In many predictable ways having a second child has changed my mothering -- for example, increasing my forgetfulness while simultaneously decreasing my reservoir of patience. My second child has just reached his first birthday and with that celebratory occasion came a mountain of realizations for me about the differences between baby number one and baby number two.
My first son experienced a super hippy-dippy all natural, free range, organic in utero stay at club pregnancy complete with massage, meditation, mantras, yoga, ultra vegan vitamins, 9+ hours of sleep every night, and a mother who read nothing but birthing manuals and How To parenting books.
My second son experienced a super laid back, occasional fast food burger, sometimes a glass of red wine, never a moment's peace, 6 hours of sleep a night stay at the Motel 6 version of pregnancy complete with a wild three-year-old sucking up all of mom and dad's time and energy.
My first son was born after 21 ½ hours of agonizing natural labor and surrounded by two midwives, four nurses, a doctor, and more than a dozen family members pacing the halls, waiting room, and delivery room all with camera's ready for action.
My second son was born after several loopy hours of pain-free labor followed by a C-Section surrounded by a couple of nurses, a doctor, and his poor exhausted father. A sympathetic nurse took a blurry picture of our son's arrival.
My first son had all organic, gender-neutral clothing purchased from (mostly) local vendors with low carbon footprints.
My second son had all hand-me-downs from his older brother, the neighbors, his cousins, and family friends. More than half of these hand-me-downs were tie-dyed to hide stains.
My first son had a baby book that was dutifully filled out with complimentary photo albums, letters to him for future dates, and a crisp dollar bill that symbolized the start of his college fund.
My second son had a gag-gift baby book that documented inappropriate milestones like the first time he pooped on me or the first time he spit up on dad. Only two pages are filled out. His college fund was started on a Thursday afternoon in between a dentist appointment and grocery shopping and with a lack of fuss and symbolic gesture.
My first son was the Guinea pig for test running a variety of parenting styles that ran the gamut of never saying no, to yelling, to timeouts, to never yelling, to realizing that timeouts don't work. We landed firmly on sticking with a minimum of four basic house rules that cover respect, dignity, love, and compassion.
My second son has benefitted from his older brother having broken us in as parents. On the one hand we are confident that his toddlerhood will go smoother now that we are seasoned parents. On the other hand, this kid might bring us some hell we hadn't thought of or experienced yet.
My first son had three solid years of being an only child and was able to experience a world that catered to his every whim and need and fancy. As a result he is a fabulous big brother (with a few lingering jealousy issues) who knows in his bones that his is loved.
My second son has rarely experienced alone time with dad and me. Every chance we get to spend with him alone has been interrupted by the antics of his older brother. As a result, our sons have forged a tight friendship and strong sibling bond of love.
My first son has a room filled to the gills with every ridiculous toy you can imagine.
My second son has what passes for a nursery that is filled with boxes of leftovers from his older brother. Downstairs in the living room he has a basket with a handful of new toys from his big birthday bashpalooza, but his older brother keeps stealing them.
This list could go on endlessly. Forever. And it probably will as time flies ever faster into the future. My children are as different as night and day. My first son saw the newness in everything from parental experience to toys and clothes and the bendability of household rules. My second son lives in the land of leftovers, but is equally showered in love.