I just read @spudballoo’s post on her second child’s first day at school. I too am compiling my thoughts for when Spider-boy enters that arena, although until next Thursday when he is definitely going to be in a classroom, with his teacher, without me, I am firmly in denial.
I am very interested in what she, and some of the readers in comments below, describe as the ‘good value’ element of second children though. My second son too, is absolutely, all or nothing. When he was born the midwives christened us both ‘0-60’ and he has always been like this. Perfectly charming, or complete crazed, happy or tragic, screaming or juddering with wheezy mirth. There is no middle ground with him. And really this fascinates me.
You see, as an eldest (with traits of single child as my siblings are far younger) myself I have always been slightly dismissive about second children. Maybe dismissive isn’t quite right, but certainly I’ve not always understood their emotions, motivations. Their drive, their laughter in the face of authority, their ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’. I’m a firm believer that family place can have a huge affect on your personality. Now though is a time for taking on and talking out my attitude to second timers as, not only have I married one, but I have one too.
I am so fascinated by Newborn’s second-man-up-to-bat-ness and these traits he has which he seems to share with many so of the second kids I have started to observe around me. Sadly, I can only marvel at his intrepid confidence, and his lack of taking anything quite so seriously, rather than recognise or empathise with it as chiming perfectly with my own world view. He takes things far less to heart than his brother (and me). Where we are worrywarts and self-deprecating clowns; he’s the real deal.
And though snapshot for snapshot, taken year on year, month on month, my sons and their smiles are almost identical, my second son is beautiful in a very different way for me. Partly, as I’ve noted before, because he does, ever so slightly, look more like me, but also because I see something different in him. Not the heart-stopping life-changing craziness of a firstborn who transforms everything, but a shaft of light re-illuminating my world from a new-old vantage point.
There’s more to it than my chronic big-sister-ness. There is definitely something about his arrival being somehow ‘despite’ loads of things. With my Spider-boy, as I was ignorant of the realities of birth and parenting, and also, I guess, hopeful that things wouldn’t be quite so totally fucking dreadful, I had great expectations of motherhood which ended, pretty swiftly in brain-trashing body-wrecking humiliation when everything about his arrival (apart from him) was horrendous. For years. So bad I thought maybe it would be forever.
Newborn was desperately wanted, but carried and birthed amidst a mire of dire dread, following a pregnancy marked out by panic that was white noise loud. But despite this he was the marvellous surprise. As I’ve detailed before I somehow forgot to realise or imagine or anticipate that he would smash his way through the hardest barriers I’d built and be so, almost disarmingly, charmingly uninterested in the bleak past; unaware and uncaring about the turmoil his existence seemed a miraculous rebellion against. His presence became a metaphor made real by his attitude. He is so forward motion and all about him and look at the world and ‘I AM ME: HELLO!’ that he startled me out of my trepidation.
And that is what is so wonderful to me, the metaphor made real bit, about second children. They come along with all this baggage of expectation (tempered by the reality of having already a child) and yet, couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the naval gazing and the before, they look only ahead, usually at their older siblings. Which is why I love the swing shot above. You can see his smile, and the motion of his brother’s swinging that he’s responding to whilst he also creates his own arc. As they crossed paths in the unromantic safety swings, rubber squeaking, chains clinking, I could see him blazing along radiating his own laughing look at the world and basking only in that past glory of his brother as it was reflected back on his own newness. His brother, in fact, is the one looking back (and he, as the eldest, is enchanted).