Having your first baby is exciting. It's new and it's amazing and the change from being childless to parenthood is probably the biggest transition of many people's lives. Also you buy a lot of stupid crap that you don't need, like weird baby swings and matching crib linens and tons and tons of size 0-3 month onesies that get worn approximately one and a half times before being outgrown or irreparably soiled.
Your second baby is exciting too, in a different way. It's the idea of having kids, plural. The prospect of giving your first child a sibling. Most of the hand-me-downs are still around and none the worse for wear yet, and there's the newness and challenge of having not one, but two kids to divide your attention and time. I remember right before Mack was born, and dealing with Cal, who as we all know is a lovely boy but at three years old he was THE WORST--thinking, "I can barely deal with raising one, how can I possibly handle having two of these monstrosities around?"
When you get pregnant with your third kid, it's a little different. It feels like eyeing a big building project, analyzing the time and cost and supplies and labor (ho ho), frowning, making notes, then nodding and mentally slapping your cheeks with your hands, saying, "OK, I guess we can do this again." And this is not to take any of the happiness or romance out of the equation--certainly it doesn't need to be said that we love our children and baby children are a particular brand of adorable, like sweet, smushy little pillows that don't know how to argue with you yet--but it's all a little more grounded in reality this time around. Here's what we need to do. Here's what we need to get. Here's what we need to worry about now, and here's what we need to think about later. The fact that we'd already given away all (and I mean ALL) of the boy's baby stuff to Goodwill this spring certainly sets the stage for our mindset a little bit when we found out that we were in for Thing 3, but I can't say it's been a terribly difficult adjustment once we settled into the idea. What? We're what? So we're going to do this now? AGAIN? Fine. I mean, good. That's cool, let's do this. OK. OK.
Besides, we like babies.
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We told the kids last weekend. We debated back and forth about the perfect time, and decided that we'd wait until the results of the nuchal lucency and first trimester sequential screening (is that what it's called? OB-types, help me out here) came back clean before burdening their little heads with the foreknowledge of impending competition for the throne. That night, we bought a bottle of sparkling grape juice, poured out some for everyone, and told the boys that we were having a little celebration.
"For MLK's birthday?" asked Cal.
Well, no, not exactly, we explained. And after talking a little bit about FAMILY and FEELINGS and how LUCKY WE ALL ARE to have each other, we showed Cal the ultrasound photo and asked him what he thought it looked like.
He held the picture up, cocked his head, squinted a little bit.
"A rock?" he suggested.
"ROCKS!" said Mack agreeably, downing the rest of his sparkling grape juice and then reaching for the rest of the bottle.
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Thanks for all your input about Cal and school, by the way. I can't say it makes the decision any easier, but more perspective is always good, I think. As for some of the clarifying particulars, I'll go into them here: we really like the school he's at. He's at a public school now, but it's an excellent public school in a fantastic school district (it is, indeed, the reason we moved to this neighborhood in the first place) and we actually like it quite a bit better than the private school he'd been attending the the three years prior. The teachers are excellent and the resources are very good, and we are not looking at changing schools at this moment. They do have a "gifted" program that Cal has already tested for--this discussion about what grade he's going into next year is actually distinct from that program, which I believe is offered as an "enrichment" curriculum for those kids who test into it, not an entirely separate, self-enclosed class.
We had floated the idea in the fall of Cal doing at least his math, and possibly also his reading curriculum with the class above his own, but this was problematic for several reasons. First of all, it seemed disruptive. Cal really bonded with his first grade teacher, and we really wanted him to make some friends in his class--he's never been the kind of kid that easily and immediately has five best friends wherever he goes. Pulling him out of his class once or twice a day not only seemed counterproductive to some of the social aspects of schooling, but also would have undoubtedly made Cal extremely self-conscious--he's not the kind of kid that likes a lot of attention being drawn to him. The other thing that would make this kind of "partial advancement" difficult is that ours is a very big school district--big enough that, a few years ago, they split up the elementary school into two separate campuses. Kindergarden, 1st and 2nd grade are all on the "primary" campus, where Cal is now, whereas 3rd, 4th and 5th grade are at the "intermediate" campus about half a mile away. "What's going to happen to Cal after first grade if he's already done with second grade math?" one of the school administrators brought up. "When he's in second grade, he can't very well get on the bus to go to the intermediate campus for third grade math every day." So there's a logistic, geographic issue there as well.
I think there are arguments for both sides, and I also don't think that what held true for me or Joe or other people will necessarily hold true for Cal, so it's really quite a difficult decision, as a parent, to make. Joe and I have gone back and forth whether we should involve Cal himself in this process, but the fact of it is that Cal doesn't like the idea of change, any kind of change, at all, and will stress about it incessantly, whereas once the decision has already been made and presented to him as a matter of course, he often will adapt to the situation seamlessly. (Par exemple: we wanted Cal to have an afterschool activity, and we figured he would like karate class. "Why do I have to do that?" he wailed, teary-eyed, when we told him. And every night for weeks, up until the start of karate class, "I'm not going to like that, why do you have to make me go there?" as though we were sending him to the salt mines. After his first class, he loved karate, and we just signed up for the second semester on his insistence.) Anyway, it sounds a little paternalistic (because, uh, we're his parents), but sometimes...sometimes Cal doesn't always make the best decisions for himself, rather the easier decision. Which, I guess, is as it should be. He's six. That's our job, and he leaves the hard stuff to us.
Anyway, we're going to have a meeting with his teacher on Thursday, and then we'll talk about it, and talk about it, and talk about it some more. And then, hopefully sometime before May, we'll figure it all out. Or not.