Among the multitude of privileges I’m enjoying, this parenthood gig is consistently giving me food for thought at the Faith table. Pull up a chair and dig in to the latest musing, if you like. It all started with this unusual, unexpected fork in the road that I like to call Being the Parent of More than One Kid. Now in my mind, and yours if you’re anything like me, Parenthood Part Two is the round where you get kind of excited about being a parent, and a little less afraid, because hey, you’ve already got one kid and he’s almost made it to his fourth birthday so maybe you’ve got some things right, right?

And you figure — no worries, kid #2, we’ll just do with you the same stuff we did with kid #1. It worked the first time around, so it’ll definitely work again, right?

Here’s the invitation to those of you who find occasional hand pops and bottom pops an offensive method of discipline for parenting to leave before you get mad at me and never want to come back. First enjoy this happy picture and then you can head out…

{One little shot from the wedding in the bush…more to come!}

Are you still here?

Think it through. I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Okay. If you’re sticking with me, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In my personal experience, I found that with child number one, also affectionately referred to ’round these parts as the Bear, a little pop on the hand went a very long way. Once I could clearly tell that the Bear understood the difference between yes and no, and understood my intentions or HH’s intentions when we said No, we thoughtfully and purposefully decided that hand pops were about to be part of the equation.

Basically, in our experience, we found that a child who is too young to be reasoned with can still understand cause and effect. Bear, don’t touch that stove it’s hot and it could burn you and that would hurt availeth little, whereas, Bear, no, do not touch that stove. Do not touch that stove. Bear touches the stove even though he is clearly aware that he has been instructed not to, and gets a hand pop. Bear learns to listen, that there are consequences for not listening and not to touch the stove. (Obviously we aren’t letting our kids touch hot stoves to learn lessons, this is just an example.)

Fast forward a couple of years and another pregnancy and a nine minute delivery, it’s Tiger Tank’s turn to learn that No means No. {Which sure is hard for this Mama who just thinks her boys are the best thing since bacon-covered cherries and doesn’t really want to admit that they ever even need to hear the word No.} One little Mr. Double T has taken a special interest in the keyboard that sits in front of the desktop computer in our family room.

That keyboard cannot be moved far enough away from Double T’s hands. If it is too far away, {or too far late, as the Bear would reference a place or thing at some distance} #2 will find some sort of object — toothbrush, pencil, hammer — with which to reach those inviting little keys, so that he can gently tap? — oh no, amigo, violently bang on them.

I have observed this precious little creature, repeatedly listen and obey the word No on numerous occasions, but this blooming keyboard is just too blooming intriguing. He can’t stay away. And we use this keyboard throughout the day, every day, so moving it is not a viable option.

Some folks baby proof their house, but to a certain extent, we lean towards house-proofing our baby.

We have observed that the word No becomes of little consequence when it is not backed by some consequences. But Double T thinks hand pops are funny about half the time, so they are of little consequence.

And all this indirection is finally leading to direction: On Jet-Lag Saturday, while bless his heart, the Hubs was shooting a wedding on a hope, a prayer and a coffee, I was at home with the boys. And the more wee of the two kept finding a way to climb a stool, or seemingly thin air, to reach, and pound, on the keys of the keyboard. His precious chubby thigh got an unhappy tapping. He was removed from the situation.

He returned.

He banged.

His didn’t listen to the consistent No’s and warnings.

He precious chubby thigh got an unhappy tapping.

He was removed from the situation.

He returned.

He banged.

Twice more, this pattern continued. A none-the-wiser wee lad drawn like a moth to a flame, his brother just hoping he would chill out so he could enjoy Little Einsteins in peace, and me, immediately thinking — aren’t they all pre-programmed to respond to this stimulus with the same response?

Stimulus! Response! Stimulus, response! My ninth grade biology teacher reiterates between my ears.

Mayhaps this child is a different species entirely.

And that is where the lesson rang true.

Have you ever expected God to do the same thing for you that He has done for everybody else? Ever thought “Where are my rewards?” “Where are my well-done-good-and-faithful tokens of appreciation?”

If she has a husband, why don’t I?

If they have children, why don’t we?

If everything they ever wear comes from Banana Republic and White House Black Market, why must my budget limit me to Target and Old Navy?

Where’s my new house, sweet job, swish car, posh clothing, fill in the blank?

What if this difference is because we believers are children of the same Father — and He’s the One who knows us best? 

I was certainly hoping our second son would sleep as nicely as the first did. Drink from a bottle without a hassle and be easy to wean. Respond quickly to discipline and learn No when it was time to learn it. But our second son is just that — our second son. Not our first. Not the Bear. Not cautious like the Bear at this age. Not calm and easily entertained like the Bear at this age. Basically, not easy like the Bear at this age.

Because the Tiger is not the Bear.

And trusting in grace to show me how, I will learn the ways of the Tiger. And instead of trying to make fair about doing things with the second the way I did them with the first, I see the glory in rather focusing on what is right for this child. I am allowed to let go of that pesky, unreasonable fairness expectation. I’m allowed to ask What is the best decision for Tiger Tank? — regardless of what the best decision was in a different country, with different circumstances, for a different kid, two and a half years ago.

Somehow I forgot this lesson, and I was thinking fair was about doing things the same way for each kid — and here is this blatantly obvious epiphany, an iridescent lightbulb, suddenly a ding and pop, just above my noggin — Oh yeah! Same isn’t necessarily best. Fair isn’t necessarily same. In this parenting gig, a path of individual decisions based on an understanding of the child, an understanding of the circumstances awaits me.

The Truth in the Word remains the same, and I trust God to guide us through this adventure. I see now — the Father who knows what’s best for each of us, even though it isn’t an equal distribution of resources, husbands, and clothing from Banana Republic. He is our Father, and in His infinite wisdom, He has chosen something other than what we might call fair.

Since the Saturday of the epiphany, Tiger Tank has begun responding to No again. It almost seems as if his digression from expected behavior was really an opportunity for me to learn a lesson. Our usual methods are bearing fruit, but I am now more watchful, more keen to observe, more willing to take hold of the reality that round 2 is very likely to look completely different from round 1, and that’s okay.

Will he give up the binker/pacifier/dummy at 18 months without a fuss?

Will he potty train at 2 and 1/2 with the simple incentive of smarties/M&Ms?

Does it really matter? If we can help this little one become the man he was created to become, everything else is secondary.

And could the Father also have that glorious goal in mind: each of us, doing all the good things He created us to do and planned ahead for us? {Eph. 2:10} Could the bumps and turns and twists and dips in our individual road maps actually be a part of His progress? His way of helping us grasp His goodness, grab hold of the Jesus who gave His life for us, gain access to the life that is hidden in Him? {Col. 3:3}

Each of my children, are different, like me, and I’m convinced that you can’t love anybody without really loving them the way they are, meeting them where they are. And the God-who-sees knows better than anyone else where each of us is.