When we decided to have a second child, we swore we'd do everything the same way: we'd narrate everything that was happening so he'd develop his vocabulary, we'd have the same bedtime routines, we'd give the second as much attention as we gave the first. We knew it'd be tough, but we felt like we owed it to the second child.
It wasn't tough.
It was impossible.
This became glaringly apparent to me when I looked down at Aidan Kai last night, hair still wet from his bath, pj's on, Mickey socks on his feet, holding onto the refrigerator with one hand to keep himself steady while he held his bottle with the other hand. This is how, very often, my second child drinks his evening bottle...on his own as he wanders around the house, alternating between crawling, cruising, playing, and sitting, lugging his bottle with him. This is often when I make the lunches for the next day or clean up the kitchen. This does not even count as multitasking; this is simply taking advantage of your child's ability to do something on his own.
My first child? Bedtime bottles were part of The Ritual. In fact, it was the last bottle he was weaned off of after 18 months simply because I was not ready or willing to stop giving him a bottle at night. I felt it was the only thing I had left of his babyhood and I treasured holding him in my arms at the end of the day, watching him as he slurped up his milk. I enjoyed the bedtime routine.
The second child? Poor thing...after he has dirtied up his pj's crawling and scooting all over the kitchen and living room floors, and finished up his milk himself, one of us scoops him up, attempts to read him a book or two, and plops him in the crib after a kiss and a hug...all while mentally wondering how much longer this could possibly take. Now, I endure the bedtime routine.
I could say I feel guilty about it, but most days I don't. (Okay, I admit it: there was a definite twinge last night when I looked down at him and saw him standing there, sucking on his bottle, looking up at me so expectantly.) The truth of the matter is, he doesn't seem any worse for the wear. He is a happy, jolly, tough little kid. He is, in fact, the complete opposite of his high-strung, type A, sensitive older brother. (Hmmmm...maybe devoting all of your energies on a kid is not necessarily such a good thing?)
Older brother? Never climbed on stuff. The house was fully child-proofed. There was someone watching, guiding, teaching all of the time. Baby brother? Climbs on top of everything: his brother's bed, the step stool, his toys, the toilet. Yesterday we found him sitting inside a kitchen drawer. The house is barely child-proofed and there is someone watching, guiding, teaching only some of the time...on a good day.
The neat thing is that Aidan Kai is pretty resilient. You can see it already. Yesterday he fell head first off of his zebra riding toy (climbing, see paragraph above), and he just kinda lay there for a second, then got right back up and went about his business. If that happened to Ben? Well, let's just say that he never would've climbed on the zebra to begin with.
The truth is, I kinda like that he gets into stuff. (I know, I know...that statement's gonna come back to bite me in the ass.) It's kinda fun to see this little boy who figures things out for himself, who can find a way to move 3 of Ben's giant toy bins out of the way so he can get to the one toy that he wants that fell behind them. When left to fend for himself (figuratively speaking...I mean, we're not neglecting the kid), he can get into, onto, under, and behind almost anything. He has no other choice. His older brother is constantly trying to run the show and circles around him. Aidan has already learned, as so many of us second children do, that sometimes he has to take matters into his own hands. And he does. All the time.
So yes, my second child is definitely not getting the same attention my first one did. But maybe he's getting something else. He's already figured out how to stand out amongst this family of Alphas. He's learned how to problem solve. He's learned how to entertain himself and how to get a rise out of Mom, Dad, and especially Big Brother. He's learned how to make us--and himself--laugh. He's learned how to keep himself busy and happy. He's learned how to bounce back--sometimes literally--from all the messes he's gotten himself into. And we already know that he's learned how to feed himself a bottle of milk at the end of a long day.