Is Parenting Different the Second Time Around? The Plight of Child Number Two.


I love my little Alan. His big gray eyes are framed by long black lashes. His chubby cheeks are sweet and round. I love to hold him and breathe in his yeasty, sweet baby warmth. But parenting is different the second time around.

With Sam, I could scarcely wait to record every milestone—“Sam blinked twice today to indicate yes”; “Sam smiled at me when I showed her the red ball”; “Sam is wearing a blue dress today and it brings out her eyes” I wrote in breathy, excited emails to my husband several times daily.

This time? Not so much. I adore my Alan with all of the same mother-love intensity that I feel for my daughter, but his milestones are passing me by. I now have a 5.5-month-old who can almost sit, smiles all the time, puts his hands together, laughs, drools and grabs at things and I feel like I missed it all. I was there. I saw it all develop. But I also somehow missed it.

I guess that is the second child’s lot in life. He gets calm, cool, collected parents who know what we are doing, but misses the obsessive monitoring and attention his older sibling had in spades.

Maybe this is why second children are typically cooler than their older siblings. I was a first born and have spent my life fighting the compulsive competitiveness and perfectionism often attributed to we eldest kids. We break our parents in and are the recipients of all of their early parental intensity. Our younger siblings are free from the demands placed on us.

I was always jealous of my sister. She had it much easier in my mind, but now? I am less sure. I dominated dinner conversations, developed an early sense of self and confidence that she is still struggling to find. I blazed the trail she eventually followed.

Maybe things will be easier for Alan since he and his sister are different genders. As the only boy in our family, he has his own unique role. Besides, I may not pay as much attention to the small things, but, in many ways, I am a better mother to him—less prone to freak-outs, more chill. He gets cool mom while Sam gets all of my oldest daughter intensity.

Besides, he is pretty awesome in his own right.

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