Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Second-Born Syndrome

            Raising the second child is considerably different than the first. With the firstborn everything has to change – poisonous plants are disposed of, empty sockets are plugged, fragile things, sharp corners, loose cables all are modified. Slowly, slowly, kid stuff starts to overwhelm every room of the house, until there are toys, bibs, and “jolly jumpers” just about everywhere.
            With the first kid the parents go through some pretty major shocks to the system. They wish they had earplugs, noseplugs, and brainplugs for all the crying, diapers, and waking up in the middle of the night. My biggest shock was realizing that I wanted to go to bed early on a weekend night, rather than join my friends for some wonderful late-night festivity. Sleep becomes much, much more important than fun.
            Not only are parents of firstborns shocked, they’re delighted every time their child learns to crawl, talk, eat, pick their nose, you name it. Everything is just so darn exciting, and worthy of a photograph.
            Then along comes the second.
            It’s odd, because even though Joshua is colicky, with all the extra crying and puking, it just seems a whole lot easier than the first. The initial shock of having kids has worn off, and it doesn’t seem like a big deal this time around. I hear my son crying and think, “Well, it sucks, but it won’t last forever.”
            In some ways, I think second-born kids are gypped. Years ago I was digging through my parents’ photos trying to find some cute baby pictures of myself. I kept coming across my older brother, but only found a handful of photos with me in them. I remember shaking my head and thinking, “No way am I going to let that happen to my second child. He’s going to get all sorts of photos taken of him.”
            I’ll be honest with you, not only has Joshua had a mere fraction of photographs taken of him compared to Celia at his age, one of the big things keeping me taking his photo is the reminder of that experience digging through my parents’ photos. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bothered taking all the photographs I’ve taken so far. “Been there, done that. Who needs more baby pictures when we already have tons of Celia?”
            I’ve tried to be diligent and take some photos of him. He’s got a few good ones, especially when he’s sleeping (and not crying), but not too many when he’s awake yet. Although there is a funny one I took of Michelle and Celia laughing and playing on the bed as Joshua is propped up on pillows next to them puking. I don’t like the fact that he pukes so much, but at some point I just have to shake my head and laugh at some of these moments. He seems like he’s getting through it, and if everyone around us is right, most colicky kids suddenly snap out of it and turn out pretty normal.
            Celia seems to dealing with it fairly well. Sometimes when Joshua cries a lot, she “cries” too. When we give him medicine, she wants some medicine too. When we give him baby food, she wants baby food too. We always humor her with these episodes. One of our many child psychology books says that if you let your child “digress”, they’ll actually mature much more quickly and in a healthy way that builds their self-esteem. They get the message from you that they’re okay wherever they’re at, and that encourages them to be more self-confident than if a parent were to say, “You’re too old for that.”
            Not only does Celia seem to be handling it fairly well, she usually brings a bit of humor to Joshua’s malady. A few nights ago Joshua had puked up his dinner and Celia started loudly calling out, “Pukenator! Pukenator! He’s the Pukenator!”
            I smiled. Michelle and I kept caring for Joshua as Celia continued, “He’s the Pukenator! He’s the Pukenator! He’s the Pukenator!”
            I wondered to myself if I shouldn’t have given Joshua that nickname. I mostly still call him Jelly Bean, but when he pukes – well, “The Pukenator” just seems to fit better.
            Last night Celia surprised me with her depth of perception. After Joshua had spit up for over ten minutes straight, Celia said, “He’s a puking machine!”
            I laughed out loud. “Where did you learn that?” I asked her.
            Celia grinned and looked up at Michelle.
            Michelle shrugged her shoulders as she held Joshua and said, “Well, he is!”
            I chuckled. Our son, the puking machine. On the bright side, he is starting to improve. We’ve now got him on antacid and a few naturopathic medicines, plus he now has no more twists in his spine thanks to the chiropractor. He’s sleeping through the night much better, and actually seems quite happy at times. During the day one of us, usually Michelle, walks him in the stroller. This seems to be the only way to keep him from crying. But it does seem to be working.
            I don’t know if he’s really improving, or if it’s just another phase, but I think we’re managing it pretty well. Maybe that’s the difference with the second-born. If there’s anything learned from the first, it’s that this season passes rather quickly. It’s not like I’m going to be wiping up his puke two years from now. If we can give him all the extra attention he needs now, I think he’ll turn out pretty well.
            At this point, puking or not, I’m going to remember to keep taking his photo. He may grow up with some sort of “Second-Born Syndrome”, but at the very least he’ll have photos of himself, mostly puking or sleeping, to look back on and smile.

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