By Heather Keenan

Cheese puffs and a cereal bar. That is what my two year old ate for lunch today, and I consider today a good day. Said two year old is my third child and boy, oh boy, does it show. Never in a million years would my first born have gone days without sitting down to eat an actual meal. Then again, there are lots of things that my third child does that would make my pre-mother-of-three-self cringe. But hey, sometimes, survival is the best strategy. Let me count the ways my third child is raised differently from my first.

1. Juice Boxes
When my first born was little I was certain that Satan himself worked for the juice box industry. It’s really easy to not let your child do something that they never see other people do, and my first born had no clue what a juice box even was until she was four years old. By the time my third kid came along, the eldest was in school, chugging a juice box each day for lunch, and I was not up for the fight. Before her first birthday, Number Three could down a Capri Sun in 27 seconds flat, and I’m pretty sure she was proud of it.

2. Hand sanitizer
I seriously would have bought this stuff in vats, had it been available, the first few years of my motherhood. I had it in the car, the bathroom, my room, my kid’s room, and it dangled from every bag that I owned. I might as well have attached it to my wrists, Spidey style. With my second kid, it eased up a bit, but I still was pretty on it. Here is the problem when it comes to my Third Amigo, by the time I get to her to sanitize those little germ catchers, they are usually already in her mouth. At first, I tried, but if I’m being honest, I gave up. I am building her immunity, I tell myself.

3. Pacifiers
Or as they are lovingly referred to in my house, binks. With Number One, binks were for sleeping and she was lucky if I didn’t sneak in, like a thief in the night, and take it. By the time she was 18 months old I was well on my way to figuring out how to get her to lose binks completely. Same with Number Two, I let her keep it until just after her second birthday, and only for bedtime. My Caboose Kid? She is nearly two and a half and she tells me when she will and will not give up her binks. This mom needs sleep, so binks on, Number Three, binks on. I will start budgeting for those braces right now.

The list goes on and on, really. But I think you get the point. My last child is most definitely treated differently than my first. I used to be hard on myself about these differences and feel like my third child was getting the shaft, like she was not as catered to as my others were, when they were babies. Truth is, she isn’t. It isn’t possible for me to treat her the same as I did my first because I don’t have the kind of time to do that now. I have other humans to take care of, not just her. So when I let her stay up late with me, or sleep with me, or sneak out for ice cream while the other two are in school, I consider it payback for all the time she spends getting dragged around to sporting events, school events, and etc. for her older sisters. She earns those juice boxes!

While they may all be treated a little bit different here and there, they are all loved and that is what is the most important part. I may not have enough time to rid her of her binks addiction or to get her hands cleaned, but I definitely have enough hugs to go around, and that is what they will all remember.