Monday, December 1, 2008

On birthdays & birth order

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to my baby Rebecca, who turns three tomorrow. What a difference three years makes. She sings, she dances, she uses the potty, she dresses herself, she tells stories ("Once upon a time there was a baby and a mommy. The end!"). It's hard to believe that just 36 months ago, she was a gooey little blob.

Something else that's hard for me to believe, when I look back at her baby pictures: that her big brother Jacob was younger when she was born than she is now. He was just two and a half at the time, but as soon as Rebecca arrived, he suddenly seemed so grown up.

The moment he stepped into our hospital suite, in fact, I remember being shocked by how large and strong and mature he seemed, as I held my helpless newborn in my arms. Then and there his Pull-Ups seemed less like training diapers and more like Depends; watching him eat French fries and chicken nuggets next to me as I picked at my hospital tray, I became aware of how many teeth he had, compared to the toothless infant I was nursing.

In contrast, Rebecca has always been my baby. She might have been walking and talking months earlier than Jacob did (she is a girl and a second child, after all) but it's hard for me to see her as anything but my littlest one. When her preschool teacher told me that she knew her letters and her numbers, I was surprised. I hadn't even thought to go over this subject with her, since I'd been preoccupied with Jacob's ability to read Green Eggs & Ham cover to cover, not stumbling over a single word. Rebecca and I were still singing "Twinkle Little Star" during our moments alone together--who knew it was time to graduate to phonics?

I'm not sure who got the worse deal, my oldest or my baby. On one hand, sometimes it stinks being the first born. I know this because I'm a first born. New parents tend to overthink everything. Lucky kid #2 gets more laid-back parents who know that if they make a mistake, the kid will survive. Which ironically seems to result in fewer mistakes.

Indeed, there was a level of scrutiny and intensity to my relationship with Jacob that I just haven't had with Rebecca. I read parenting magazines and books for every major decision we made about Jacob's development. How to sleep and potty train, when and what first foods to feed, how to diffuse tantrums.

While I marveled at each and every moment in Jacob's development--I can tell you exactly when he first smiled, his favorite bedtime book and even which of the many Mommy & Me activities we did together he liked the best--with Rebecca, none of this was all that earth-shattering. Which also made our time together so easygoing and fun. Little outings to Publix alone with her were a gift, the way she'd grin at me, gumming on her free cookie, as I loaded items in the checkout lane. (Would I have let Jacob, when he was young enough to still be teething, eat a "real" cookie when he could have had a fruit-juice-sweetened teething biscuit from Whole Foods instead? No way.)

Jacob gets my A-game, but he also gets me at my Type A worst. Rebecca gets the mellower mama, who is also somewhat of a slacker. Poor kids. Lucky kids.

It's hard to believe I could have such different relationships with two children I adore and treasure so deeply and completely.


Cammie said...

I agree....all these words strung together that come out of my "babies" mouth blow me away! It is amazing how fast the 2nd one grows.
Happy Birthday Rebecca!

Sarah said...

Happy birthday, Rebecca!

The Gumdrop Tree said...

Jorie, I totally get you on this. I could have written it. Happy birthday to your angel.