Second time lucky

While I prepared dinner a few days ago, The Eldest created a train from the kitchen chairs and (miraculously) kept herself and her brother busy.

Let’s be clear though, this was not a calm and quiet affair. The room looked like a school hall after a rainy-day lunch break, the chair legs repeatedly scraped across the kitchen floor, The Boy was shouting “Dane, dane, dane” like an Brexiteer in pursuit of those pesky Scandi-types who keep showing us how it (life) should be done, and as the train turned into a tunnel, The Eldest shouted her encouragement to him to hurry because the monsters were coming.

How accurate a picture of world politics they unknowingly painted in that moment I mused… but also, isn’t he lucky.

Like many parents before and since it has crossed my mind that we might have done the little man a disservice by denying him of baby sign, music classes and elaborate birthday parties.

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This is The Eldest’s first birthday celebrations (look, even my postpartum hair joined the party). I can’t find the pictures of The Boy’s first birthday. I’m sure we have some. Somewhere…

His status as one-plus-one means that contrary to child one who had time, money and interest invested in her every breath, blink, and bodily-function, his cultural capital has been curtailed. I mean, who the chuff has the time to sing “Wind the bobbin up” when the savvier, and far better-stimulated older child is having all of the fun winding mummy up.

But as I watched him, tombstone teeth grinning in all their glory, clumsily copying every move his sister made, I had to re-evaluate.

The boy stopped playing every so often to spray the floor with birthday cake crumbs. And while uppermost in my mind was the fact that this meant wiping the floor for the 7239 time that day, I was also thinking about how long we had made his sister wait for cake. Her first taste was on her first birthday, and I think she waited another year for her second go at the good stuff – healthy types might disagree but I’m pretty sure he’s one up in those stakes.

Totally unaware of his relative wealth the boy continued with his preferred method of munching.  He hates carrying food and will shove as much as he can into his mouth at once so he can continue playing/ sticking his fingers in his belly-button (another of his “habits”). Like the efforts of a weary parent wrestling a pop-up sun-tent back into it’s impossibly small packet, he pushed this bit in, held that bit there, argh another bit has popped out, push that in, oh no, hold on, ah shit it’s all over the floor again.

Meanwhile, I reflected on the freedoms from domestic servitude I used to enjoy he has enjoyed to create AALLLLLL of the mess with a big, brilliant sister on hand to help.

They spend their days together, share a bedroom at night, and in general are as thick as thieves. Daily she aids him in his endeavours to rob me of my sanity by assisting him in accessing our household contraband. Glue, biros, scissors, knives, soap, tampons, makeup, and multi-packs of Petit Filous, are all items which have been misappropriated by the boy while my eyes have been elsewhere.

I used to think I was a shit-hot parent because my child had never drawn on anything except paper. I now know this is purely because I had only one child. One child, one pair of eyes – easy. Two children, two pairs of… wait… oh shit…

Whether helicopter-hover-er or overbearing-smother-er it is true to say that his big sister got more of my attention whereas (I tell myself) the boy has benefitted from being neglected left to his own devices a little more.

There have been times however that I have worried that he doesn’t get enough love, but how true can this be? He has a whole extra person covering him in kisses, telling him what to do, and giving him access to the permanent marker pens.

Second born children are not 50% down, they are 100% up in the attention stakes compared to the first born.

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The baby toys were too safe. His eyes were on the ones with tiny parts he could inhale.

Besides, as ably demonstrated by The Boy, if the second born does feel neglected then he/she can always take matters into their own hands by never sleeping. The Boy didn’t sleep through the night until he was nine months old, and to this day he ends up in our bed at some point most nights.

There are many long…long… night-time hours during which cuddles, kisses and whispered curses can be gratefully received by the second child starved of such attention during the sunshine hours, and our one-plus-one has certainly made his need to bank some bodily contact clear.

First time around we were disciplined in the sleep stakes, and even on the nights that The Eldest switched to rave setting, we would resolutely remain in her room. Looking back, I think we must have been high/ crazy and this time we have taken an altogether more sane/ permanently exhausted approach to sleep.

These days all four of us sleep wherever is necessary to get some sleep. I mean, I’m not certain whether anyone has ever actually died from tiredness but I’m not going to test the theory – staying alive it would seem is a significant factor in successful adequate parenting.

I’m also certain that the boy is entirely happy. While he snuggles down between me and his dad, whacking us in the face with his feet/ hands/ teeth whenever we fail to hold his hand or otherwise assure him of our presence, there is no way that he is thinking “I wish they were as strict with me as they were with my sister.”

So I suppose what I am trying to saying is, if you’re feeling like you’ve dropped the one-plus-one’s balls on the development or boundaries front, then just don’t.

I can’t promise they won’t end up with trust issues because “In a minute” from mummy’s mouth, could mean anything from I will play with you in 60 actual seconds to, Are you chuffing insane? I’ve had fourteen minutes of sleep for every day you have been alive. I am going to die of tiredness. Please leave me alone FOREVER. But, I can (kind of) promise that by being a sibling, they have gained much, much more than they have lost.

On the many days when it feels less like raising the future, and more like raising the dead, be kind to yourself – survival has to be number one on the list of things to do when you are a parent.

And besides, it seems to me that second time really is lucky.

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NB: this is about second children because by a third (or more) parents have given up already know this shizz…

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