Why You Shouldn't Feel (Too) Bad For Your Second Child

How Second Kids Have It Harder — And Easier

A.R. Meadows-Fernandez

My brother’s and my childhoods were so different that you would think we had different moms. It’s mostly for one reason: I was the first kid and he was the second.

To me, the lifestyles of second children seemed much more glamorous than the lifestyles of the first. Most of my friends are first children and the few “second or later” friends I have seem to have a lot of benefits that we didn’t. That is, of course, unless you were a middle child – and we all know what people say about those.

But now that I have two children of my own, I see second child status as a mixed bag. Some parts are good. Other parts are likely not that great.

Naturally, the things I expect from my son are very different from the things I expect from my 6-week old daughter. I can’t help but wonder how our interactions will change through the years. And I’m sure she and her brother will have discussions at some point on the benefits that she experienced as a second child.

Much of the second child experience will be dependent on age gaps, the number of children in your family, and gender. But here are a few pros and cons related to second siblinghood.

Things that sucked

1. Living in the shadow of your older sibling.

When you’re second, you don’t really get the chance to start with a blank slate. Everyone thinks they know who you are and how well you will do based on your older sibling. The teachers might make assumptions about how likely you are to succeed in school because your sister was an “A” student. Or your athletics coach might expect you to dominate during tryouts because your brother was on the varsity team. You just want to leave your own legacy.

2. Never getting new stuff.

If you happen to be the same sex as your older sibling, there’s a chance you’ll never get new stuff. The closer the age gap, the less likely you are to ever have your own solo shopping spree. If you happen to be a different sex than your sibling, you’re not exempt. Beds, toys, and eventually cars are all probably hand-me-downs. It might feel like you only get the leftovers.

3. Being teased by an older sibling.

Being second could mean living with a bodyguard. Or it could mean a life being teased and the butt of every joke. It really depends on the relationship you two developed in the early years. But just because they put sandwich baggies filled with farts under your pillow doesn’t mean they don’t love you. You’ll find out just how much you matter if someone else tries to tease you when they are around!

4. Not feeling special.

Life as a second child might mean seeing a million pictures of your older siblings hung on the wall. There was documentation of their first everything, featuring your parents’ huge proud smiles. Fast forward to your birth and all they documented were your birth and a random assortment of birthdays. Stupid parents. The quote “second place is just first loser” comes to mind.

Things That Are Awesome About Being The Second Child

1. Learning from experience.

It’s not all bad. You didn’t have to learn anything the hard way. You paid full attention to the six-month punishment your older sister got for sneaking boys in the house. Sure, that threw a slight wrench in your plans during your rebellious stage. But it motivated you to be innovative and you found new ways to break the rules.

2. Feeling protected.

You felt untouchable during school since all you had to do was say the word and your older sibling would kick whoever’s butt was necessary to keep you safe.

3. Secret access to their things.

Hand-me-downs aren’t so bad when they come with early access to your older siblings’ stuff. Who cares if you got their last season outfits — you snuck in their closet and borrowed the new stuff anyway. Everyone knew you had the latest CD’s and were just a wall away from the best gadgets. Not to mention the early sex ed lesson you got to share with your friend after reading your sister’s diary. 

4. Your sibling paved the way.

You might have to be more creative to break the rules when you’re second. But you really didn’t have to because in the years between you and your sibling your parents got more lenient. The way they see it, your older sibling put them through so much there was no way that you could top it. Thanks to your sib paving the way, you didn’t have to wait as long to hang out with friends or date. And they knew exactly what to do with school registration and college prep. Even though the firstborn would be there to walk you through it all anyway.

5. Not responsible when things go wrong.

When the two of you get into fights, you’re less likely to get in trouble — even if you threw the first punch. That philosophy filters down to every area of your life. If you fail a class, your parents might ask why big bro/sis didn’t help you out. If you’re hungry, your parents may be upset your sibling didn’t make sure you ate. Chances are, you took advantage of it.

6. Never knowing life without a sibling.

The coolest part about being the second child is you’re never really alone. You’ve always had someone to look out for you, even if you didn’t always get along. Talk to most second kids, and they’ll tell you they looked up to their older sibling one way or another. It’s comforting knowing that you have access to someone who has been through all the things and has no problem making sure you succeed.