared me to death. But sneaking out wasn't working either, so I tried it. A week before work started, Mildred and I did practice runs. I looked my kids in the eye and said, Mommy is leaving to go to the doctor. Conrad cried, so Dash cried. I got snot on my shoulder during a blubbering hand-off, but by the time I got to the doctor's office and called home to check on them they were playing happily. Now, I tell it to them straight and make my exits as fast as pulling off a Band-Aid.