To My Second Child,
I’ve been wanting to write this since your birth, wanting to find the words, to explain how I feel. But something has been stopping me; I wasn’t sure exactly what it was that I needed to say to you and I haven’t been sure how to put into words the way I have felt since you arrived. But I’ll try.
My second child, you are so very different to my first. You are calm, quiet, easy to make smile. You are the very definition of an ‘easy baby’, although I hate to use that term for how it implies your sister was something else. Your laid back nature and currently simple needs mean it is very easy to leave you to one side, to put you on a play mat while I focus on your sister. Her needs are so much more complex than yours and her toddler ways take up so much of my time. I give you what time I have left, but it never feels like enough. It pales in comparison to the twenty four hour care and attention that I was able to give to your sister, my first child.
You are so loving, so cuddly, so deserving of attention and yet our cuddles are always cut short. You’ve been on this planet for nearly four whole months and yet I don’t feel I know you as well as I should, as well as I want to. I crave to know you better, to have longer with you. Because I haven’t been able to spend every waking hour studying you, playing with you, cooing and copying your little sounds. Reading up on your development and finding new ways to encourage you to do the things that the internet tells me you will soon be capable of. At this point in your sister’s life I could tell people the exact times and lengths of her naps, how many nappy changes she’d had that day and her weight week by week. But, I’m sorry to admit that I don’t even know how many weeks old you are anymore. I’m such an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person, but when I became a mother of two I had to let go of that mentality because I can’t give you both my all, not at the same time. And I feel horrendously guilty for not being able to give you my everything, the same as it breaks my heart to not be able to give your sister my everything either.
I split myself daily between you both and at this moment in time I feel you have drawn the short straw. Because toddlers are more complicated than babies, more time consuming. They have more demands, more complex personalities, more interests. So when I have to make the choice between tummy time with you or keeping your sister entertained, it’s in all of our best interests to avoid the tantrums of the two year old. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad, when I see you lying on your play mat by yourself, smiling up at the rattly toys that dance above your head and watching your eyes follow the flickering lights. Whenever I do have the time to play just with you, you smile the widest, most beautiful smile and I wish so badly I had more time to give you, to get to know you. I wish I could take you to more baby sensory classes as I know you would love it, but some things are just harder with a toddler in tow and lots of these places don’t allow older siblings anyway. Your sister hated going to things like that when she was a baby so it’s a shame that you are the one who now isn’t able to go.
But the thing I want you to know in all of this is that I don’t love you any less. Our cuddles are shorter than the ones I was able to give your sister when she was your age, you have less time physically in my arms but that doesn’t mean you have any less room in my heart. Your outfits aren’t as carefully planned and you often find yourself sleeping in the craziest of places but that doesn’t mean you are any less valued, any less important.
In many ways you are actually the lucky one. Your sister has paved the way for you as our child, and we know more what we are doing this time around. We are less nervous as parents, less stressed and anxious about your every move, and I’m sure this will have a positive effect on you and the person you grow up to be. The toys and clothes you have might not be new, but you also have the luxury of not being born to new parents. You never have to live the life of an only child and as soon as you are old enough to want to play, your sister will be ready and waiting for you.
I set my standards too high with my first born. Everything was hand made and home cooked. And now I’m here just hoping I can find it in me to do the same for you. To make you your own stocking, to throw you the perfect naming ceremony, to make every single one of your birthday cakes from scratch. But if I can’t, I think it’s okay. Because I will always manage to love you the same, to treat you the same, to respond to your needs and understand you as a person. I hope you know that being second isn’t a bad thing, that it’s not a priority ranking. You are so important, so special and so loved.
So, my darling boy, when you are older you might see photos of yourself in your sister’s hand me down pink sleeping bag and you might wonder why. ‘Why didn’t mum buy me my own sleeping bag?’, ‘Why am I lying on the floor in the photo?’, ‘Why are there half as many photos of me?’ So I’ll tell you, it’s because I was too busy loving you, and loving your sister and because I know now what is important as a parent. It’s not making sure my baby boy has all new possessions, it’s not making sure everything matches and that we go to a full schedule of baby classes every week. It’s making sure that I give you as much of my time and as much of myself that I can, and that just looks a little different when you are the second child. So every night when I tuck you up in your pink sleeping bag it makes me smile, because it reminds me that things are different now, things are better – because you are here – in your little pink bag. It reminds me of my first baby, and it reminds me that my second baby is so lucky to have come into a family that loves him as much as we do. Life with two children certainly must look more dysfunctional than life with one from the outside, but life is infinitely better with you in it.
I hope you understand, baby boy.