My husband and I have learned that child-rearing rules change when you have your second child. In fact, they change so much that you can hardly recognize the parent you’ve become when your new baby arrives. With your first, you consult parenting books, blogs, and Dr. Google ad nauseum. You focus on doing everything right for your little cherub. But when that second kid arrives on the scene, anything goes. Because ultimately you just need to make it to the end of each day with everyone still in one piece. I’ve learned that it’s harder than you think it should be. Here are just a few things that fly right out the window when you become a family of four:
- With our first son, I had the whole room ready weeks before he arrived. We put decal monkeys on the wall to match the monkey theme throughout the room. He had a beautiful crib and matching changing table. He had a monkey lamp. A glider sat in the corner of the room, ready for nursing at any hour of the day or night.
- Our second baby’s room doubles as my office — he has a crib next to my desk. No theme, no glider. When I nurse him in the middle of the night, I do so in my desk chair, and often prop my legs up next to my computer. I change him in his crib at 3 a.m., and during the day we use the changing table in his brother’s room. And you know what? He has no idea that he doesn’t have his own nursery, that his room doesn’t have a theme, and that we aren’t peacefully rocking back and forth in a $500 glider when he nurses. He has a comfortable, safe place to sleep, and a boob on demand. And that’s all he needs.
Three years ago I would have never believed that I would do what I do to my second son. With my firstborn, we lived and died by his nap schedule. Granted, he was an extremely fussy baby and did very well with a lot of structure. It helped us too. We were able to plan our days around when he needed his sleep. It worked for all of us. But now I have a toddler who not only has school and play dates, but the need to do things – especially on weekends. What does that mean for my little guy? He gets carted around constantly – whether it’s his naptime or not. I do try to make sure he gets at least one really good nap in his crib every day, but that second one isn’t always a guarantee. And he is such a trooper. He falls asleep in the car, or in the Ergo, and still has a smile on his face when he wakes up.
Once again, since my fussy firstborn did very well with routines, that meant that he got a bath every night before bed. And he still does. For him, bath time signified an approaching bedtime, so it helped him adjust to the end of the day. Now that he’s three years old and spends much of his day in sand boxes, sweating, or wrist-deep in piles of dirt (I don’t ask anymore…) he certainly benefits from that daily wash-down. But my eight-month-old only gets a bath every other day – mostly because I can’t muster the energy to clean two small children every day. And he smells just fine (after I’ve used baby wipes to clean the food out from his neck…).
This is a big one. We didn’t allow our first son to watch any television until he was nearly two years old. Seriously. And now he’s only allowed an occasional episode of Daniel Tiger when I need a break or need to make dinner. But do you know who is sitting next to him when he watches it? His little brother. There is no keeping TV away from my little guy until he’s two. Too late for that one.
Leaving him alone to play
Now I won’t say that we leave him alone, but my baby gets much more, ahem, independence than my older son ever did at his age. I simply don’t have enough arms to get everything done that needs to get done now that I have two children. Half the time, I’m running after the toddler to stop him from climbing something dangerous, or I’m addressing his latest tantrum. That means I’m not holding or bouncing or snuggling the baby as much as I would like. But he doesn’t seem to mind that so much. He crawls around and gets his hands on his big brother’s toys (when big brother isn’t looking) and he doesn’t complain or fuss much at all. He’s pretty chill, and I think that might be because we’ve let him do his own thing for the past several months.
Some might consider the list above to be the negative aspects of being a second child. Others might see them as assets in some ways. BUT, there are a few things that my baby is undeniably getting as a result of being the second kid:
- He has a best friend. Seriously, these kids adore each other. It’s the most amazing thing to watch.
- He has parents who are more knowledgeable. When the baby got Roseola while we were on vacation, I didn’t even flinch. In fact, I had a feeling that I knew what it was even before the rash emerged, because our first son had the very same thing less than two years before.
- He has parents who are less nervous. I refer you to the Roseola incident. With my first son I was Googling horrifying images of rashy babies. With my second kid, I was just happy that his fever was gone and that he was smiling. What’s a little (or big) viral rash at the end of the day?