Monday, September 12, 2011

First Child vs. Second Child

When my son was born, I think I filled in the information in his baby book the day I came home from the hospital. I dutifully looked up all the data for the “On The Day I Was Born” page – I googled the most popular song that day, the top news stories, the current world leaders of various countries, the hit television shows and movies. I wrote up bios for myself and my husband. I filled out the genealogy page with names and dates. And I carefully read through the “milestones” page nearly every day, so I wouldn’t miss my chance to record his first smile, his first trip to the zoo/the mall/church/his grandparents’ house, his first tooth, his first step, his first everything.

My daughter is over a month old and her baby book doesn’t even have her name in it. In fact, the only reason she HAS a baby book is that we got two at her brother’s baby shower.

I am a bad mother.

Actually, I’m really not. I am simply the mother of two instead of the mother of one. I honestly thought I understood what a difference that would be. Ha ha ha ha ha. It’s hard to write in a baby book when you’re holding a nursing baby to your breast while chasing a laughing toddler around the room shouting, “Spit out that penny! Spit it out! Now!”

But there are also benefits to having been through an older child’s infancy. You understand the crucial difference between the “I’m hungry/tired/wet” cries and the “I’m bored” cry, and you know which need to be attended to within two minutes and which can wait for ten or fifteen. I hadn’t realized how much I’d absorbed that idea until I was at a neighborhood yard sale over the weekend with my daughter in her stroller. She began fussing, so without even looking at her, I started rocking the stroller back and forth with my foot while I continued browsing. The mom running the sale laughed and commented, “This must not be your first.”

Another benefit to having had a child already is that you have an arsenal of tricks to use on a cranky baby. It took a couple of months of thinking of various way to soothe my son during his cranky times, but with my daughter, I had two or three months’ worth of tricks up my sleeve the day she came home. I already knew that “just any lullaby” wouldn’t work. My son’s preference was “Old McDonald”, which I didn’t figure out until he was 6 or 7 weeks old; after going through my full repertoire, I knew within a day or two that my daughter could be soothed only by “Moonshine Lullaby”. And I figured out right away that she shared her brother’s need to be held standing up, not sitting in a chair. That tidbit took several weeks with her brother.

But the ultimate benefit to having an older child is that you can look at that older child and realize that even though you had no idea what you were doing, he grew up to be a healthy, happy, well-adjusted toddler with no physical or emotional scars to speak of. So chances are pretty good that your little one will survive your incompetence just as nicely.

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