How Having a Second Child Turned From a Nightmare to a Dream

On a recent weekend morning, I was lazing in bed at the deliciously slutty hour of 8:15 a.m. (bliss), listening to my kids getting their clothes on. My 6-year-old was patiently helping the 3-year-old ("Okay, now put your head through the hole ... no, the hole at the top of the shirt, Dylan. And now you stick your arms in the sleeves, and look, you're all dressed!" "FANK you, Riley!") and it was one of those magical parenting moments I wanted to sear into my brain-folds with a branding iron: remember this, remember this, remember this. Their sweet, high-pitched voices, the affection so clearly audible in their tones, the fact that for once they weren't screaming at each other over a stolen Lego.

Oh, we have come so far from the days and weeks after I brought Dylan home from the hospital. Back then, I looked at the atom bomb that had gone off in our previously happy little household and thought, This is the worst thing I could have possibly done to Riley.


I knew it was going to be hard work parenting a newborn and a 2-year-old at the same time, but I didn't anticipate how my older son would change—literally overnight—from a small chubby-cheeked toddler to an enormous, lumbering kid. Compared to a days-old baby, Riley seemed to grow up before my very eyes, leaving behind the last shreds of his infanthood in a puff of smoke. Suddenly he was so terrifyingly active, unpredictable, and LOUD.

If the abrupt gear-shift in how I perceived my firstborn child wasn't enough to make me feel guilty, the neglect surely did. At any moment out of the day, I was feeding the baby, changing the baby, trying desperately to get the baby to fall asleep, or walking around in little bouncing circles with an angry screaming baby. There was precious little time for playing with an energetic toddler, and I helplessly stashed him in front of Curious George more times than I can possibly count.

I felt awful about the massive disruption in Riley's life. Now his parents were exhausted all the time, couldn't pay as much attention to him, and the whole house totally smelled like milkbarf. It seemed like getting a baby brother was upsetting at best and emotionally damaging at worst.

I guess there's no way to truly understand what something's going to be like until you're in it. It's true that for quite a while, I felt like a sub-standard parent to my older boy. I feel like I missed some of his toddlerhood because my attention was pulled in so many different directions. I wondered, in my darkest moments, if we'd made a terrible decision.

But like all rough stages, things eventually smoothed out. Dylan quickly grew into a pudgy laughing baby who was absolutely infatuated with his big brother. Soon he was toddling after Riley, Riley was reading books to him, and they were well on their way to becoming pint-sized partners in crime.

Today the two of them are the best of friends (the sort of friends who sometimes engage in epic, ridiculous battles, mind you), and their affection for each other is fierce and pure and still blessedly unmarred by feelings of superiority or coolness. They hug each other goodbye in the morning, and they hug hello when they're reunited after school. The relationship they have with each other adds so much joy and happiness to our family. The noise, the chaos, the mess—I reserve the right to occasionally complain, but god, I am so grateful for it all.

I am an only child, and I've never known life with a sibling. I never, never knew it could be this good.

Do your kids have the same relationship with each other than you remember having with your own brother/sisters, or is it totally different?


Image via Linda Sharps

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