Something which strikes me as very typical is happening with my second child; he is growing up with second child syndrome. I mean, I think in general he is just less high-maintenance than his brother, so he isn’t phased when O snatches a toy from him or knocks him down. But I am a second child too and I can see that he is One Of Us.
A couple of years ago, my mom moved house. I was pregnant with F at the time and I helped her to pack a lot of her stuff. In amongst the plethora of random crap under the bed in the spare room we found my brother’s baby book. I leafed through it and it was all meticulously filled in. Photos, milestones, first words… Everything was there. Every tiny little moment of his first 12 months on the planet was documented.
Then I found my baby book. The first few pages were filled in. My name, date of birth and birthweight, the little family tree, some cards from well-wishers.
Then… Blank. It was all blank. Apparently I stopped doing anything even remotely interesting after my first two weeks of life. I turned to my mom and asked, “Mom, why is my baby book not filled in? Like, at all?” She shifted uncomfortably from her head-in-bottom-of-wardrobe position, eyed me dubiously and replied, “Well, I was a bit busier the second time around. You know, your brother was running around and I just… I just forgot about it.” I was horrified. She forgot about me?! What the fuck?!
I mean, even I knew it wasn’t really like that. I didn’t stop doing stuff and she didn’t stop enjoying the stuff I did. My first words and steps were still as important to her as my brother’s had been… But there was no account of what they were or when they happened. And I swore to myself in that moment that I would not forget to fill my second child’s baby book in.
I forgot. I filled in the first few pages, and then I got busy and put the book away and I forgot about it. Don’t get me wrong; it is all filled in. Retrospectively. There’s a lot of “about 4 months” and “I think it was…”. And there are no photos because putting photos in the book would mean going into town to print photos. Who has time for that with two kids?! To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t even know where F’s 12 week scan photo is. I found the one from his 20 week scan in a drawer a few weeks ago, but the first one could be anywhere.
I don’t iron his bodysuits. Sometimes it takes me a week to get around to putting his clean laundry away. I don’t change the sheet on his bed on the same day every week. His clothes aren’t necessarily co-ordinated and I don’t change them the second he gets them dirty.
I am a terrible mother.
OR I’m just busy and it’s more important to me that I spend time making moments with my kids than documenting every single thing they do.
Second children get a lot of stuff second hand. F sleeps in a cot that used to belong to O (the mattress is new). I push him around in a stroller that I bought for his brother. A lot of his clothes and toys are hand-me-downs. And I’m less neurotic about him too. When he falls down I don’t rush to his aid unless he cries or is obviously hurt. I didn’t worry particularly when it took him until he was 16 months old to walk independently, nor when he showed no sign of wanting to say actual words until he reached the 18 month mark.
So I didn’t fill in his baby book in real time. Does it really matter? Does it mean I love him less than I love his brother? Absolutely, unequivocally, NO. The truth is that you do make a bigger deal of documenting everything with your first child because it’s all new and crazy and, truthfully, fucking terrifying. Documenting the first year of your first baby’s life helps you to reassure yourself that they’re developing at a “normal” rate. And it’ll probably help you out someday when they have their own kids and they want to know when they started talking or walking because they’re freaking out that their own kid isn’t normal.
But I was more relaxed with F (after we got help for that whole reflux thing); I knew that there was a pretty wide range of “normal” and I knew that I could trust my instincts to tell me if something wasn’t right. When I think about it, he has a second-hand mother too, and the fact that I am pre-loved is probably a pretty good deal for him really.