When I was pregnant with my second baby, I found myself in tears imagining the negative effect his birth would have on my first child. I was fiercely protective of my daughter, who was 2 years old at the time, and the thought of any harm coming to her was really more than I could take.
Yes, I thought a lack of attention due to having a new baby in the house would cause her irreparable harm. What can I say? I was hormonal.
Of course my worrying was for naught. Not only was my daughter thrilled to have a baby hanging around, I instantly fell in love with my little boy and protecting him became as much of a priority as it was when it came to his older sister. And as my daughter turned 3, becoming less toddler and more individual, I started wondering if the new kid wasn't my favorite after all.
As my daughter's cries rivaled the baby's, I treated her emotional outburst with annoyance while cuddling my newborn. After all, he had no idea what was going on, when he would get his next meal, diaper change, or even if he was tired or not. She knew exactly what she was doing when she slammed the door loud enough to wake him up, even if she swore she didn't (through tears) while sitting in a time-out.
The baby was innocent, my 3-year-old was not.
Even though the baby was the cause of my exhaustion, hunger, and physical and mental slovenliness, he got a pass. When my daughter turned her milk upside down on the table, she was doing it on purpose. Nothing he did was intentional, no matter how grating.
A year and a half later, that's still the case. A 19-month-old is just beginning to learn how to be patient, wait his turn, and that throwing his dinner on the floor is not cool. But he's still not old enough to lie or defy his parents -- just because.
The baby of the family isn't going to get reprimanded as strongly as his older siblings until he reaches that same level of comprehension. Which means, never. Or at least not until she's already out of the house and a young adult. She will always be held to a higher standard than her brother -- at least until they are both over the age of 18. She's older, she's wiser, and she's going to get less of the benefit of the doubt than her baby brother.
The big sister will feel like the baby brother is the favored one, without a doubt. But parenting different ages requires different tactics, ones that change at every milestone. So she'll always be getting treated a little bit differently. Of course sometimes that difference means she gets to go to the movies he doesn't get to, or gets to go stay with Grandma all by herself. Right now, she's my pick to go on a trip across the country, and the baby is not even a close second.
These moments will continue, and then he'll be crying favoritism, and she'll feel like perhaps there is some fairness in this family after all.
Siblings are favored in different ways, but it's true, the baby will always be the baby.
Do you favor the baby in your family?
Image via Playingwithbrushes/Flickr