The old adage that “practice makes perfect” never seems more true than when it is applied to parenting. A commonly shared keen observation – or even a funny “urban legend” of sorts – is how a first child in a family is cared for differently from how the following children are raised.

Constant surveillance of every move child No.1 makes is soon replaced with a top-of-the-line video baby monitor for child No.2. And often, with the arrival of child No.3 and onward, the overly cautious steps are no longer taken and the constant vulnerability is replaced with a firm sense of confidence. This confidence often is created not so much by the experience of parenting, but the actual parenting practice that varies from child to child.

The experience of parenting lasts a lifetime, but the practice of parenting is often for a more limited time, during the developmental stages of a child’s life.

And parenting practice has somewhat of a definitive end, when you can say you have indeed “parented”, and watch your child journey into adulthood.

The process of learning a language is very much like the process of parenting, as it relates to experience versus practice. When learning a language, practice is critical to fully embracing a language and getting to a point when you can say confidently: “I know how to speak this new language.”

If you merely experience parenting, you could limit yourself to having just a biological link to your child and providing their basic needs. But you would not fully embrace the practice of parenting with its trial and error, and discover that the rules of engagement change for each child.

Again, this is much like the rules of learning a tongue that is not native to you. Learning “book Spanish” and then trying to use only book knowledge in Argentina, and then separately in Puerto Rico, without changing any of the rules of application and without having any practice, may leave you feeling like you may not have learned Spanish.

To exercise a language – to have the mere link to it through gaining a general knowledge of it – will never allow you to be truly fluent, unless you have an opportunity to practise in many different situations and settings. But through parenting practice in different settings, its language comes alive and becomes almost second nature.

If we approach parenting the same way as learning a language, particularly when it comes to parenting multiple children, we can save ourselves undue frustrations and feelings of vulnerability, by merely embracing the life exercise that has been thrust upon us through having the title of “parent”, and realising that we will never master parenting.

But we will be almost “native speakers” of the language of parenting by knowing that, indeed, practice makes perfect. Or at least as perfect of a parent as one can be. — Tribune News Service