I am an oldest child, as were both of my parents. My husband Jon is an oldest child, as were his parents. We are both oldest grandchildren, and our daughter Hannah is the oldest great-grandchild on every side. Oldest children are what my husband and I know. So when we welcomed baby Jacob into our family we were entering uncharted territory. We suddenly had a younger sibling in our midst.
Most first-time parents are very nervous and very attentive. I might say too nervous and too attentive. The plain truth is that you don’t know what you’re doing. In this day and age you might not ever have held a newborn, let alone cared for one until suddenly you have your own. So you channel that worry into documentation. You create baby books and baby journals and baby albums. You chart how many wet and dirty diapers your newborn produces as if your very life depended on it.
With each passing child the amount of worry and attention diminishes. Which is a good thing, really. In the past four years of parenting I know I have lightened up considerably. My preschooler eats ice cream and shows no ill effects. I have crossed the refined sugar Rubicon, and we all survived. I have learned what matters and what doesn’t. And I have a whole lot less time on my hands. So I don’t write as many baby book entries. I take just as many photos, but I don’t put them in albums. And I don’t keep track of things like which day Jacob first made the ‘g’ sound.
But I don’t think my second child is any less important. I don’t love him less. Not even a little bit. I may have less time to devote to Jacob one-on-one, but a lot of that is made up for by his doting older sister. Plus, I’m not sure it was terribly good for anyone when I had nothing to do but spend one-on-one time with my child every day. Sometimes a little bit of sharing is good for a kid. It’s a lot of pressure to be the center of the universe, you know?
I am slowly learning the ins and outs of parenting a second child. There’s a temptation to view the little one as the eternal innocent, the one who can do no wrong. I am fighting that. There’s also a temptation to draw out infancy, because now I really understand how quickly it will be over. I am fighting that, too. And there’s a tendency to put pressure on the older one to look out for the younger, set a good example, make your life easier. Even more fighting from me on these fronts. I guess only time will tell how I do. How well I approach parenting children with a different birth orders.
I’m curious how other parents view birth order and the role it plays. Where do you fall in your family? And how has that affected your parenting? Or, maybe it hasn’t. I’d love to hear!