As the mother of four children, one of whom is legally an adult (a term I would use loosely as he is eligible to vote and serve our country but struggles making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich), I feel immensely qualified making the following statement: children are like pancakes.

You know how when you make pancakes, the first few are just never quite right?  They’re either overdone or a little too raw. Then the pan heats up to just the right temperature and your third and fourth batches produce nicely browned cakes? That’s how it is with kids, too (metaphorically speaking since my kids are pretty pale).

Continuing with the analogy for one more moment, it’s generally the pancake maker who’s at fault for the results of those first flawed cakes. We’re either cranking up the heat way too high under the pan or rushing to pour the batter on before the griddle is ready for cooking. But once you get in the groove of flipping and tossing those cakes around, you start checking on the bacon and making sure the syrup’s on the table, and before you know it, the pancakes are ready to get scooped out of the pan.

So now that you’ve read my highly researched and scientific theory, it should come as no surprise to you that my first two children have been highly scrutinized by me throughout their lives. They were kept to rigid napping schedules, ate plenty of oatmeal and kiwis and reviewed their homework with me each night. They also enjoyed a long period of me preparing all of their meals, full laundry service and even me laying out outfits for them to wear each day.

The younger two kids took many naps and ate sketchy meals in our car as I raced the older two from one activity to the next. Instead of play dates, they learned to socialize on the sidelines with other kids dragged to all of their older siblings’ games. My youngest child, who dresses himself, has developed an acute sense of style that seems to be based on what NFL players wear (to practice) and features nylon items perforated with tiny holes. And while I am still a stickler for fruit with every meal, I buy things like Reese’s Puffs, Hamburger Helper and Oreos but draw the line at Lunchables (we all need to be able to say, “Well, at least I don’t do that”).

I love all my kids like crazy, and am making some gross generalizations to give this hypothesis legs, but I find that the younger two are much more flexible and independent than the older two. However, the oldest one navigated much of his college application process and the other one went off the Italy for nine days and never called home, so who’s to say?

So, am I making an argument to have more than two children? You must be insane (oh, right, I’m the insane one with all the kids). I just truly believe that sometimes kids are better off when we back off from them a bit (or get distracted by whether or not their older sibling is going to continue playing the flute).

Next week I will approach the topic from the perspective of someone who’s the oldest of eight children (which I am) and argue, with full conviction, that there is a watering down of the gene pool and older siblings are far superior to the younger family members.

This essay was posted originally posted on Patch on May 11, 2011.

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