I caught my 2-year-old at the table trying to peel an orange this morning. He’d gotten into the refrigerator by himself, retrieved a clementine out of the fruit drawer and was attempting to peel it by poking holes in it and tearing the peel away with his teeth. And then spitting the discarded peel on my floor.
I watched him in horrified fascination and wondered if any of my other kiddos had been that self-sufficient. He only just turned 2 in the middle of December. After having five kids, I thought I knew what to expect as far as ages and stages went, but he’s proving all my previous theories wrong.
And frankly, I blame the four older kids.
When I pick him up from the Mother’s Day Out program he goes to, he refuses to hold my hand on the way to the car. Apparently he thinks if he’s big enough to go to school, he’s big enough to cross the street by himself. He’s happy to get his own snacks, drinks and diapers. His first words weren’t the cute and innocent mumblings of my other children, such as cookie or mama. They were words that needed to get his meaning across to the rest of his siblings. Words like "stop," "go away" and “I go bye-bye.”
It’s funny to compare the differences between my first couple kiddos and the ones who grew up with a house already full of children. Having older siblings seems to grow up babies so much faster. They’re exposed to more words, older TV shows and activities that my first few toddlers didn’t see or hear until kindergarten.
I remember severely restricting screen time with my first born and working daily on the alphabet and numbers. Saxon, my latest 2-year-old, learned to count to three by hearing it as a daily threat. He even uses his fingers and plants his other hand on his hip like he means business. The songs he sings are the ones we listen to in the car that everyone can sing along to, not the sweet lullabies his older siblings learned first.
He started demanding silverware at the table around 18 months old. And not just the early learner plastic kind. He wanted what the rest of the family was using — big forks and big spoons that barely fit in his tiny mouth. Yet somehow he managed to figure them out while manually pushing his high chair to the table before every meal to be sure he wasn’t left behind.
Part of me grieves my baby is so intent on catching up with his big brothers and sisters, and part of me is amazed at how much he’s capable of. I'm left wondering if my others could have been this independent, too, and I was the one that slowed down their maturity because I didn’t know any better. But most of me is just enjoying this journey. I love how much he loves his siblings; how enthusiastic he is to do what they’re doing so he can spend more time with them.
And I really love how considerate they are; how inclusively they treat him. They want him to be a part of their activities just as much as he does.
The older siblings might be to blame for Saxon’s growing up too fast, but they’re enjoying every minute of their tag-along little brother. And for that reason, I’m going to enjoy it too.
Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.