The first time around, we were rather anxious parents, to say the least. We were also incredibly conscientious, and our daughter had our undivided attention. However, when our second child came along, she didn’t receive quite the same focus. Not that it was such a bad thing.
When our first child arrived, naturally she had our complete attention, day and night. Our life was all about caring for this baby, getting her to sleep, feeding her, dressing her and simply admiring every tiny thing she did. To the point where we have about ten minutes of video footage with her just ripping up a piece of paper. We thought she was so clever. After her bath, I would massage her legs while my husband would dry her hair. I would often rock her sleep. And if she so much as cleared her throat, we’d be up in flash beside her cot, checking that all was well. It was all so new and overwhelming, we couldn’t help ourselves. And having just one child, she was the centre of our world.
Be there in a second!
However, when our second daughter came along, it was a very different story. Mostly because with a toddler already on the scene, there was no time to indulge in such fastidious one-on-one parenting. If my second daughter called out during a day sleep, I would inevitably be in the middle of other activities such as clothes washing, finger painting, cupcake icing or email checking. My response was always a little more delayed simply because life was busier. And by the time I got to her, she usually would have re-settled and gone back to sleep. With no other option presenting, she probably thought that’s just what babies did. And it’s what most babies do. We just didn’t give our first daughter that same opportunity.
Are you okay?
If my first daughter ever tripped over, I’d be sick with worry, immediately calling my husband to discuss whether or not I needed to take her to the GP for a check-up. But the second time around, I wasn’t nearly so worried. In fact, quite the opposite. I remember once at our local playgroup, my second daughter was trying to get my attention while I was chatting to another mum, completely caught up in recounting what I felt was a most entertaining story, until eventually, I realised that my daughter had a sizeable cut on her knee and it took another mother, a friend of mine, to source a bandaid from the first aid box to cover it up.
Did I hear something?
Then there was the occasion when both girls were asleep, my husband was working late, and I was enjoying a rare evening to myself, a bowl of pasta on my lap and my favourite show on the TV. I thought I heard one of the girls cry out. Trying to be a more relaxed second-time parent, I waited, not wanting to jump in too soon. But I heard nothing more and assumed that whoever it was had re-settled. Disaster averted.
However, an hour later, I went in to check up on them, only to find my youngest had been sick absolutely everywhere – and as no one had come to help, she’d had no choice but to go back to sleep. Naturally, I felt absolutely terrible and cleaned her up immediately. That would never have happened with my first child, but no harm was done, and she was none the wiser. In fact, that was the night she gave up her bottle before bed. So, in fact, it was actually a good thing.
Not that my second child was, or is, neglected. Far from it. She’s very well looked after and is incredibly adored. It’s just a different experience and in many ways, she’s better off for it, more resilient and independent. My first child, no doubt, felt like she had to stand to one side and make room for her sister, instantly forgetting all the many leg massages and focused attention she’d received. On the other hand, my second child clearly had to fight for attention since she was a young age and still does today. But on a positive note, she did get the more relaxed version of her parents, and considering how fraught we were the first time around, maybe coming second wasn’t such a bad thing after all.