Monday, August 2, 2010

On Being Second

Melissa wrote here about her youngest going to VBS today - the first time she'll be dropped off somewhere without her mom or big brother physically present. After all, she (like many of us) is a second child.

Her post has caused me to again wonder about how different my two-year-old's experience of life is from my four-year-old's. Interestingly enough, I am a second child and I haven't spent time wondering how that made my perspective different from my sister's. Until I had children of my own, although I'd thought about birth order issues, I'd not considered it the same way. Now, even though I'll never really know what to attribute to my children's birth order, I can't help but wonder.

Just recently, when we were preparing to go to Iowa for my cousin's wedding, the two-year-old said, "I go to I-wa...wit-out you, Mama, and wit-out brudder." I was shocked. Our children have spent many nights without their parents, both at home and at relatives' homes, so I wasn't surprised he would go without me. But, without his brother? I have often wondered how he would do if we sent him alone, but it never occured to me that he would think of such an idea. I'm still amazed.

Because really, all he's known is being with his brother. Yes, they are separated at times - he's in the nursery while his brother is old enough to go to Sunday school; they've been in different rooms at daycare (although since February they've been together there). But, the two-year-old doesn't know a world without the four-year-old.

Even as a second child, I don't know that I can name the many ways that makes life different, but here are a few:

A second child always has a companion.

A second child always has a competitor.

A second child never has all the attention and love, but has more than enough.

A second child has another by which to measure his or her accomplishments.

A second child has another from which to differentiate himself or herself.

A second child never knows mine without also knowing ours.

I'm sure this list could go on and on. And I'm one of those who believes that one experience isn't better or worse, they are just different. And I hope, whether we're talking about issues of personality differences or those that are truly impacted by birth order, that I will parent my children for who they are...who they are individually, but also who they are within our family and this world.

I hope that my children will grow up to know that they are exactly who they are supposed to be.


Melissa said...

Thanks for the link :-)

I love this:A second child never knows mine without also knowing ours.

It's such an important lesson that many people don't learn. I two try not worry about what she is missing (it would make me crazy!) but all that she has gained by having a sibling.

Christine said...

I'm the first child and to be honest I can't remember a time when I didn't have a sibling. But interestingly I used to worry about this from a different perspective. When my second was born I was literally sick over how a sibling would affect my oldest. It was crazy really, but I was so sure he would feel less loved. Frankly I still worry abou it. My attentions are so much more divided now, that I feel I'm always trying to compensate. And it's foolish I think because I obviously love them equally, but I always want them to know that in an odd way they are both number one. I'm not sure if that makes any sense, I'm rambling a bit, but this is something I think about often.

Jill said...

Christine, you're not're speaking your heart and mine, too. I found myself having some of the same worries when the second was born. I spent tons of energy choreographing the moment of their meeting, wanting the older to not feel pushed aside by this new little baby. In some ways I think I worried more for him because I was a second child and knew I always felt loved, but I wondered if he - who had been the only - would still know that. However, when I look at my children, I am certain they both know they are completely and totally loved. I am certain yours do as well.