Second child mama

Dear Z,

You are a first child and I am a second child, so I'm not sure I totally get you. This is clearly an impediment to me really understanding you.

I watch as grown-ups often ignore you and go nutso over your baby sister and I am struck by the fact that I never experienced that. Every time you are ignored as people go bonkers over your baby sister, I see your face harden. This somehow softens me.

I watch you watch your sister with sidelong, wary glances. You want a playmate but she's too delicate. You want me to yourself but she's always around. You want to play with your toys in peace but she's always in your face, grabbing at your toys, climbing in your lap. You want to squash her but you know that results in your immediate banishment. You sometimes do it anyway.

I am constantly searching for empathy and I work hard to imagine what it must be like for you as an older sister since I just don't know.

I tell you often that I always wanted a baby sister and it's true. I tell you often how you're a great big sister and E is lucky to have you and it's true.

Sometimes I wish that I could tell you I know exactly how you feel. But I can't because I don't.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


Dear E,

You are a second child and so am I, so I'm sure I totally get you. This is clearly an impediment to me really understanding you.

When I watch you with your sister, I can't help but immediately empathize with your plight. You are always looking up, reaching up, following, wanting what you can't have but it's right in front of you. When I put you down on the floor and your sister is nearby, you immediately crawl over to where she is. You want to be with her, do what she's doing, play with what she's playing with, or should I say teethe whatever she's playing with.

I remember this feeling. I remember following my brother around, desperate to do what he was doing. It seems to me that being a second child is defined by following and reaching but never quite getting what you want. Or maybe that's just you, today, at this moment. Or maybe that's just me, in my head.

I am constantly searching for true empathy for you, the ability to put aside my own memories of being a baby sister so that I can really see you. I try to understand you as a baby sister, have an open mind and imagine what it must be like for you, since I just don't know.

Sometimes I think I know exactly how you feel, but I don't.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


Hillary said...

I was reading your letter to Z and thinking, "But wait! even being the same doesn't help. I project so much onto The Boy because we're both first-borns. I think I understand, but I don't." And then I saw your letter to E.

You're so smart.

Marie Green said...

Also, I must point out that you may understand/identify with your first born more than you think. After all, you were a 2nd born, but the first girl, and often that leads to many "first child" characteristics.

I'm a first born, but I have twins as my first borns, and I have no understanding of what that must be like. However, I get along better with, and feel like I understand more about, my 3rd child. It's possible our personalities mesh better, or perhaps the bubble around the twins is thick enough that no one else can truly penetrate it?

I love birth order stuff!

bat7mess said...

I feel the EXACT same way about my girls, exact opposite. I am the oldest of 2 girls, so I think I know exactly how Sophie feels, but I'm sure I don't. And I try to empathize with Lilah since I'm not sure what it's like to be second. Good post.

Kader said...

I loved this post. You come up with such creative ways to talk about (and to) your daughters. I am always excited to see what you'll write next!
As a first-born daughter of an only-child mother, I can tell you that we understand each other well, just not perfectly. And that is just fine.

Good Enough Mom said...

I love how self-reflective you are. I love your drive for empathy and knowledge. Can I lure you back into psychology? We need you over here!

Bronwen Pardes said...

Spoken like a true TLC-er -- you can never know *exactly* how someone is feeling, so don't say you do. :) If I ever get around to having 2 kids (lets not hold our breath as we've only just begun trying for #1) maybe you can educate me about second kids and I can educate you about firsts. I have lots of vivid memories of being an insanely jealous older sister.

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