Second Verse, Not the Same As the First

Photo by Amy Storch
After the birth of our second son, I kept waiting for people to ask The Question. 

Is he, you know, the same as his brother. Or different. You know, typical. 

Nobody ever asked me. I asked it myself plenty, though. I imagine it's hard for ANY parent to resist constantly using their first child as a yardstick or compare-and-contrast case study for their second. Noah was my only point of reference for a newborn, baby, or toddler. For almost two full years, I had no idea that anything he did was truly out of the ordinary. (And if it was, it was entirely in a "good" way.)

But I still felt so GUILTY for doing it to them since I had an especially hard time letting any differences between the boys be simply "one of those things." Different personalities and temperaments. No, it was all about Noah's atypical development and my need to reassure myself that Ezra was, in fact, typical. It felt so unfair to both of them at the same time. I was rewriting some of my favorite memories of Noah's babyhood as THAT. RIGHT THERE. SOMETHING WE MISSED! WE SHOULD'VE KNOWN! And I was downplaying Ezra's milestones and accomplishments because it was all just expected and normal and what babies are supposed to be like.

The thing is, though, Ezra is typical. At 18 months, he has somewhere between 15 and 20 words that he uses on a regular basis. Noah had ... four? Five? Ish? He has no texture issues or balance problems and enjoys grass and movement and exploring. He has a strong sense of self and an interest in other children and can already use utensils and hold a crayon correctly.


A lot of the parents I know from Noah's special programs chose not to have more children following their child's diagnosis of SPD or an ASD. And I admit that we didn't really know the extent of Noah's needs when we decided to have another baby. But we knew enough to know that there was a chance we'd conceive another child with similar issues or, hell, something worse. I spend enough time on the Internet to know that. I'll take battling with my insurance over speech therapy over chemotherapy any day, my God.

Plus, he's NOAH. We should be so lucky as to have a second kid as awesome as he is.

The other day, I walked into the kitchen to find my husband watching Ezra, who was on the floor playing with a bunch of Noah's cars. He had a kind of ... stricken look on his face, like he'd seen a ghost. I looked down at the baby and saw it: Ezra was methodically and meticulously lining every car up end to end.

"That's what Noah used to do," he said quietly. And this is true. For years, this was Noah's primary way to "play." He lined up cars, trains, magnets, socks, crayons, everything. I remember walking into the living room, seeing lines of sorted objects EVERYWHERE, and just about bursting into tears.

He still does it, sometimes, when he's having a bad day. I'm pretty Ezra has watched him do it and was simply mimicking his big brother as usual.

I told my husband this and he nodded, but I could tell he was still a little shaken by the deja vu of the whole thing. Ezra placed the last car in line and clapped for himself.

And, of course, we clapped for him too. Because he's awesome too.

autism, boys, confessions, development & growth, developmental delays, milestones, siblings


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nonmember avatar Mouse

I had my first miscarriage just about the first time anybody uttered the word "autism" concerning our then almost-four-year-old.  We debated what that would mean for trying again, especially because it's kind of obvious how genetics-driven our first son's Asperger's is.  And I'm typing this with my two-month-old in my lap.  We've already started the comparisons (he's intrigued by geometric patterns, but seeks out eye contact and interaction), and I know they'll just grow from there.  I don't think there's any way to avoid it, but I'm working hard to focus on the ways in which he's his own awesome being.

nonmember avatar LMD

FWIW on Ez... My "completely normal" 2 year old LOVES, loves, LOVES lining his cars up. He lines up his cars end to end, then swaps them to go in the other direction, then lines them all facing out the window.... and when he is done, he puts them away in the car drawer, all facing the same direction.

He also shocked me, the first time I gave him a box of crayons, by taking them all out, laying them on the floor in a neat little row, pointy ends all in the same direction (and fixing the ones that he did "wrong" the first time), and then putting them all back in the box, pointy sides up. The green one, which had been used down to a flat nub, gave him some trouble, but he figured it out.

The operative difference, I'm pretty sure, is that he doesn't do it with everything.

I just mention this because it's possible Ezra might have done that even without Noah's example. And to encourage/remind parents that everyone experiments with being "like that" sometimes. Not to discount the bit of shock you guys had seeing it, but to encourage you to relax after that initial tense-up, like that cooldown after your heart jumps in your throat seeing a raisin on the floor and thinking it was a cockroach...

smhorman smhorman

My son used to do the line up all his cars in a row too.  He would lay on the floor and lay them all out.  Them he would 'drive' them one by one across the floor and line them up again.  He also had a fascination with fans.  He would watch them spin 'round and 'round, turn it off, watch it slow down, then turn it on to speed it up again.  I worried about autism.

Nope.  Typical little boy.  I'll bet it is the same will a lot of (all?) little boys.  Why else would they need 10,000 matchbox cars?  And who wouldn't love a little Noah?

nonmember avatar Heather

"Plus, he's NOAH. We should be so lucky as to have a second kid as awesome as he is."  That just made me smile so big!  You write so well, Amy. 


nonmember avatar ASL

I so relate to this...and in fact, on the flip, more positive side of unreasonable comparisons, seeing the "normal" development of our 13-month-old has spurred me to seek additional therapies/interventions for our three-year-old, who's been undergoing speech therapy for the last six months or so. 

When I first started to suspect that our older son had some issues, your blog (and, specifically, the similarities between our son's behaviors and Noah's) is what finally convinced me to get off my keester and do something about it.  Now, watching the baby move forward by leaps and bounds has made me realize that some of the things in our older son I thought were maybe just quirks - what makes him "him" - might actually be evidence of some more underlying issues.   Off we go to three more evaluations in the next three weeks!

nonmember avatar lisa

I do the same thing with my two all the time. My daughter is 4 and has a seizure history which has resulted in delays. When we were talking about having a second I often reminded myself that having a kid like my daughter would be wonderful. As challenging as she can be, she's still a dream come true. My son is the same age as Ezra and he is so delightfully typical...I compare them all the time, and the amazing things I think he does are really just typical toddler things...but I didn't see them the first time around. It fills my heart with hapiness to not have to worry like I did with my daughter, and yet sadness that I even feel that way, as natural and normal as it is. But I think in the end, we're just being normal parents and celebrating our kids accomplishments on whatever scale they happen to be on...typical or not, it's all pretty amazing!

nonmember avatar ksmaybe

Ditto to smhorman.  My nephew did this and my son too.  Nephew-developmentally normal.  My son has apraxia, but so far is not SPD.  I have a picture of them lined up in the window sill too :)  I sent it to my brother.  More to the point though.....I already do this with my second child too.  I'm sure she's babbling more, shrieking more, etc.  Sigh.

Carey... Carey2006

WOW!    My heart just sunk a lil.....I remember panicking when my son started to do lil oddities like that which is usually an indicator.....

I don't know....if you want another child who's to say the risk isn't worth it....each child is it's own unique blessing.

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