If I were to tell you that my daughter is my second child, you would probably nod knowingly. Parents of more than one understand second-baby syndrome.
For the most part, second babies don’t get the one-on-one time nor privileges first babies do. My daughter’s schedule revolves around her brother’s. She doesn’t have any toys of her own, and I have to count off the months on my fingers when someone asks how old she is because I can never remember.
Yet, as my sister-in-law shrewdly pointed out one day as we were swapping awful mommy stories:
Second babies may not get as much attention, but they probably get better parenting.
This may not be true in every home, but I think it is true in ours. Therefore, I feel some apologizing to my firstborn is overdue:
Monster, I’m sorry I was so frustrated all the time, and I mean all the time. I spent more time researching how to be a parent than I actually parented, because I wanted to figure out how to “fix” your tantrums, or your picky eating, or your weird diapers. I know now that unless you are bleeding, have an obnoxiously high fever or have fallen unconscious, I need to just let it go because I can’t control it and whatever it is will come to an end at some point.
I’m sorry that I would get SO MAD when you wouldn’t sleep and that I obsessed over finding new ways to try to make it happen, putting you through an endless stream of Ferber/Sears/Google methods that probably ticked you off even more. While the exhaustion with baby no. 2 is just as bad, I stopped trying so hard, which at least saved me hours surfing annoying baby blogs. The sooner I accepted that no one would ever sleep again, the less frustrated I was and the better a parent I became.
I’m sorry that every time you cried, I sprinted to see what was wrong. No, there is nothing bad about nurturing and loving a child, but I have seen how resourceful your sister has become because she often has no choice but to figure out her “issues” herself, like how to pick up a toy she dropped or get her water cup out from under the couch. I wonder how many times I could have saved myself – and you – frustration had I just let you use your bright little mind.
I’m sorry that I didn’t trust you more. Your younger sister has taught me that children are much more capable than I thought. I used to feel I had to be around you and hover over you all the time, and I simply cannot do that with your sister because my attention is now divided. She has somehow survived, and the credit all goes to her.
I’m sorry that I am a better mother now than I was when you were first born. I’m more relaxed. I’m not as scared (but admittedly, I’m still perpetually afraid that I’ll inadvertently do damage to one of you, physically, emotionally or otherwise).
I was certainly the best mother that I could have been at the time, but I still feel like you missed out on having a mommy who can let things roll off her back a little more. As the oldest, you have the unsavory role of paving the way through all the phases, and your sister is going to reap the benefits. It’s a crummy trade-off: She’ll watch you get to do everything “cool” first, like driving or owning a phone, and you’ll watch her get the softer side of mom and dad.
I’m sorry I couldn’t have been the “second time around” mom for you, but thank you for helping me cut my parenting teeth. You are the reason I continue to learn, and you are my motivation for always wanting to be better.
Lastly, I’m sorry I cried so much when you were super young and said things like, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” I still don’t know what I’m doing, but at least I don’t cry about it anymore. At least, not in front of you.