Siblings: No Two are Alike

Family Matters on 05.05.11
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Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom Photography

I probably shouldn't admit it, but I always have a little inner chuckle whenever I am talking to a pregnant woman or father to be for the second time, and they are discussing how things are going to be when the baby arrives based on how their first child behaved. I even hear people discussing having a second and speculating how it will be before they are even pregnant. With first children, there tends to be a "I have no idea what we've gotten into, but hopefully we won't hurt the baby" attitude. With second children, all the fabulous qualities of the first child are stressed. The first baby slept through the night at two weeks old, never tried to crawl out of their crib, and could say "mama" at eight months old, and therefore we can make the same assumptions for the second baby. But there is only one thing that is absolutely, positively reliable about second children; they will be nothing like your first.

I suppose I was one of those people too. I think I thought that because my second child was a girl, she would be sweet as pie and I would have no problem bringing her to work with me (I managed a children's store) because we were used to having kids in the store, and my son was always a good sleeper so I'd just be able to pop her into a pack and play in the office and let her sleep while I worked, at least for the first few months. But unlike my son, my daughter NEVER slept, at least never for more than twenty minutes. Oh, and she always wanted to be held, and preferred that you were moving while holding her as sitting still was just too dull. So while I would work, my boss would be bouncing around the store with my baby in her arms. Sleeping through the night was also overrated. While my son was one of those who slept through the night at just a few weeks old, my daughter didn't sleep through the night regularly until she was more than a year old.

In addition to not sleeping, she also wasn't so fond of eating. Why take a full bottle when instead you can have your mother give you little bits of it every thirty minutes to try to get some nutrition into your little body? Her brother would house six ounces without coming up for a breath of air at only a few weeks old. And really, what's the point of sitting still or being contained when you can start crawling at six months and walking at nine months so that you can get into as much mischief as possible. My son crawled at eight months and walked at 13 months.

While it didn't seem so lucky at the time, I got laid off just about as soon as I went back to work because the business was closing. I think it was a higher power realizing I would be a danger to society by getting in the car and driving to work every day on such little sleep and knowing that the very regimented in-home daycare my son went to would never take in my daughter with her crazy schedule, or lack thereof.

A few other differences between my kids include that my daughter has no fear and would jump off of a cliff without hesitation while my son is adventurous but cautious; my daughter might eat two bites of a meal whereas my son doesn't leave a crumb on his plate; my son wouldn't use a blanket until he was about four while my daughter goes to sleep with four blankets on her in her crib; my son's is "off the charts" wheras my daughter lands well on them; and the list goes on and on. And I have other friends that have the most laid back children I've ever seen as second children, but not mine.

You hear people make enormous generalizations about children all the time based on their birth order. But the fact is that while we all have visions of what are children will be like when they are merely a twinkle in our eyes, we never know what we're going to get, not even after we've done it once, twice, or even more. My mother is the oldest of ten and while they are all close, I would very easily use different words to describe each and every one of them. The best way to plan for each child is to be prepared to be flexible and go with the flow. While different children give us different challenges, that is also what makes them each the wonderful individuals that they are. And once they arrive, all those plans tend to go right out the window as we realize that all we can do is our best to get them through each day healthy and safe.

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