Being Number Two

Last night we took the kids with us to a holiday party. While I was trying to hold and eat my food while hoisting baby on my hip, a fellow party-goer commented on Charlotte's attachment to her mommy. I replied that she indeed is my appendage and I hardly have time to do anything at home because I'm limited to one-armed activities. My insightful husband, who until recently spent his nights on the couch while I co-slept, stated that it may actually be mommy who is attached to baby. In response I gave Charlotte a little squeeze and Andy a little smile.

What can I say? I agree with him. For awhile I thought my incredibly sentimental attachment to Charlotte had to do with the fact that she may be the last child I give birth to. She may be the last baby I hold in my arms and call my own. I don't think I enjoyed Caroline's infancy enough because I was tired and terrified. I have enjoyed Charlotte's baby months so much more because I am not as focused on the mechanics of child-rearing. Changing diapers, using the car seat, giving baths and cleaning up vomit are all like riding a bike to me now. The second time around, these activities came to me naturally, allowing me the chance to marvel in the magic of parenthood.

Other reasons for my possessiveness, besides that it's human nature for a mother to be attached to her baby, might include my success at building a bond through breast feeding and staying home longer before returning to work or her resemblance to me (nobody ever told me Caroline even remotely looked like me).

The other day, the real reason finally dawned on me. Besides being my own flesh and blood, Charlotte and I have something else in common. We are both the second child. Caroline, in our house, is referred to as Big C, Big Sis, Queen Caroline and C #1. Charlotte, on the other hand, is called, Little C, Little Sis, Princess Charlotte and C2. For three and a half years Caroline positioned herself as the apple of her parents' eyes and her dominant and delightful personality requires a great deal of attention. With just one kid, new parents, like me and Andy, can be easily manipulated. And boy, is Caroline a manipulator.

Our pure love and concern for Caroline and desire to make her happy in all circumstances has made us often wonder if we've turned ourselves into her personal servants rather than caregivers. Why would a smart four year old put on her own socks and shoes and walk to the car when she can watch Barney while someone dresses her and then carries her from door right to car seat? In our efforts to being the best parents we could be, our mantra has always been "Nothing but the best for our little Caroline".

Well, all you smart parents out there are laughing at us. I've watched enough Super Nanny episodes now to know that children must learn critical self-help skills in order to succeed as adults. It is painful to wait while she dawdles and whines but every morning Caroline now puts on her own shoes and coat and, with a little empowerment, performs many other tasks without a bit of help from Mommy or Daddy. We are tired and broke and that's why we've gotten smart and are starting early with Charlotte. Two kids makes life ten times as expensive and hectic and its survival of the fittest at our house.

Sorry, Char, but we just don't have the money to buy you all new clothes so everything you wear, right down to the socks, will be a hand-me-down. All the books you read, chairs you sit in and crib you sleep upon have been used by your sister. Your sister never cried longer than 60 seconds before being picked up. You have been placed in the jumperoo or your crib where you screamed your heart out while we've changed out the laundry, cooked dinner or helped your sister change her clothes after an accident.

At seven months, Caroline was turned away from the TV if she even cast a glance in its direction. You, my second child, have been placed in front of Barney and tossed a paper towel roll to chew before I've rushed to pull Caroline down from falling off of the back of the couch or stopped her from unwrapping all of the gifts under the tree. I'm sorry, my baby, but this is just the way it's going to be and you'll have to get used to it. I survived being the second child and you will too.

While there is always room in ones heart to love another child, there isn't always the time in the day or change in the purse to manage it all nice and neatly. I do the best that I can to make sure they are fed and clean and have a warm place to sleep at night. So what if once in a while it's right next to me?

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