4.14.2008

11 Months

This weekend Sage somehow, miraculously, without my help or express permission, passed the 11 month mark. We are now counting down the days until that astounding one year milestone, and all the parental reflection that brings. Also the party. Oy, the party.

I can hardly help but think of her without making comparisons to her sister. Surely I'd be forgiven, for Thalia was the only other baby I ever knew. Without her I wouldn't understand why teething equates sleeplessness, how small to cut the pieces of melon, the three-digit Kids-on-Demand channel by memory.

I learned how to love with Thalia. Sage is reaping those rewards. But then when I can barely envision writing my littlest girl a heartfelt birthday letter without somehow referencing her sister, I find it a little painful. I put myself in her crib shoes and I wonder if this is the thing that puts people into therapy so many decades later. I wonder if she'll grow up resentful - or simply accept it, not having known any other way.

This must be the curse of the second child I always hear about.

Although perhaps (maybe? hopefully?) less an actual curse than the overly guilty mind of an overextended parent.

In some ways Sage is so lucky to have come second: No hesitation to hustle her out of the house in her first days for fresh air. Fewer panicked midnight peeks into her bassinet to see if she was still breathing. An extra pacifier always at the ready. (I learned that lesson early.) And not one tumble from bed to hard floor as an infant, surely a miracle considering the number her sister experienced. I am a calmer mother with Sage. A happier mother. And I don't think anyone in our lives would disagree when I say she has a happier father too.

Yet at times I feel like I hardly know Sage at all. And that is crushing.

I could have predicted Thalia's every move at 11 months. I knew the nuances of her personality. I knew each milestone hit down to the day and I've got a full enough baby book to show for it. I see Sage in far broader terms. Is it any surprise?

While we spent countless hours just staring at Thalia as she stared in space or waved her arms or crawled through the lawn looking at blades of grass and shiny earthworms, Sage must be content to take what attention is left after Thalia's had her fill. I find there are fewer moments I have with Sage in which just she and I pat the bunny, lift the flap on the board book, build a fort out of blocks to knock them down, dance alone to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in the living room. I think of the many lullabies I sang for Thalia, the many nights rocking her in my arms while I strained to remember a sixth or seventh song - and I can hardly recall a single one that reminds me exclusively of Sage.

But then, she always put herself to sleep pretty well.

But then, it's not like I had any opportunity to learn new songs before Sage came along.

But then, maybe I just suck.

We think the oldest child is the independent ones. But a surer reality might be that the little one learns to put herself to sleep because she has no choice. Mommy's too busy racing back into the kitchen to finish dinner for the first or working longer hours to pay for the second set of diapers. The baby has to learn to entertain herself in the highchair while her attention-starved older sister demands to stand at the counter alongside mommy and spread the peanut butter ALL BY MYSELF. AND ALSO I WANT TO TASTE THE PEANUT BUTTER ON THE KNIFE WITH MY TONGUE NO NOT LIKE THAT, LIKE THISSSSSS.

I'd hate to think that Sage has spent her entire first year in a proverbial high chair, looking on at life.

But when I shut up and stop self-flagellating, it's unlikely she's done any such thing. I think she's experienced life just fine. It's me that's missed my opportunity to notice the details.

I live for those mornings when Sage arises early, fussing from her crib at 6:15 or 6:30. It's a guaranteed half hour, more if we're lucky, before the jealous toddler stumbles out of her (our) bed and starts pawing at me for attention and cinnamon toast. In those early hours, we can play patty-cake. We can bounce. We can make silly sounds. And I steal those quick thirty minute sessions to get to know her best I can. And get to hug her more. And get feel my love grow for her more.

Differently than it did for the first. But not worse. Or so I tell myself. Just...differently.


47 Comments:

Anonymous Amy Nathan said...

You gave them each a fabulous gift no matter where they're sitting - counter or high chair.

And Sage has something Thalia didn't have at 11 months...a sister.

4/14/08, 10:01 AM  
Blogger DrSavta said...

The really nice thing about parenting is that not only is each child a unique individual, but each child also comes into a different family (with the exception of multiples, of course). I was a far different parent to my oldest than I was to my second and by the time the 4th came around, I was significantly older and had that much more experience. Although I may have had less time for subsequent children, they came into a home that was ready for a child, that had children's activities already happening, that had siblings to give them attention. Every child has a privileged place in the family. EVERY ONE!

Dr. Rona Michelson
Marriage and Family Therapist
www.drsavta.com

4/14/08, 10:03 AM  
OpenID heartfull said...

I have three, and the difference between the first and second is remarkable. The sad truth is, I think I had a lot to do with it because Oldest is very much the definition of the "First Born Child". The drama! The need for attention! The monopolization of her parents!

Second, on the other hand, is a happy go lucky kid who takes disappointment as par for the course. Mom forgot to do something and now she'll miss the big event? Her response is to pause, think about it, and say "that's OK mom, I still get to do x or y!"

First would be a bitter puddle of tears on the floor in that instance.

We don't mean to do it. But we do.

4/14/08, 10:08 AM  
Blogger All Adither said...

I think, in general, second kids are more adaptable. And that will probably lead to moving through life with more ease.

i was a first child. hrmp.

Angie (from AllAdither.com)

4/14/08, 10:24 AM  
Blogger My Kids' Mom said...

Sage has one thing that Thalia didn't get to have - a sibling. Don't underestimate that. If you count the numbers of hours that Sage has your attention and compare it to Thalia's, you're forgetting to add in the number of hours Sage has had Thalia's attention. All together? I bet it's close to the same.

I loved it when my oldest was at preschool a few mornings a week. I'd fill two of them with errands of course, but I always saved Fridays for my baby. He and I had some special times alone. Could be though, that if you asked him, he'd have rather had his brother there too.

4/14/08, 10:57 AM  
Blogger Mandy said...

Thanks for this post. I have been feeling similarly about my second boy. Thank goodness he is so easy going, because I think as a second child, he needs attention, but maybe because he's been used to that since birth. Anyway, you expressed many of my thoughts much better than I've been able to articulate them recently.

4/14/08, 11:08 AM  
Blogger Zeynep said...

I totally feel your pain - and understand your guilt. Even the way we dress them are different - the firstborn always had a nice "outfit" where ever he went, yet I just realized that my second born was wearing hand me down sweats worn out at the knees (yet totally useable!) with no t-shirt combinations (oh the shame!). And when I went and bought him a nice pair of jeans and a sweats set, he said "you know, the other ones are more comfy."

The second ones might seem shortchanged according to their mommies, but they are often quite at ease with what we think is "unfair" simply because they haven't seen us go crazy while raising their older siblings. And, as another commenter noted, they have a huge plus - a brother/sister who will never cease to entertain them (in good and bad ways :)

- Open up mommy, I want to see whether you have cavities
(I open my mouth)
(He spits!)
- Hahahaha my brother taught me that hahahah.

Swell. Life is just grand.

4/14/08, 11:29 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

I'm completely dropping tears all over my desk right now because I feel so similarly about my son (almost 6 months, my daughter is 3). Well described. There's just such a pull of guilt in one direction or the other for me with 2 now (especially since I have that female tendency to always feel guilty anyway).

4/14/08, 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Motherhood Uncensored said...

"I'd hate to think that Sage has spent her entire first year in a proverbial high chair, looking on at life."

The truth is, though, is that she knows no other life. And to her, right now, this one is the BEST one she could ever have.

I suppose it's what she decides to make of it later. Understanding that it's just how it is for her (or for him, when I think of my son, soon to be middle child) and that it's a wonderful and perfectly good place to be.

4/14/08, 1:17 PM  
Anonymous RookieMom Whitney said...

I'm sure all the mommas of two will agree with you about this special flavor of guilt. And we all have to remember the fantastic stimulation and entertainment that #2 is getting from #1.

Those early morning minutes before #1 awakens are solid bonding time, and so will be the couple of years that #2 lives with Mom and Dad while #1 is off at college (we hope). Talk about broad strokes :-)

4/14/08, 1:33 PM  
Blogger Beckie said...

My boys are so close to your girl's age. Brendan will be three, 3!, August 5. Evan will be 1, as in not a baby anymore, April 24th. I nodded my head the entire time I read your post.

I tell myself, and everyone else who will listen to me lament the passage of time, that the whole point of having these wonderful children is to help them grow up. That is exactly as it should be, but it is SO bittersweet.

4/14/08, 1:48 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Simply beautiful. Sage has the most amazing family and while the view has been different, it's just what you said - it's because she is different. Wonderfully individual and different.

4/14/08, 2:28 PM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

So lovely. Your girls are truly lucky!

4/14/08, 2:46 PM  
Blogger Upside Up said...

As a mother of twins, one of the things I have been spared is the guilt associated with divided attention -- it is all any of us has ever known, from day one, whether I like it or not.

I also believe that having siblings helps you define yourself early on, much in the way that boundaries help a child learn right and wrong.

And? Sage is probably so in love with (or in awe of) Thalia that she doesn't even notice how long she's been sitting in the high chair -- as long as she gets to watch her sister.

Happy 11 months to you all!

4/14/08, 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Lindsay Lebresco (Graco) said...

This is a really honest letter about a number two baby- I love the perspective. I have a #2 18 month old and I'm just now starting to get to know her. I have all the facts down in a little book (I'm a #2 kid so I swore I wouldn't slack on the baby book) but getting the facts down on paper isn't really knowing your baby. In time Sage will force you to know her. I have to keep being reminded that I have a little girl now. MY MIL painted my DD's toe nails this weekend- why didn't I ever think to do that? Because I was too busy smashing cars with my DS. Don't be too hard on yourself. I am proof that a #2 kid can thrive off of the hard lessons that #1 taught my parents.

4/14/08, 2:51 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Oh, my friend. This made my heart ache. I feel this coming, deep, deep, deep in my bones and my soul and just don't know how what to do with it.

Your articulation of it helps, though. Helps to know that I won't be the first mother to struggle with it, that better mothers than I (:)) struggle with it, and that it's really just, end of day, about sorting through the surplus of love.

4/14/08, 2:58 PM  
Blogger Trenches of Mommyhood said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. This, coming from a mother of 3 who had no idea that her almost 3year old youngest still didn't have his 2yr molars yet. Whoops.

But it's true: As their birth order increases, so does their independence. It's survival of the fittest!

4/14/08, 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Susan Getgood said...

I can't comment from the mom perspective because I stopped at one, but I can say that my brother and I both had a special relationship with our mom, and still do. As others have said, different, in part due to gender and part to birth order (i'm older by 2.5 years). But equally strong.

Sage will get her time alone with you when Thalia starts school next year. At a different phase in her, and your, life perhaps but it will still be special.

4/14/08, 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Mojo said...

Oh man, you just made me cry right her in my cube. My 2nd girl turns 1 on Wed and you described my feelings about her to a T. And your description of the attention starved toddler demanding to watch what you do and do it herself not this way but thisss way -- that's Haley's big sister to a T. I love them both, but I am sad that Haley gets less attention than her big sister, because Sydney was here first and because at almost-3, she does demand so much of our attention. Our love is different, not more or worse, just different. You are so right (or so we tell ourselves.) Happy 11 months Sage!

4/14/08, 4:22 PM  
Blogger Happy_Housewife said...

Delurking for the first time... Wow. What a post. I have been feeling this same guilt with my second and it is so nice to know that I am not the only one. Reading all the comments are even more reassuring. I have been wondering if I have been doing it all wrong. Now, I know I haven't been caring for my second son wrong... just different. Thank you beyond words for this post.

4/14/08, 4:33 PM  
Blogger Marketing Mommy said...

You just put into words exactly what I've been feeling about my nearly 9 month old and her 3 1/2 year old sister.

I swore those baby book pages would be just as chock full of milestones as my firstborn's, but they're not. Thank G-d for blogging.

4/14/08, 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I’m a huge fan of your blog but never felt compelled to write until this morning (I’m an LA girl living Down Under… hence it’s still morning for me!).

This post shook me. I’ve got a gorgeous 13 month old daughter and she gets all of my attention – all day, every day. While all the other “mummies” around me are already going back for seconds, I’m hesitant (i.e. scared out of my mind) because I worry about how good of a mother I will be to the next one.

Thanks for putting into words what lots of other moms are feeling.

-Ashley

4/14/08, 5:11 PM  
Blogger Mommy Dearest said...

As a mom of four I've felt the same pangs that you have. I swear I have eleventy billion pictures of my first as a baby and only a handful of my second. There are more of the third and fourth only because that's when we got our digital camera and didn't have to remember to buy new film. I'm sure Sage has a wonderful and full life and isn't suffering in the slightest. Besides, if all else fails, buy her a pony!

4/14/08, 5:13 PM  
Blogger Pinks and Blues said...

Fantastic post! As a mom of 3 boys (3, 2 and my youngest just turned 1) and pregnant with my 4th son - due in June - I have felt these twinges at times.

Even today... as I was trying to get all the boys together and ready for the day... I saw them all playing in the living room together. And it was then that I truly thought to myself... this is exactly it.. they have each other. The best gift a parent could ever give their child... siblings.

I often try to do special things alone with my boys... just to make sure every one has "even time" with mom. But my second and third sons are SO easy going... it's been a blessing.

Thanks for the post, it was good to read today.

Love your blog!

Best,
Audrey
Pinks & Blues
www.pinksandblues.com

ps - After living in NYC for 7 years... oh how I miss it! I loved reading that the dogwoods and magnolias have opened!

4/14/08, 5:44 PM  
Blogger J at www.jellyjules.com said...

The thing that Sage has in common with Thalia and all other babies is that she knows no different. Thalia didn't know what life was like for other babies, or what you did right and what you did wrong. She only had her own experience to go by. Sage is the same way, not knowing what it's like to be an only child, so not knowing that she's missing something that Thalia had. Thalia knows she's missing those center-of-the-universe times, because she once had them, and now she doesn't.

Where am I going with this? I don't know. My husband and I are both youngest siblings, and we turned out OK. ;)

4/14/08, 6:47 PM  
Blogger the new girl said...

Your post works my heart. I don't have two, but it really made me think of my own childhood, being first-born and having my little sister. Birth order is fascinating to me and it plays such an important role in the lives of children.

The Curse is also The Blessing. Being second comes with both costs and benefits, just like being first.

And I think that Moms are probably always second-guessing. Even (especially?) really good moms.

4/14/08, 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Suzanne said...

Don't be so hard on yourself. Sure, you don't have as much one on one time NOW with Sage, but guess what? Her older sister will probably be moving out before she does, and there will likely come a year or so when it's just Sage and you to share 'girl time' and guess what? It won't be patty cake! Not that patty cake is bad - it's not. But Sage will get her special time with you and the mere fact that you're conscious of the need and desire is a great head start.

Before I had kids, no one could have helped me understand how one could love 3 children 'equally' but so differently. I understand now. It's the same kind of 'equal' here.

4/14/08, 9:35 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Oh man, I so didn't need this today.

*sniff*

4/14/08, 10:18 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

I bet you're noticing far more than you give yourself credit for - in particular the bond that's developing between your girls.

4/14/08, 11:32 PM  
Blogger the mama bird diaries said...

Feel exactly the same way.

I, too, try to steal alone time with my 16 month-old.

In the beginning, I was so worried about my older toddler feeling neglected with a new baby in the house... that I didn't spend enough time with the baby.

And my little one seems to spend an incredible amount of time in her high chair and stroller.

Guilt.

But I do think (when I step back) that the younger ones get a little less of us but so much more because they have this animated, vibrant older sibling.

Beautiful post.

4/14/08, 11:44 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

My boys are older, and I still think about it sometimes. Adding a second child results in guilt on many levels, on the behalf of both kids.

Just know that over the years, Sage will assert herself as a person and establish her place in your family.

And those moments that happened so easily with the first one will happen with the second one. They may be far less frequent, but that just makes them that much sweeter.

4/15/08, 7:14 AM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

I think the fact that #2 usually gets a more confident, relaxed mommy more than makes up for everything else. At least that is what I tell myself.

4/15/08, 7:27 AM  
Blogger zellmer said...

I've blogged on this topic, although not as well as you. It's heartbreaking that you don't get the same one-on-one experience with the second baby. And I'm oh so familiar with the guilt. I often cry inwardly about how little I hold my son, compared to his older sister, who used to nap on my chest for hours. My son has never done that, and probably never will. I ache to just lie with him sometimes, but then I would suffer from another kind of guilt, that I'm abandoning my daughter begging for Mommy's attention in the next room.
The comments here are encouraging though. Sage does get more attention, because she has six eyes, hands and ears upon her instead of four.

4/15/08, 7:38 AM  
Blogger randomstuff said...

I'm a second child and my mom told me the one thing she wish she had done different was to occasionally do things with just one of us at a time, she never wanted either of us to feel left out, so we always did things together. My sister and I are well adjusted adults who own our own homes, so I think she did just fine. While maybe my baby book has few pictures of just me, like you said, I had a more relaxed mom than my sister did. Plus I got my mom to myself for a couple years while my sister was off at college and I was still in high school, and I will always cherish that.

4/15/08, 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Busy Mom said...

11 months already?! Wow!

The time with the ones who aren't first borns is just different.

I think we'd drive ourselves crazy if we constantly compared it all.

I just do what I can to make each of mine feel special, and as an only child, I don't even understand the benefits they have with each other.

One day at at time.

4/15/08, 10:20 AM  
Blogger Blueschild said...

Liz,

What a great post...I cannot wait to see you and the girls at Sage's 1st BDay! Nate and I are so looking forward to it.

xxx

4/15/08, 11:05 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I was afraid to have a second child (even though I really wanted a second) because of this very thing.

It's taken a while, but now after 17 months of having 2 girls, I have found the balance that works for me. #2 gets my undivided attention every morning while #1 is in preschool. #1 gets my undivided attention (when she wants it, which is becoming less and less these days) while #2 naps in the afternoon.

Now that we have this system worked out, the guilt is just not there like it was before. Maybe your experience will be similar when Thalia starts preschool this fall.

And we love dancing to Big Bad VooDoo Daddy in our livingroom, too!

4/15/08, 11:45 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

This was painful to read. I think you're doing a much better job than you see, and I bet some day, Sage will tell you so. Like in twenty-five years.


I'm really glad we're sticking to our "only" decision.

4/15/08, 12:07 PM  
Blogger ~Kat~ said...

I always think that Iris, my second got totally shafted in the "exclusive mommy rights" that Sage got for the 5 years that he was our one and only... but then I look at her... I watch her grow- with or without me she grows and thrives and as long as I keep looking upon her in wonder and amazement then I'm still doing my utmost to keep the same sacred moments that I did with Sage.
Power on momma... you are one and they are two- you're doing just fine.

4/15/08, 8:58 PM  
Blogger sweatpantsmom said...

The younger child is definitely the more independent one, for all the reasons you say.

Kiyomi was already cutting her food with a knife at 5. I don't think we let Kira be alone in a room with a utensil until she was six. She still asks us to cut her food, at 12.

Oh wait - is that just LAZY?

(Happy near Birthday Sage!)

4/15/08, 10:06 PM  
Blogger Eddo said...

Just read your tweet about the NYC Housewives and you are spot on! WTF? What gives with these shows.

4/15/08, 10:56 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

It is different with the 2nd. And don't even get me started on the 3rd!

You're doing good though, you are. And different doesn't equate worse or not as anything. It is just that - like you said - different!

4/15/08, 11:04 PM  
Blogger kristi said...

My kids are 6 years apart so I was able to concentrate more on TC being the baby....then we got the Autism diagnosis and I know he REALLY gets a lot of my attention. My guilt is towards my oldest.

4/16/08, 1:17 PM  
Blogger modmom said...

time flies!
i remember way before you were pregnant with sage. what wonderful moment you captured there :)

4/18/08, 1:09 AM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

I'm sure the 44 people before me have said it all already, but I wanted to add in my two cents.

As a first kid, I know I got more undivided attention. But my brother got the more laid back mother. I never really had her. I was always first and that made her more nervous. Anything he got came easier and with less of a fight. We each had an awesome mom, just a semi-different one. And neither of us needs therapy because of her. Because of other things, maybe, but not because of her. :)

And you said it yourself...second kids don't know a life without a big sibling and waiting their turn. Sage will be just fine. She's got you and Nate and Thalia.

4/18/08, 11:39 AM  
Blogger nomotherearth said...

I SO get this - it's exactly what I'm feeling right now. Except the Boy wakes up the minute his brother does. Sigh.

4/19/08, 2:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I had a really different experience. My oldest was only 16 mos old when I got pregnant with my second daughter. I had terrible morning sickness, and my husband ended up taking off work for most of my first trimester to take care of her (he's the best). The rest of my pregnancy was better, but the bond between me and my oldest was sort of broken early. She became a daddy's girl, and seemed to resent me even before her sister was born.

Because of this I got to spend plenty of time with the new baby, but I have felt so terribly guilty about the distance between me and my oldest.

She is three now, and she's starting to really like her sister, and I think she's mostly gotten over my awful pregnancy and jealousy of her sister - but it was really hard, and took a long time. And I wonder if it would have been easier if I had put more space between the two.

Yeah, I think my superhero power is guilt.

9/22/10, 11:13 AM  

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