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My First Born Duped Me Into Thinking Parenting Was So Easy

Rebecca Eckler February 19, 2019
Firstborn

I saw a meme on Facebook that made me laugh out loud. It was both funny but also not so funny.

Posted by Salty Mermaid Entertainment, it read; “My well-behaved firstborn game me the confidence to be a good mom. My wild child second kid taught me not to judge other mothers.

When I read it, I thought, “Yes! This!”

I feel like I was sort of duped after giving birth to my daughter, Rowan. I recently said to her, jokingly, “You tricked me into thinking parenting wasn’t THAT hard!”

Why? Well, she made parenting seem so easy. She was the easiest baby, toddler, and now, even teenager. Of course, I didn’t know this until I had my wild child second kid.

So how easy was my firstborn? By three months, she was not only sleeping through the night, but she was also sleeping in until 8 or 9 a.m., getting twelve solid, uninterrupted, hours of sleep. I naively thought I had somehow ‘trained’ her to be an excellent sleeper by simply using blackout blinds and a noise machine. She also had one – yes, that’s right – just one temper tantrum during the terrible twos and torturous threes. It was the kind of tantrum where you pretend the kid screaming on the airport floor is not really yours. That’s not my kid…move along!

Just a couple of months after my daughter was born, her father and I rented a house in Maui so we could live out my dream for a while. A few months after that, we rented a house in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Rowan and I also lived for two months. She never cried on any plane rides. And again, I naively thought I had somehow ‘trained’ her to fall asleep, at the exact time as the plane took off. (Okay, sometimes it *may* have been the Benadryl I *may* have given her.)

I got a lot of compliments when travelling with my baby daughter. Many passengers said, “I didn’t even know there was a baby on the plane, she was so quiet.” I never had to give her timeouts. Ever. I never had to tell her not to touch anything more than once. Ever. We didn’t even bother to baby proof the house. I know this sounds crazy, but when I would be driving, and she was in the car seat, all I had to do is look into her beautiful brown eyes, blink twice at her, and she knew to fall asleep.

Rowan was never scared of the dark. She’s not scared of anything. She is, and was, always up for anything, playing happily when I had to do chores, or while I was getting my nails done. And when I was tired, she would cuddle next to me, and we would nap together. She always did what I told her to do. Getting out the door was a breeze. If I was late, it was mostly because I couldn’t find my car keys. Even now that she’s a teenager, we still haven’t gotten into ONE fight. EVER. When we disagree, we talk it out. Rather, she pleads her case, calmly, like a lawyer (her lawyer dad’s genes at work, apparently…) And we come to a happy compromise.

Apparently, I won the lottery with my firstborn. Because when I had my second child, years later, it was…not the same. My second baby, Holt, never slept in. He never, ever napped. On airplanes, he did and does kick the back of the chair, no matter how many times I tell him to stop until I give up and pretend he’s someone else’s child. When I travel with him, no one has ever said to me, “He’s such a good boy!” I got, and get, a lot of judgmental stares.

I often find myself wondering how and why my second child has made me feel more of a parent than my first. Like, shit, parenting is H-A-R-D! How did I not know this?

My second child wakes up at 6 a.m and doesn’t stop moving. All. Day. Long. That is, until I force him to bed, where for the next 20 minutes, he’ll do handstands and summersaults. He also whines, something my first never did. He has a temper and is so, so stubborn. I like to joke – but isn’t there a little truth to every joke? – that whenever I tell him to do something, he views it like I’m giving him an option. If I tell him to go to sleep, he’ll look at me like, “Meh. I’ll think about it.”  If I tell him he needs to get his coat on NOW, he’ll look at me also like, “Do I really have to listen to this woman? Let me think about it for 20 minutes.”

When Rowan was in grade one, she won an award for being the best student in the entire school, for that month. My son, now in grade one, has been called to the principal’s office about four times already this year. Twice I was called by the school, on two occasions, because two different mothers of his classmates called to complain about my son patting their kids on the butt. (“Are you telling me my six-year-old son is contributing to the #metoo movement?” I actually asked the teacher.) My son is not a bad boy. He’s a goofball, energetic, and a ‘wild second child’ who can either make me howl with laughter or make me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork.

When my son loses at ANY game, he’ll scream and throw a fit. I never had to bribe my daughter – she always just went with the flow – but with my son, bribery is sometimes (and mostly) the only option, if I want to get something done, get him to chill out, or to have a somewhat peaceful evening or weekend.

Honestly, it’s like my six-year-old second child is the boss of me, not the other way around. He’ll say, “Mommy, can you get the charger for my iPad?” To which I’ll respond, “You have two legs. Get it yourself.” To which he’ll whine, “But my legs are so t-i-r-e-d!” And, I admit, it’s just easier to go get the damn charger than to listen to his whining.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my second wild child just as much as my first. He’s so damn cute, with his dimple and blue eyes. And I raise them the same way. So why is my second so wildly different from my first?

I liked this article in Babble. The writer says, “My second child is sandwiched right in between two other siblings, and he gave me a run for my money almost the second he was born — from the tantrums to the troublemaking. And while science has told us for a while now that birth order can impact both your personality and your achievements, a recent study has confirmed one more little factoid: Second kids really are harder than the rest.”

The study was conducted by MIT economist, Joseph Doyle, and looked at thousands of families with two or more children in order to find out if the second-born child got into more trouble than other kids in the family — though the sampling primarily focused on families where the second-born was male.

The writer says, “The study found that second-borns presented more ‘challenging’ behavior. But here’s what was really eye-opening about the study for me: Second-born boy, in particular, were more likely to get in trouble at school and with the court system when they got older. They were even more likely to end up in prison…”

Um, what?

The study authors also wrote, “We consider differences in parental attention as a potential contributing factor to the gaps in delinquency across the birth order.”

Sigh. Blame the parents.

But my wild second child gets so much attention, from so many people, it’s beyond. So I’m going to try and forget that study and focus on what one of my colleagues, who has two children, told me when I asked if her second born was the wild one. “Actually, my firstborn was so difficult that that was part of our conversation when we discussed having a second child.”

Personally, I think children are crap shoots. And no, I wouldn’t trade my ‘wild’ second child, or his personality, for anything.

Were you duped with your firstborn too?

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