Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sorry Second Child But You're Screwed

People will tell you that they love all their kids equally (except for maybe that know-it-all one -- he’s such an ass). This may be true, but all kids born after the first one are getting the shaft. Some parents may not be willing to admit this, but it’s true. Let’s take my household for instance. I love our second baby. She’s female, adorable, and looks just like Telly Savalas. But she really has to go out of her way to impress us.

Smiling? -- Pshh. Seen it. Done it.
Sitting up? -- Congratulations, you are no longer in the bottom percentile of our kids that can do this.
First word? -- It’s about time! Your sibling is now forming sentences.
Crawling? -- Guess what, pokey? You’re the last in our household to obtain this ability.  

These are impressive events for a new child, and typically get memorialized in a baby book of some kind. Assuming they were done by a first child. Our first child’s baby book is like a exquisite set of leather bound encyclopedias that contain every nuance of his first few years of existence. Our second child is now 11 months old and we still haven’t gotten around to buying hers. Don’t get me wrong we do cherish these events. But due to the utter exhaustion that is having two kids, we just cherish them in different ways.

First Child

Wife comes running in with the video camera, hysterically screaming “OH MY GOD!!! OH MY GOD!!!” as she fights back tears.

Second Child
Wife: “She turned over onto her side”
Me: “Shhh,  I’m watching  that cable show about how they move big houses.”

But even with putting aside the whole been-there-done-that factor, there’s also the issue of logistics. With a crazy, maniacal first child running rampant around the house, there just isn’t as much time to devote to the child with the poor timing. Like when the second child is crying because they want to be held or fed (Jesus you just ate an hour ago!), but the first child is currently trying to climb into your stove. You need to handle the stove issue first. Sorry second child but you’re just going to have to wait. Unfortunately this kind of thing happens a lot.  

For the first child we made sure our two cats stayed clear of him due to concerns of him being scratched and the fear of him developing allergies if he was near them too much as an infant. As for the second child, were so busy all the time that the cats are practically raising her on their own.

So as you can see it’s different with the second child. Unless your first child is that know-it-all-ass kid, the second one is going to have a hard time making a name for themselves and getting the attention they deserve. And don’t even get me started on what a pathetic attempt at specialness a third child would be (sorry third children, but it’s true).

Pat:  Not sure if you wanted my input on this one, but given that I’m in a similar boat I figured “what the hell!” By the way, I LOVE Telly Savalas. At least I think I do. Was he Daddy Warbucks in “Annie”? If not, then I LOVE Albert Finney with a shaved head so he looks like Telly Savalas!

Yeah, there’s not really a diplomatic way around this one. Second kids get screwed! I’m assuming that third, fourth, fifth, etc. kids get screwed exponentially worse, as you suggested. My wife’s father is the fourth of nine, and I can only imagine what life was and is like for his youngest sibling. What is the word to describe “eight-times-worse-than-invisible”?

We have embarrassingly fewer pictures of our second child, there is no baby book to be seen documenting her childhood, and no landmark clothes or toys that don’t already have her older brother’s name inked on them. We’re not entirely sure she exists.

But then I remembered that I am a second child (and don’t forget that you’re a third, Mr. Neglected-Pants!), and that it wasn’t all that bad. Sure, I just went through the old family photo albums and was painfully reminded that I take up two pages to my sister’s 43, but...that means that I had to pose for far fewer awkward and drawn-out photos than my sister. I had fewer recitals, fewer moments to document in 35mm film, slides, and Kodachrome™. Further, I had far less pressure to perform, as does my daughter. I can’t imagine the pressure our oldest feels, as though he is the first being on earth to do every act that we witness, and if he doesn’t do it then humankind will likely not advance. That’s more expectation than I could ever endure!

Meanwhile, our youngest just looks on, picks her nose, eats it, and ponders the world of opportunity that opens itself up when there is no pressure to do anything. Everything will be done for you, laid out in advance for you with instructions and without fanfare, so that you can just sail smoothly through everything.

Seriously, should we really put that much emphasis on our first child’s first poopy? After that kind of attention, every subsequent movement can’t help but be inadequate.

Christian: To be accurate though, my siblings and I are separated by a lot more years than the norm which means I’m kind of both a second and first child. You, on the other hand, are a true second child and I’m sure that you would agree that the the resulting tremendous psychological damage is quite apparent.

Pat:  I love how you somehow equate being the third child with being a hybrid of the second and first. Yes, dear friend, 1 and 2 do add up to three, but you cannot isolate your birth order number in order to have TWO birth orders. World don’t work that way, daddy-o!

Tremendous psychological damage indeed! I remember clearly, at age 7, realizing a terrifying potential: given the inherent timing and spacing of our births, I would be the last in my family to die. “Suck on that one, seven-year-old” said the wicked master of realities, and I spun into a pit of loneliness and despair.

But, being the rational and more patient second child, logic soon took over and I applied enough of my inherently superior academic intellect to research life expectancy worldwide, only to find that men live, on average, seven years fewer than women. This anxious 7 year old’s problem was eased! I’m two and a half years younger than my sister, so I’m gonna’ die an easy five years before her. Who’s going to be lonely now?! Second child rocks!


  1. Christian - Could you please elaborate on how you view the following situations:
    - Parents of one child.
    - Parents of two children close in age.
    - Parents of two children distant in age.

  2. Here's the deal- you can have multiple birth orders. I am a second child as well as an eldest. I do have an older brother, but he's 6 years older than me so he wasn't like a real sibling to me. I have 2 younger sisters and we're all fairly close in age. I definitely feel like an eldest sibling to them.

    I feel sorry for people who come from these "traditional" families. You're all stuck in one position in your family. It must be stifling.

  3. none - Gladly!

    - Parents of one child: Child is incredibly special. We're talking like a 35 on a scale of 42.

    - Parents of two children close in age: First child special like above until new child is born. Then it's a bit downhill from there. But nothing like it is for the second child - it's like receiving bass when you ordered salmon.

    - Parents of two children distant in age (This happens to be like my situation except I have two older siblings): First child(ren) kind of special but who cares. The last child however, oh my god, we're talking salmon with sprinkles on top kind of specialness!

    Wait was I supposed to talk about the children or the parents in these scenarios?

  4. I think that the message that we need to take away form this blog is that people should only have 1 kid.

  5. Megiweg - I thought the message was how special I am to my parents?

  6. Christian - You and I had this conversation before and I had to bring it up because your comments were funny.
    One child: I pool couples with one child in the same category as those with none. Having one child, you can still do everything you want while the other is watching him/her.
    Two children: life becomes much harder.
    Three children: Troutdale is up that way.

  7. I agree with Megiweg. Having had two, I think it would have been much better to cap it off (see "Vasecto-You, Not Me") after the first. Sorry, dear daughter. I love you, but it's very hard. Very hard.

  8. none - Ah yes I remember that. It was that when we only had one child I felt like those with no children just couldn't understand. Now that we have two, I lump the one child people in with the no child people in that the just can't understand. I'm also getting close to lumping in those people with two kids but spaced far apart with those people that just can't understand. Like Pat said, it's very hard.

  9. Okay, I am realizing that I am painfully behind in the whole "reading when the post was written" thing, but I can't help it if I just discovered your blog and now have to go back and gorge myself on old posts. (Lucky for me, they are not like peanut M&Ms that eventually DO get stale and need and expiration date, I don't care what the packaging says.)

    So my point is: you owe me a new pair of pants or at least you need to pay my dry cleaning bill because I totally peed my pants from laughing so much.

    I am the oldest child, with not ONE baby book to mark my superior existence, but THREE-- count 'em, three. And now I am a mom to two boys, ages 8 and 6, so I totally get what you wrote and much as I want to disagree, I must say every word is true. But the first word is just a little bit truer than the second. Just sayin'.

    thanks for reading this comment if you do find it, ha!

  10. Better late than never, we always say, MOV--thanks for digging through the archives. And by the way, as a second child myself...I hate you. XOXO Pat