Thursday, November 7, 2013

sloppy seconds

twice in the past few weeks i have been alone with my one-and-a-half year old daughter for an extended period of time. this was a new experience for both of us, and it was such a trip. the minute big brother left for his first sleepover, colby started in with "where's bruuuuuudder?"

[side note: i honestly sort of felt the same way! don't get me wrong. i LOVE date nights and weekend getaways. i am not the type of mom that cries on the plane as i'm flying away from my precious babies. i am the type of person that orders a tequila at 10am - and make it a double. cheers to a REAL vacation. i'll drink to that! but. it was so weird being at home without the boy. something about our house just felt so different. quieter, a lot less drama, a lot less crying, yes :) but also, not quite right. there was a jack-shaped hole in it!]

ANYWAY. colby asked "where's bruuuuudder?... whyyyy?" every 3 minutes and 37 seconds from the moment he left until the moment he returned. hanging out with her and only her really drove home the birth-order thing like nothing else i've ever experienced. i'm the oldest child, and i always found the first-born, middle-child, and baby dynamic interesting. i blamed "middle child syndrome" for the slight but ever present chip on my little sister's shoulder and her mcdonald's fetish (because of that one time when she wasn't allowed to go even though little brother did ;)) and "baby child syndrome" for my brother's refusal/inability to grow up. i have jokingly attributed my perfectionist/OCD/people-pleasing/over-achieving nature on being first-born. but honestly, i never put too much stock in it. sort of like astrology or the chinese zodiac, i thought it was somewhat amusing but i figured you could probably find something that resonated with you no matter what "your sign." Ohmigod! Aries are charming and charismatic? How did they know??!! ... Wait wait wait, Monkeys are lucky and clever?!? It's like this was written just for me!!! ;)

it wasn't until i had my second child that i realized that, necessarily, there are differences in the parenting and childhood experiences depending on your order of birth. the topic has been discussed ad nauseum and i don't really have anything to add in that regard... funnier people than i have listed many differences between the way you parent your first vs. second (or third or fourth) child. (see, e.g., this, and this. there was a great one by jason good, too, but it seems to have been erased from the interwebs). for example, i was a total TV/"screen time" nazi with my firstborn, and now they each have their own iPads. elaborate bedtime routines involving both parents for the firstborn, second-born's gets the "fast pass" version. first born: carefully steamed and pureed baby food, balanced buffets of organic 1/4 square inch tidbits (that were promptly thrown on the floor). second born: chicken nuggets. ketchup. she actually just ate ranch with a spoon the other day. jack knew the alphabet and numbers and colors and shapes by the time he was her age. colby? eh. she'll learn 'em eventually, right? when jack was the age colby is now, he knew all of the local parks and beaches by name, and ordered his daily itinerary accordingly. if you ask colby what she wants to do on any given day, she looks at you like, "huh? what do i wanna do? cannot. compute." i'm not saying he's cleverer than her, because he's not. and it's not that she's is a pushover, either. she doesn't pull any punches. literally. like, if you piss her off, she will punch you in your pie hole. generally only when provoked. ;) but when it comes to anything outside her physical being (e.g., beyond what toy is in her hand, food is in her mouth, or shoes are on her feet), she's stumped. questions we ask her brother all the time - "where would you like to go today?" "what game would you like to play?" "what would you like for dinner?" - totally confound her. she's like, "ummmmmm.....?" her brother even speaks for her half the time. "Mom! Co-by wants graham crackers!" "Co-by doesn't like pasta, Mom!" "MOM! Co-by wants to feed me her fruit snacks!" "Co-by wants to watch Monsters, Inc." (how convenient!) the poor girl seems to have no concept of herself except as part of a larger group, no idea that she could actually have some say in our actions as a family.

i am sad and more than a little embarrassed to admit, i don't, either. the other day i was at the store buying presents, ostensibly for Christmas but there is very little chance they'll last that long. jack has a laundry list of things he wants. a "flip up" skateboard (as opposed to the longboard he already has). a "skate pool," whatever that is. a Dusty Crophopper. a "wed and white stwiped fightow jet." a garbage truck with a hole in the top. a "Green Lanterin Powah Wing [sic]." (the "power ring" i origamied out of a dollar bill was not, apparently, sufficient.) a "telekope" so he can see "Saturin" [Saturn]. and this isn't a new phenomenon. for every christmas and birthday since he could talk, he's had plenty of vociferous opinions about what we and santa better bring. so, anyway, i was snatching up some things i knew J would like, and then i thought, okay, now i have to get some awesome things for C... and then i was like, wait, what does she even like? i honestly don't know. i found myself thinking, well, she likes skateboards and planes and garbage trucks and superheroes, right? i mean, she does. because her brother does. and because that's mostly what we have around the house because when the dictator says jump we ask how high. but, what does colby like????? and i really had to think. it's so sad! once i started marinating on it, i think i got some good ideas. aside from the trains planes and automobiles, i know she likes Doo-Rah (Dora), and MoMo (Elmo). i know she likes pretend food/kitchen things. i know she likes to draw. i know she likes Yegos. i know she loves things that open and shut. okay. we're getting somewhere here. i can work with this :)

i don't know. this isn't a very well structured analysis of sibling birth order, nor is it meant to be. i don't really know where i'm going with it. it's just so interesting, to see this dynamic from the outside looking in. i know that, in part, dems da breaks, but i am hoping that because DM and i are cognizant of these issues, we can do our best to consciously counteract them, making sure that the little miss and her self identity don't get lost in the fray.

it's also so interesting to see the interaction between the two of them through mom eyes instead of evil big sister eyes. i mean, i was pretty horrid to my little sister growing up. i honestly don't think i was actually nice to her until i left for college. maybe once in a while. like when she was born, i said "she looks like a beautiful princess!" and my mom was like, um, not really, she sort of looks like a moldy tomato (ha! she was really red with silver fuzz for hair). but between her birth and college - not so much. we did play together plenty - games of "earthquake" and "avalanche" and other natural disasters instead of house, because we were/are strange. but i also tried to feed her soap, chiefed her with magic markers while she napped, and once flung a shoe directly at her head. but seriously, my parents always told me, "she just loves you and wants to be your friend" and i was like, GET IT AWAY FROM ME! (sorry sis! i love you an extra lot, now! and of course i loved you then, too. i just didn't want you up in my grill/closet/diary all the time (< seriously. she would hide in my closet and listen to my phone conversations and read my diary. so i just starting making sh*t up :)) my little brother was a different story. he was 11 years younger so he was sort of like a life-sized baby doll i got to dress up and drag around.

jack is actually really, really sweet to his sister a lot of the time. way nicer than i was to mine. though i will say, i was much better at guerrilla sibling warfare and subversive ninja tactics than he is. maybe that will come with age. i rode my good girl/first born reputation and tortured my sis silently and on the sly, ensuring that 89.3% of the time, she was the one who got busted for our fights. not that she was innocent, mind you. but she was definitely the fall guy. when jack is not nice, however, it's SO sad. colby seriously thinks the sun rises and sets with her big brother. she LURVES him and just wants to be right up in the middle of whatever it is that he is doing, at all times. she's like this eager drooly little puppy who just wants some love, and he shoves her out of the way. it breaks my heart! the other day, J stubbed his toe and was wailing and writhing around on the floor, so colby goes over to give him a full body hug and keeps trying to kiss him to make it better and Jack is yelling, "NOOOOO! NO THANK YOU CO-BY! I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE!!!! NO. THANK. YOUUUUUUUU!!!!" it's so hard! it's like a war in my heart because i know how annoying little sisters can be, but then here's my sweet little snuggle nugget just pouring out her heart and getting rejected by her idol. sad face! oh well. there's hope. people always told my sister and i that we'd be best friends someday. i never believed it when we were having death-staring matches and kicking each other under the dinner table, but it ended up being true <3

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