01/21/2015 02:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

In Defense of Empty Baby Books

I have a secret for all you kids, young and old, whose baby books are basically empty. It's for the middle children whose parents can never remember your first word or when you started walking. It's for the babies of the family who don't have any photos of themselves before age 5. Basically, this is for anyone who wasn't born first.

While it might seem unfair that your parents didn't document your infancy the way they did your older sibling's, here's the dirty little sibling secret: They enjoyed yours more.

My son Evan is 3 months old, a fact that my laptop's hard drive finds darn near impossible to believe. By this time in his older brother Kostyn's infancy, the ol' Mac's memory was bloated with photos and video clips of my first child doing nothing more than staring wide-eyed at the flash or wiggling his limbs involuntarily. I had folders of photos categorized by weeks. "Kostyn's 3rd week." "Kostyn - Week 5." How long I thought I'd keep up that charade, I've no idea. We also took monthly notes for his baby book documenting his tiniest developments, and wrote long, flowery letters to him every week in his baby journal. (Oh yes. There was a baby journal.)

Evan's first three months have been, to put it delicately, not documented quite so diligently. I've written in his baby journal (which I bought out of sheer guilt) a grand total of three times, and two of those entries were penned when I was still pregnant. I have one specially named photo folder for him on my desktop: "Evan's first week." Nothing after that is labeled. I've cracked his baby book open exactly twice -- once so the nurses could put his footprint on the appropriate page, and once in an attempt to start answering such important details as "My Mommy's name is...." Admittedly, I didn't even get far with that endeavor.

When I think about all that, I naturally feel a little guilty. But then I realize that I am experiencing Evan's first months in an entirely different way than I experienced Kostyn's. And not just a busier, more distracted way, what with having two butts to wipe and two mouths to feed and a toddler running around chattering nonstop.

Nope, it's a better way. (Shhhhh.) And I ain't puttin' that in no baby book.

Things are different this time because I am different. There are no first-time mom jitters hampering me from relaxing while I'm holding the baby. There's much less second-guessing about my parenting style, which allows me to just do what feels right and to hell with those on the opposite side of the spectrum. And there's even a neat little reserve of infant-related information in my head, which translates to way fewer trips to Google to obsess about the color and consistency of infant poop.

From day one with Evan, my arms knew how to hold a baby. My body knew how to soothe a fussy newborn. I hadn't just read about the "5 S's" -- I'd lived them. I was better at swaddling him and burping him and even clipping his tiny fingernails.

I'm also more relaxed about the bad times. When he's having a meltdown, I know that sometimes babies just melt down. I know that it is not my personal failing as a mother if I can't quiet him in the first three minutes. And just as babies sense a mother's tension, they also sense a mother's calm, which I'm sure is a big part of why Evan cries so much less often than Kostyn did.

Because of all that, I live in the moment more with baby Evan than I ever did with baby Kostyn. My perspective on time has shifted, too, as I see the example -- running around my dining room table every day -- of how quickly the next day and the next year come bounding toward me. Those little onesies give way to big boy T-shirts in the blink of an eye.

I know I'll have some explaining to do someday, when Evan stumbles upon Kostyn's baby journal and realizes we wrote so much more to his big brother than we did to him. In my defense, I'll say that instead of being jealous of Kostyn, Evan should be thankful for him. Kostyn broke me in as a mom. He worked hard to get my arms just right for rocking and my lap just right for reading. He helped me memorize all the lullabies that I would eventually sing to Evan. He taught me a lot, as a good big brother should, about how to care for his little brother.

I'll tell Evan that in these early months I didn't have much free time, and I didn't want to squander it scrapbooking and journal-writing. Instead, I spent every second I could basking in his tiny smile, inhaling that intoxicating baby scent coming from the top of his head, and generally enjoying him as he enjoyed me. He's a happy guy, and I'm a happy mom. Baby books be damned.


This post was originally published on Holding the Strings.

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