Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being second in line

From hand-me-down clothes to half-finished baby books, does second child syndrome really exist? 

As the eldest of my siblings and the only girl, I’ve never really understood the concept of second child syndrome. 
But now that I have two children – and they are both girls – I have come to realise that daughter No.2 has not had the special extras daughter No.1 had. 
I describe this as “special extras” because it sounds really bad if you say they don’t get as much attention, or they are not spoiled as much, or they don’t get as many new clothes or toys. 
Another whack of mother guilt just hit me in the face. 
It really whacked me when I was looking through some photos I took at a recent family wedding and I realised I hadn’t taken one picture of our youngest child. 
I took plenty of photos of our firstborn because she was a flower girl and a star on the day, but I didn’t take any photos of our littlest one (thankfully other people did, and thank heavens for USB sticks). 
I never meant for this to happen to our second child. 

Both children have baby record books, and I have kept them up to date, but I don’t reach for the camera every day like I did with my first baby. I find myself buying baby food instead of making it myself and I don’t blog every week about her milestones: “Guess what everyone? She ate lentils for dinner!” 
I haven’t taken as many home videos of our youngest. She probably didn’t get as much “tummy time” and there have been days when I’ve wondered: “When was the last time I changed her nappy?” 
While some might say second children get shafted, I think it is a shift in the way we parent. 
We’re more experienced, we’ve learned from our mistakes and we realise the world doesn’t really care about every cute thing our baby does. 
And we obviously have less attention and less patience as we’re dealing with more than one child. Although our ability to love them doubles, our ability to deal with the crap that comes along with babies is harder because we’re also trying to please the older child. 
Some things that second children (and no doubt third and fourth children) have to accept are typical with every household and have been for centuries. 
They get the hand-me-down clothes, toys, car seats, cot and school uniforms, and they’ll never get to sit shotgun until the older child leaves home. 
The second child will probably watch more TV than we allowed for the first, have to be dragged along to the older child’s ballet/soccer/swimming lessons, will probably eat the wrong foods far too early, be the cause of endless fights with their sibling and push the boundaries just a little more. 
In many ways though, parenting a second child has its positives.
With your first baby, motherhood is so exciting and terrifying at the same time. 
You’re always fussing, always worrying, always rushing to the rescue at every little cry. 
But with your second child, you’re far more relaxed, you’ve loosened up and your child grows up knowing the world doesn’t revolve around them. 
My youngest is learning to wait a little longer to get picked up or fed, and that her big sister sometimes needs her own time in her own space. 
Perhaps this will help her to become more independent, more patient and easygoing. 
I’ve also learnt many great lessons after my first child, which I vowed never to repeat with my 
second child. 
I’ve breastfed her for as long as we both want to, I’ve co-slept, I’m reading less parenting books and trusting my instincts and I don’t try to “fix” every little problem. 
I’m far too busy with two kids now to drive myself nuts with all the overthinking that can burden 
new mothers. 
Having more than one child can make you more comfortable with your choices, less worried about what other people think, and also more aware of what quality time really means. 
One thing that I know makes up for any of this “second child syndrome” is that my youngest daughter has one thing the first child never had. 
And that’s a big sister who adores her. 


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