Among my friends I've noticed two distinct styles of parenting: those with a new-mother attitude and those with a veteran-mother point of view. Age has nothing to do with it. But the number of children trailing after them does.
A new mom prompts her little darling to show off his latest trick for friends and family: "Say 'mama'" or "Tell Grandma your ABCs" or "Sing 'Old MacDonald' for Uncle Frank."
A veteran mom knows that any kid asked to perform will suddenly exhibit the charm and intelligence of one of Old MacDonald's horseflies. As soon as the audience leaves, though, he could win an Oscar.
A new mom truly believes that the bigger the house, the bigger the distance between mother and child and his clutter.
A veteran mom understands that even if she lived in a mansion, the kid would still race cars between her legs.
A new mom agonizes over whether to let her child win at board games. After all, if he doesn't lose sometimes, how will he learn you can't always win?
A veteran mom sends her child to the kitchen if it looks like the child is going to lose at Candy Land so she can artfully rearrange the cards, heading off a tantrum that she has no time for.
A new mom sanitizes the paci every time it falls on the floor, throws out a cookie if her child drops it, and mops every night.
A veteran mom has no time to mop, yet firmly believes the floor is clean enough to eat off of -- especially if you don't look too closely.
A new mom signs up for the IQ-Booster Toy of the Month Club because she dreams of her burgeoning genius playing for hours each month with the educational toy the mailman brings.
A veteran mom knows that the only thing that occupies her child for hours is playing with that string of dust flapping at the bottom of the fridge -- and, frankly, she isn't about to clean it. However, he will entertain himself for a good 10 minutes with the box that the IQ-Booster toy comes in.
A new mom faithfully records every "first" in the baby book. In addition to the big milestones, she can pinpoint the first time the baby cooed, licked an ice cream cone, and graduated from the potty seat.
A veteran mom tosses photos in a dresser drawer, has no memory of when her child did what, and secretly worries that she sold the baby book for a quarter at the last garage sale.
A new mom will go to great lengths to split everything evenly among her child and his playmates. If there's only one chocolate chip cookie, she'll divide it into equal portions.
A veteran mom will eat the extra chocolate chip cookie faster than the kids can yell "No fair!" Moreover, she won't feel even one iota of guilt.
Marti Attoun, a mother of three, lives in Joplin, Missouri.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, January 2005.