My Mom will tell you that Matt had a better Mom that I did. I would disagree with that a lot, because I think my Mom was an AWESOME Mom. But I think now that I have kids with a big span between them (8 years in my case, 10 in hers) I realize she means that she FELT more confident and comfortable in her mommying.
The little stuff that you sweat and cry about with #1 - we all do it so it's ok, by #4 you don't bother so much, you realize how much it matters or doesn't and don't lose sleep. You never worry that the baby will hate you if you don't breastfeed X weeks by the time you get to #4.
Exhibit A is above. I am pretty sure I never once let Louis ride like this at the store. It would've been accompanied by "We do NOT act like that at the store." First child hears a lot about what we should act like, or do not act like in this instance. Julia says "Wait a moment, I need to steer." I watch her mount the top of the cart, have the thought then let it go and start through the store. She was my navigator and said hello to all the people. She's declared to me once at the store "Mom, think of all the people I will get to say HELLO to in my life!" I can hardly be the one to ever discourage such enthusiasm for the human race, can I?
Another example is games. She LOVES to play games, constantly begging to play games with us. I give myself a B here. Sometimes I just want to play a video game by myself and if I won't play a board game with her she comes to sit by me and we talk about what I'm playing. So I do have my own personal cheering section while questing in Azeroth which is awesome. But I quit being selfish from time to time and we play various board games. This weekend OPERATION is hot.
I was always raised to believe that you don't let kids win. I learned to play most games by playing with two girls who were a LOT older than me and kind of jerks about beating the crap out of me at games. I had to learn to be good enough to beat THEM. So I did. However, I've rethought this strategy. I definitely don't let LOUIS win. He's 12 and he needs to get it for himself. But she's 4. And so yeah I'll let her dig the pieces out of OPERATION with her fingers when her hand eye coordination fails her.
The difference is, I DO make her try but I don't sweat it when she fails. Sometimes I try to force the rules gently and if we get off track from the rules I guide us back, even if just a bit. But the most important thing is that we're taking turns, and we're spending TIME together. That's what she actually WANTS anyway. She wants my attention and to do this thing she thinks is fun. I don't have to make her a game rule fanatic at the age of four. We can just play and have fun.
So I get what she means. It's not about having less rules or being more or less structured, it's just about being comfortable in your own skin in this most important role. It's about knowing what actually matters vs. what a book said mattered, or what your friends said mattered, or what ANYONE said. It's what matters to you and your family that should drive the bus.
It's nice to be in that spot.