By Katie Reynolds

After 18 fast years of parenting, we were given a do-over. As parents, I think we all wish for a do-over now and again – or maybe a rewind button, “wish I had the opportunity to handle that better.” Well at 43 years old – with four children from 11-18, we were blessed with Patrick. He is our second chance to parent with some real hind-sight. Patrick is now 2 years old. He has a brother in college, 2 brothers in high school and a sister in middle school. He has four role models, playmates, babysitters (woohoo!) and lifelong friends. “Geriatric” parenting does have its benefits.

Some ask – how do you do it? Starting over is daunting after you’ve tucked away the potty seat and the sippy cups; and our home was somewhat less than baby proofed. We now have outlet covers everywhere, and our living room is decorated in primary colors with a construction truck motif. “My little brother drew on my homework” is a totally legit excuse in our house.

There are still greater upsides to “experienced” parenting. I have ceased to stress about milestones – they come when they come – some early, some late. I’m not worried. The precious things he says and does – we slow down, cherish and savor them all. Frequently, our teenagers are also saying and doing precious things and we cherish these things all the more.

Patrick lives a much different toddler life than usual. Bedtime is nonexistent, he goes to bed when the big kids do and sleeps in like them, too! Patrick is a magnet. He draws each member of our family into the same room. John and I will look up and realize that this little one has interrupted everything in the most wonderful way. Our teens now build block towers, train tracks, and read stories.

Each one of them has changed diapers, been vomited on, and walked laps around the house to help him get to sleep.

I can’t help but hope that their experience will bless their marriages – that perhaps laid back parenting might come to them the first time around. They have experienced a crazy pregnant woman first hand, a challenging pregnancy and a preemie birth. They have cradled a 4 lb newborn in the earliest moments of life.

I find myself noticing how often I kiss his sweet face and tell him I love him. I look across the room and I try to love on all of my children that way (they are surely sick of my sappy affections). The kisses are a bit scratchier now that my boys sport varying lengths of facial hair but they are just as sweet. Our children have realized that the love they have for Patrick is the kind of love they should have for each other. They still squabble a bit but it’s lighter and gentler now.

Our years of parenting have been doubled. Thank God. I may feel a little funny at his kindergarten open house; as I have been asked if he is my grandbaby! But that’s nothing a few highlights can’t take care of!