Three things the second child gets to do first

People are always complaining on behalf of the second child.  The first child gets the most time, love and attention.  I’m guilty of it too.  I imagine there will come a time when my oldest won’t need me to do every single little thing for him, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Somehow his needs always trump those of his little sister.

Today, as I wheeled my kids home from the playground in the dark and the cold eating ice cream (I had a weak moment where I NEEDED an ice cream and since I don’t share, I had to buy one for each of them), I realized there are three things my daughter will do before my son.

1.  Go to the dentist.  I was so vigilant about my son’s sugar intake.  He didn’t even eat cake on his first birthday.  It wasn’t until his second birthday that my mother beat me down and gave him an ice cream sundae.  I was too pregnant to care.  My daughter?  She had Haagen Dazs before she was done nursing.  She eats gummi fruit snacks and cookies and she’s not even 20-months old.  It’s not a regular occurrence but the truth is I can no longer get away with serving these treats to my son without the second child getting the benefit.

2.  Get her vaccinations.  I had a perfectly mapped out, evenly spaced, appropriately delayed immunization schedule for my first-born.  I went in to my daughter’s two month check-up and asked, “can’t she just get them all right now?”  Second children get to enjoy all the germs the first child treks home from school.  I wanted her to be protected against every virus he carried on his grubby little hands.   My first-born had two years to build up his immunity to those silly viruses, my daughter was exposed from day one.  Ok, she didn’t get all her vaccinations at two months old, but I fear she needs more protection than my son who was allowed to slowly and naturally build his defenses.

3.  Go to therapy.  That is, if we decide to have that third baby and she becomes the middle child.

No, I’m not pregnant. But I did recently find C’s hospital hat which is smaller than the palm of my hand and gave me a tiny case of baby fever.

My Tasmanian Devil baby

Daughter /ˈdôtər/.  Noun: a female offspring, known to produce excessive gray hairs and worry wrinkles, and inspire nightmares on a regular basis FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Yep, that’s my daughter.

At the playground, she doesn’t seem to understand that she can’t just waltz off a 2 foot step.

This won’t result in a concussion, right?

To make matters worse, after discovering this spin-ny thing at our new playground she’s pretty sure she can fly.

Pure unadulterated joy

She’s not much better in the house either.  Since she first learned to crawl she can’t pass by an outlet without sticking her finger in it.

And now that she is older and so much wiser, she loves to pull those plastic covers out…and put them back in.  Over and over.

So much for baby-proofing. Do they have a ‘Chloe-proofing’ aisle at Target?

Basically, she’s always looking for trouble.

Don’t mind me, nothing to see here.

And when she finds it, it’s serious stuff – like poisonous chemicals, risk of electrocution or serious head trauma (see above for photographic evidence). So I scold her in my “I’m-so-serious-my-voice-is-three-octaves-lower-DO-NOT-TOUCH-THAT-EVER-AGAIN” tone.  It’s so potent my 3 year-old in the other room starts whimpering from the ferocity of my voice.  But Chloe?  This is her reaction:

“Awww, come on mom! Lighten up.”                     Then she pokes me in the eye or sticks her finger up my nose.  I’m not kidding.

I know she loves me, yet most of her daily effort seems to be directed towards ensuring my early demise.

What am I supposed to do with this child?  I cannot find a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Child is the Tasmanian Devil” anywhere.

According to Wikipedia, the animal by the same name will “eat household products if humans are living nearby.” I wonder if he enjoys lemon scented pledge as much as Chloe would.

 

Help?!?!

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Three going on thirty (or how many gray hairs my kids give me daily).

Three might be the best age ever.  Gavin can be trusted to do so much on his own.  He climbs the steep subway steps all by himself.  He walks the sidewalks in front of me, but waits without fail at least 5 feet before the crosswalk.

Hode my hand, mommy.”

One of our favorite things to do is spend time at the local playground.  He’s been playing here since he first learned to walk and he knows every inch.  Now that Chloe is walking, she’s beginning to investigate the steps, the slides and the scene herself.   I spend a lot of time shadowing her.  That leaves Gavin with free reign as I keep one hand on her, one eye on him.

At the park this April, er, winter?

There were a lot of bigger kids at the park on Saturday which instantly makes me queasy.  Gavin loves to run behind the older kids as they run and roughhouse.  On this day, I noticed two 8-year-old boys that he was trailing.  They clearly didn’t enjoy the presence of this “baby” and had told him to get lost as they ran away repeatedly.

He chased after them as fast as his tiny legs could carry him until the boys stopped suddenly.  Together they backed him against the slide and one boy screamed some awful things just inches from his face.

I was behind Gavin at the time this happened, on the other side of the slide.  I couldn’t hear what the older boy said but I could see the menacing look on his face.  When they ran away I quickly circled over to see my boy.  His face was contorted in that way when you are trying with all your might not to cry but all you want to do is bust up and sob.

Yeah, just like that.

I was so proud of him for holding it in until the boys left.  I was so relieved that he cried (and let me console him) when I arrived.  It was time to go anyhow and after this incident I hauled both kids over to the stroller.  I strapped Chloe in and handed her some snacks.  But Gavin suddenly stopped the waterworks.

“I need one more minute mommy,” he said.

Somehow I knew he was right.  Intent on leaving on a high note, he ran another loop around the shark infested waters playground.

Dun-nah, dun-nah, dun-nah

Collision!  The boys were back.  Gavin stood shocked when he spotted them but I caught his eye and smiled – letting him know I was there.  Suddenly his demeanor changed.  As the boys charged over, he met their pace.  When they were all face to face he yelled to them “hey, you’re not gonna follow me!” and resumed his stride.

But the boys were bored and content on breaking him down so they chased after him.  He stopped and faced them.  “Leave me alone!” he boldly announced.  And they did.

How my heart leaped!  He was cautious, but not afraid.  He was assertive but not aggressive.  I couldn’t have asked for a more positive result from what could have been a mother’s nightmare.

My heart pounded out of my chest for the entire walk home.  I was sad at what happened, proud of his reaction, assuaged I was there to witness it all, troubled by the fact that this is just the beginning.

Frankly, it was too damn much for a Saturday afternoon.

Who said this parenting thing was easy???

Love this boy

 

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Is all of life an indentity crisis? Or is it just me?

Now that I’m tanned, fed and no longer sleep deprived, I’m started to ponder some deeper questions.  Is 5’2 the maximum height Snooki’s baby can hope for?  Would Jen Garner have had a third if she had one of each first?  Are Gwynnie’s ovaries whining now that she is always holding baby Blue?

And then somehow this question popped into my head:  WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?

In sad contradiction to my 30s, I was the most certain teen I knew.  Since my junior high days, I can recall countless essays and papers spent detailing my life in the YEAR 2000 (sung in the Conan theme).  It looked like this —

To do:

Married.  CHECK.

Two kids, a boy and a girl.  CHECK.

Lawyer.  CHECK.

Home owner.  CHECK (it’s not our home, but it is technically home to someone).

Wait a minute second!  You know what this means??  I have accomplished all my goals in life!   Woo-hoo!  I never wavered in my path and now I am living proof that with determination and hard work you can achieve anything you want.

And then what??

I’m too young to be having a mid-life crisis, but I spend most of my days generally lost and confused.  Even when I am happy and in the moment, there is the nagging feeling that something is out of place.  Are Chloe’s pants on inside out?  Are there a handful of Cheerios in the shoe I just put on?  Oh no, I just don’t recognize myself at all.  That’s what it is!

I’d love to blame this on my kids and say that being home with them isn’t stimulating enough, but it’s simply not true.  I had a full-time job until just a few months weeks days minutes, a short while ago (ok, that’s another story).  Still I questioned my identity as a lawyer pretty much every second I sat behind that computer.

So I ask myself for the bajillionth time – WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE CARINN?

Back at the drawing board, I wanted to be armed with important information — 2012’s list of the worst jobs and a reminder that others have it worse:

#7, meter reader.  Sounded ok until I read they get shot at regularly.

#4, oil rig worker.  I have no idea what an oil rig worker does but I once loved watching Deadliest Catch.  Does that make me qualified to judge?

Wasn’t Ben’s character in Armageddon an oil rig worker? Doesn’t look so bad from here.

#1 worst job, the Lumberjack.  Not to be confused with my #1 favorite breakfast, the Lumberjack, consisting of two eggs, bacon and a light fluffy pancake.

Ok, well now I’m hungry.  Figuring out the rest of my life will have to wait until after breakfast.

Parenting me (part II of Parenting Upstream)

A few weeks ago many of you shared your experiences with what I called parenting upstream.  You know, my futile attempts to nurture against nature.   With each new visitor comment I had a new theory.

Maybe all first-borns are CZD (“comfort zone dwellers”) and all second-borns are “daredevils”?  Nope, my own siblings negate that one.  Maybe all boys are the CZD and all girls are the daredevils.  Nope, we’ve got some boy daredevils in the mix.  Can’t really chalk it up to astrology, since my kids are the same sign.

So I have no theories as to why our kids are like this and definitely no answers as to how to parent either group.

However I did notice something really interesting.  Everyone seems to worry more about the one who is like them.  Are you a daredevil wild child?  I bet you sigh and wonder how you are going to ever get a handle this crazy mini-me.  Or are you the reserved one?  I bet you spend more time wondering how to pull this little one out of her shell more than you worry about the wild one.  In fact  you might even celebrate the wild one’s exuberance.

Ian worries a lot about our son.  He loves how smart Gavin is, but he doesn’t want him to always dwell in his head, to miss out on life in the ways Ian thinks he did. “Go for it,” he telepathically tries to encourage Gavin, “the world isn’t going to bite.”

I worry about Chloe.  I love how bold and fearless she is, but I don’t want her to just power through life and possibly make the same mistakes I did, especially believing you can do it all with no sacrifice.  “Slow down and enjoy the quiet moments,” I wish when I look at her.

If you worry about the one who is “like you”, it is because we know so intimately the struggles they will have to endure.  It’s a parent’s instinct to protect their child from harm.  It’s an adult’s perspective that gives us the experience of a hard lesson learned.  The balance between the two is the biggest challenge.  We can teach, we can show, we can warn but in the end each person – mother, daughter, father or son – has their own path and we need to respect that.

I was the wild child and I can already see Chloe doing this in a few years:

This is me in the 80s jumping off a Central Park playground

Playgrounds, the gateway drug to cliff jumping…

This is me jumping off a cliff in Maui. Twenty years later and all that's changed is the height of the things of which I jump off. Seriously, I pretty much have the same exact pose, don't I?

Instead of worrying about the lessons I know both my children will have to learn, I know I need to support them just being them. To gently guide without forcing a specific direction or result.

So I anticipate a lot of holding my breath as she explores the playground, a lot of sleepless nights as she navigates the teen years, and a lot of tears as she struggles with her identity.  And I forever wish that her path in life is smoother than mine…

 

The best consolation about her following in my footsteps is knowing she'll meet a man as awesome as her dad

 

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