Because you are the second child

Dear E,

(I haven't even started writing and I'm already choked up.)

You are almost 6 months old. When your sister was this age, I spent hours just sitting with her, watching her, singing to her, reading to her, NOTICING her. (When she was this age, I was also exercising for an hour every day, and had enough free time and optimistic energy to tell CG: "I think I may try to use her nap times every day to teach myself Spanish." HAHAHAHAHA.)

Because you are the second child, we were told we should ignore you, pay more attention to your big sister. You wouldn't know any better.

That's pretty much what we've done. At three and a half, your sister requires a lot of attention and interaction and you, generally, comparatively, don't. I nurse you when you're hungry, but I'm often trying to eat something, read a story to Z or help her get dressed at the same time. I come to you when you cry, but I'm often being trailed by a crying Z, who's isn't about to be outdone. Because you are the second child, there just doesn't seem to be enough time for anything but the basics. Your basic needs are met but the days race by in an endless blur of activity and as I'm putting you down for the night, I am often struck by how little I've actually had a chance to sit and notice, really NOTICE, you that day.

Us virtually ignoring you does have some benefits. You are currently THRILLED to have your diaper changed. It's like you've suddenly got the spotlight, the parental attention you crave, and you don't want to lose it. You open your eyes as wide as they'll go, stomp your feet and trill your tongue into endless screeches and giggles. Even when getting your boogers sucked out, you gaze at me in rapturous adoration and giggle when I begin this most unglamourous activity.

Because you are the second child, you've figured out you need to take what you can get.

The documentation of your life thus far is yet another example of the true cliche: the second child always gets the shaft. We took pictures of Zoe every. freaking. day. Literally. You? Well, about once or twice a week I stop to notice how gorgeous, how luminous, you are and I prop you up where there's decent light and run for the camera and try not to trip over the clutter and try not to upset Z by giving you too much attention and try to keep the dog from licking the camera lens and practically break a sweat (there's my workout!) trying to capture just one little moment for eternity because I don't want to forget this moment of you EVER.

As a first child, Z has a pretty full baby book, actually a "baby's first year" calendar with stickers for each milestone. I wrote in it each time she started a new food or changed the way she smiled or made a new sound or pooped a new color (alas, there is no sticker for that one).

I bought you a similar baby-milestone calendar before we left Pasadena and... I have no idea where it is. When we started feeding you rice cereal last week, I went looking for it and quickly gave up and ordered a new one from Amazon. What this means, of course, is that I'm going to have to make up the first five and a half months' worth of milestones.

I hope you don't hate me for this particular form of revisionist history. I'm sure you smiled for the first time somewhere in.... June? Let me just close my eyes and randomly apply a sticker somewhere here....
That's Z's milestone calendar on the left, complete with pictures and detailed information. Yours is... currently blank.

In future years, when you are sure that I don't love you as much as your sister because of these inequalities, I hope it will be clear that what I lacked in meticulous, detailed memory keeping, I made up for in adoring, if scatter-brained, enthusiasm.

Today, I tried to take a decent photo of the two of us, and struggled.

But I will keep trying because I don't ever want to forget these sweet, fleeting days.

Because you are the second child, I know just how fleeting they are.

Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


desperate housewife said...

Oh. Oh oh oh. Great post, Jenna! I am having such a hard time coming to grips with the "maybe we're just having these two kids" realization because of THIS EXACT THING- I was totally the same way when Eli was a baby, distracted and frantic from having a toddler and trying to sell the house, and not nearly as IN THE MOMENT as I was with Adelay. But I didn't have the benefit of knowing that Eli might, in fact, be my last baby. My last one to nurse. My last one to bathe and snuggle and rock.
I just feel like if I had KNOWN, I would have at least been able to be a little more attentive. I guess the lesson is that you never know, so you should always be watching. Always be seeing. I have been trying really hard on that one lately!

Anonymous said...

No matter what, your babies will know that you love them. I'm the youngest of six (with a single mom no less), and I'm just as close or closer than any of the others. All you can do is your best, and you do amazing

Marie Green said...

I felt graced with parental KNOW-HOW with my third (but more like a second) child... which helped me feel less guilty about not having the same rapt attention for her. I've continued to feel that way, like I am a good mother to her, simply in that I'm not neurotic this time around.

I think there is something to birth order playing a part in a person's personalities, but we change our children's birth order... so I guess we'll just have to celebrate how it's different! (Yeah, this is easier said than done... SIGH.)

Marianne said...

I was told that "everyone should be a second child."

Hillary said...

But see, you're a mother who cares enough to make up the entries in the calendar, rather than leave them blank. Gold star for you.

Lovely post.

miyoko said...

LOVE this post. i'm all weepy because i am TOTALLY right there with you.

we used to always say "where did our babies go and where did these little girls come from?!" and that was when we were STARING AT OUR KIDS ALL DAY EVERY DAY.

Now it's such a quick blur i feel like i'm constantly struggling for ANY quality time with I.

Michelle said...

Wonderful post. I love the photos of you attempting to take a picture of the two of you.

You are so thoughtful.

bat7mess said...

I love your blog because it is SO relate-able to me also having a young child and a baby (and also both of them girls). I struggle with this as well, but treasure the time Sophie is in school in the morning and it's just Lilah and I. And I just have to tell you- E is seriously one of the cutest babies I have ever seen! OMG THOSE CHEEKS! You must eat those cheeks all day long!

Grateful Twin Mom said...

Oh Jenna, E is AMAZINGLY CUTE! Those saucer eyes! You are recording so much here on CBHM that E and Z will have a wealth of knowledge about your feelings and trials and triumphs as they grow. Love the photo session of you and E together. Priceless! Miss you.

EllenAC6 said...

E is truly in my top 3 of cutest babies ever!!!!!!!!!!!! Mine, one nephew, and her. And to be honest, while my now grown daughter is gorgeous, she was not as cute as a baby.

Good Enough Mom said...

I know this is not the point at all...but I have to ask:

Really? You worked out an hour every day when Z was 6 mos old?

I stand in awe before you.

(And the rest of what you wrote is just totally right on...I want to reassure you, though, that E will get her time with you soon enough...my kids are also 3 years apart, and we had a dynamic very similar to yours at first...but, once your younger one starts walking and talking, it all changes, and soon she will get attention from everyone, ESPECIALLY Z!!)

Erin said...

I know. My sweet Emmett's babyhood was much the same way, and now I'm seeing how that will be even more so with newborn Willa.


But something that has only recently begun to happen is Calum & Emmett becoming really buddies. They play TOGETHER. They really like each other, and care about each other, even if they fight-- like-- 75% of the time. It's an amazing thing to watch, and it's only a matter of time before your girls become that way too.

Having siblings deepens daily life in a way I didn't appreciate before watching it unfold among my own children.

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