How to Parent Your First Child Like It's Your Second

These posts needs to start with a disclaimer. I am aware that some people have a much tougher time with their second kids than their first and that no parenting experience is identical, so I am by no means speaking for everyone when I write this, just for little old me. That said, in general, I have found that doing something for a second time is much easier than doing it for the first. Your kids at school may use ‘cold tasks’ and ‘hot tasks’ to help them assess their progress, i.e. you complete a task before you know anything about the topic then, once you have learned about the topic, you repeat the task and see how much more you know. I think rearing children is like that, only with tiny humans, not phonics. 

Everything written in the upcoming posts comes with a proviso; if you feel you need to do something then do it. Ignore all advice (within reason I mean, vaccinations are pretty fucking important) that stresses you out and do what you need to do with your own child; the child you breathe and bear and hold in your arms and heart; no one knows that child and what they need better than you. Listen to others but know you are capable of making your own decisions for your own family. 

You hear a lot about the joys of parenting and, conversely, a large portion of the internet now also seems to be built upon the acknowledgement that it is also utterly shit a lot of the time. Real parenting is, of course, somewhere in between these two points. Every family finds their own balance. All I know is that our second one changed everything for the better for all of us. There are so many more things I have managed to find pleasure in second time around that were fraught with anxiety with my first. Here’s my potted guide to what I found made rearing the second much more pleasant than my first. 

Let your tiny baby sleep on you. It is all they want. You are literally all they know, your heat beat and your breathing are the rhythm of their world. Let routines come later. You are not going to sleep either way, so you may as well allow one of you to be happy.

When your child is settling to sleep in their buggy or car seat DO NOT CHECK ON THEM. Nothing in the world is more exciting than your face, the thrill of seeing it will banish sleep entirely. I am also totally aware that this is completely pointless advice - two JCBs could not have dragged me away from peeking into that buggy to make sure my first hadn’t spontaneously combusted whilst I wasn’t looking at him. With the second, the fear of combustion was far less pressing than the actual danger of an unruly three year old merrily skipping into the path of any passing JCBs, so the second was able to settle herself without interruption. 

With my first I tried to adhere to a strict routine, probably far too early. The routine included at least five lullabies and endless soothing, patting and stroking. Patting and stroking until I got backache, knee ache and my hands went numb. That child still doesn’t have a clue how to settle himself to sleep at eight years old. The second one, on the other hand, could fall asleep on barbed wire. It helps that when the second came along her older brother at that point was so loud he drowned out any bedtime weeping from his little sister, so she learnt to sort herself out and still does brilliantly at this to this day. I’m not sure I will every fully scrub the guilt from heart due to this but in the long run it does mean I tend to be much nicer to the child who stays in bed than the one who constantly interrupts ‘grown up time’ - which is basically any time after the cork in the wine bottle goes pop. 

I will be pontificating more on the joys of rearing children under various basic topics for a few more posts, so consider this TO BE CONTINUED...