Firstborn children will never realize how good they’ve actually got it. They have the benefit of fresh, relatively energetic parents who are experiencing for the first time what it’s like to love someone so much you’d do literally anything for them. And first-time parents do go to great lengths to make sure their babies live the most germ-free, educational, nurtured, and happy lives possible.
When the second one is born, though (and let’s not even discuss the ones who are third-plus in the birth order), we slack off a little. It’s not that we care less about our other kids, it’s just that we’re both more experienced and more tired. (And possibly a little broke, because kids ain’t cheap, yo.)
Here are just a few of the things that our poor unfortunate second children don’t get to experience:
1. Elaborate Birthday Parties
My firstborn’s 1st birthday was a monumental occasion — marked, of course, by an equally monumental celebration. We held a backyard shindig, and family and friends came out in droves, bearing brightly wrapped gifts. There were helium balloons and themed decorations and a bakery cake (with a smaller, personal “smash cake” for the birthday boy, naturally). But did he bask in the adoration and show his appreciation for the carload of gifts? No, because he was a baby. He fussed, poked at his cake a few times, and then pooped himself. So a few years later, when it was his time for his little brother to turn 1, it was celebrated by a handful of people in our kitchen, where the baby got a solitary cupcake and a single present. And you know what? He seemed cool with it.
2. Extracurricular Enrichments
Mommy-and-me exercise sessions! Age-appropriate play groups! Toddler music classes! My firstborn got it all, because back then I had more time and more expendable income and more belief that my baby was a special kind of genius and that needed to be nurtured, dammit. My second-born was lucky if I dragged both of them to story time at the library.
3. Detailed Baby Books
You can spot the keepsake baby book of a firstborn anywhere. It’s entirely filled with writing, and there are things falling out of the pages — cards, letters, drawings, ultrasound photos, envelopes of curls from first haircuts (and in some cases, things like fingernail clippings and dried-up umbilical cord stumps). The baby’s birth time is marked to the second, birth weight to the quarter-ounce, and there’s a description of everything (“You sleep three hours between feedings, and you’re a good eater, taking about 5 ounces at a time, but sometimes I worry that you’re getting too much because you sure do soil a lot of diapers …”). For second-borns? The name and birth date are filled out, and maybe a few other minor details, but it’s nowhere near the newborn-habits-manifesto that the first child will be able to look back on.
4. Fancy Gadgets
No first-time mom can ever guess exactly what she’ll need to raise a baby, so she errs on the side of caution by stocking the nursery with…well, everything. Baby wipe warmers and video baby monitors and nursing pillows and sleep sacks and machines that mimic the sound of the womb. But by the time the second-born comes around, we’re all pros who have come to the valuable realization that sometimes, less is more.
5. New Stuff
This one is particularly applicable if your second-born is the same gender as your first. With a first baby, there’s a baby shower — sometimes more than one — which means tons of new things. Subsequent babies get hand-me-downs. If my second son wore anything brand new, it was only because my firstborn had so many clothes he never got around to wearing them all before they were outgrown.
With my oldest, I was like the damn mamarazzi. He spent so much time with a camera in his face that we may as well have been filming a reality show. I have photographic evidence of every single milestone he reached when he was still an only, along with captures of the everyday moments. But that’s not all — there were professional pictures too, of course: 6-month portraits and 1st birthday portraits and just-because-he’s-adorable portraits. From my second child on, though, there are a few pictures of Christmas and birthdays, but not much else (I mean, he’s 8 ½ and has never had a single professional portrait taken, outside of his school pictures).
It’s not too expensive to take one kid to something fun: the carnival, the zoo, the science museum. And since you’re saving all that money on multiple admissions, firstborns often come away with souvenirs that cost an arm and a leg (there’s a 6-foot stuffed snake in my oldest son’s closet to prove it). But when other kids come along, it means double the price of admission, which diminishes the chance of walking out with anything other than one of those souvenir pennies or a pencil eraser.
8. General Overprotectiveness
I’m not sure whether to call this something the second-born got cheated out of, or something he lucked out of because, man, was I obnoxious as a first-time mom (and I suspect I’m not the only one. Go on, raise your hand). I sterilized every bottle, monitored every TV show to make sure it met my educational standards, read every label. Let’s just say that by the time my second came along, “sterilizing” meant blowing his pacifier off and wiping it on my shirt after he dropped it at the playground.
Let me take this opportunity to issue an apology to all second-born children, on behalf of worn-out parents everywhere. It’s not you, it’s us. But look at it this way: At least we didn’t outfit you in bubble wrap and a helmet every time you went out to play.