Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Second verse, same as the first…

This Out-Numbered is dedicated to my awesomely chill second kid. Happy Birthday!

When my wife and I were first discussing the possibility of having a second child, one of the questions that kept coming up was… “Do you think we’ll love it as much as we love our first?” Hmmmm. Good question. Totally impossible to answer without sounding cold and heartless but a very good question. I honestly didn’t know the answer. But I always heard from my parents and grandparents that you love each child differently. Not more, just differently. Yeah right. What happens when one kid is smarter than the other? What happens when one kid is prettier? You always hear siblings say, “I’m the good one”. It’s inevitable. What if the new kid gets all messed up like Jan Brady? Or even worse, Macaulay Culkin in, “The Good Son”. You remember… In a quiet town... In a comfortable home... In a perfect body... Evil can be as close as someone you love. It didn’t seem fair.

To make the decision even more difficult, by that point my first had already turned to the “dark side”. When I say “dark side”, I mean the point (usually 18 months – 2 years) at which a perfectly sweet, loving, snuggly, innocent little baby becomes a complete asshole. I know this sounds way too harsh when describing a little kid but it’s probably the most accurate description I can think of. It’s almost like the transformation happens over night or something. You never expect it. It’s almost like watching a cute little caterpillar walk around on its cute little legs, all happy and mushy. Then one day it wraps itself in this Chrysalis. Then you’re like, “ok, I miss my little caterpillar. I hope when it comes out, it’s still sweet and cute.” Then BAM! Asshole Butterfly! Just flying around, nothing at all like the sweet little caterpillar. Ok wait. I think I was thinking of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nemoy. Those pods that hatched the evil clones? Whatever. I think this stage is actually referred to by the “experts” as the Terrible Two’s. What these so called “experts” don’t tell you is that the Terrible Two’s never end. Seriously. They actually just rollover like vacation days you never use at work. The Terrible Two’s is just a name that sounded cute so they stopped there. What about the Terrifying Three’s? How about the Fucked up Four’s? You get the point.

Even though our little original was going through her transformation or “turning” as I like to put it, she was still our baby. No new child could possibly live up to her presence. So like any other parents of sound mind would do, we said, “what the heck!” Let’s go for it.

It’s funny how these things work. First pregnancy = easy. First kid = not so easy. Second pregnancy = hard. Second kid = not so hard. It’s almost like the first pregnancy wasn’t hard enough so they give you a tough kid to even things out. Then because the second pregnancy was hard, they make it up on the back end with an easier kid. Not sure who “they” are. But apparently they have control over just about everything. You know what “they” say…

Having the second kid was strange for me. It wasn’t at all like the first time around. Back then I was super involved. Even when our first kid was still in the womb, I’d religiously play music for her on those special headphones that fit on the belly. I was very meticulous in picking out the perfect music for her. Stevie Wonder (Songs in the Key of Life, Disc One of course), Peter Gabriel (SO, always omitting Sledge Hammer and Big Time for fear that it would make her annoying.) and Lisa Loeb’s debut album (Because for some reason I think she’s totally hot. Even after she did that lame reality show.) After the kid was born, I changed doodie diapers, did 2am feedings, bath time, you name it. I did it all. It was just like I had pictured it to be. I really connected with daughter #1 from the first moment I saw her. There was a special bond.

When I had daughter #2, it was as if I was a bit detached right from the get go. I can’t really explain it. I barely even played music for her when she was in the womb. I might have exposed her to some Phil Collins (No Jacket Required. God forgive me, Sussudio was on that album.) Or some Journey (Raised on Radio). It was pretty bad. After she was born, I wound up spending most of my time with my oldest daughter while my wife took care of the new baby. Could I have been experiencing some sort of Dad Postpartum? I don’t think so but there was definitely a natural inclination to increase my bond with my oldest kid. My wife just thinks that I didn’t want to change any more diapers. This was definitely true. But it’s not the only reason why I was feeling distant.

Everything was different the second time around. My age was different. My job was different. My home was different. My expectations were different. I didn’t realize it then but I was holding my newest baby to the very standards I had so consciously vowed not to create. I thought I had seen it all with the first kid and didn’t even think for a minute that the second time around could be as unique an experience. Maybe I didn’t want it to be. Maybe deep down I didn’t want anything to alter the bond that I had with my first child.

Then suddenly, things changed. I think it was when my second daughter was three months old. I started to notice the most amazing things about her. She smiled differently than my other daughter. She smelled different. She cried differently. Her hair was a different color. Everything about her was different. She WAS different. She was always different. I was just too jammed up to notice. From that point on I took great pleasure in observing all the little idiosyncrasies about my new little girl. As the months started to pass, her personality started to come out more and more. She was chill and laid back, where my other daughter was intense and focused. She was silly, where my other daughter was serious. It was amazing. For all the reasons I loved my first child, there were now a plethora of completely different reasons why I loved my second. It was like going to Wendy’s and always getting the Chicken Club Combo with Cheese but now I could add the Bacon Jr. Cheeseburger and Frosty to the same order and not have to settle for just one. Bliss… My parents and my grandparents weren’t just blowing smoke up my ass all those years ago. You really do love each child differently. Not more, just differently.

From the day our second child was born, my wife has always joked that she is “the sweet one”. There is that inevitability I was talking about. I always tell her it’s because she hasn’t “turned” yet. “Don’t say that!” she says, as she knocks on wood. This week my youngest daughter turned two. Like clockwork, it started. The yelling. The whining. The hitting. The temper tantrums. I even checked her neck for bite marks, thinking the older one “turned” her like a kiddy Vampiress. Ah, too much True Blood on HBO perhaps. Either way, the Terrible Two’s don’t scare me this time around. Even though my kids are different, there’s one thing that is exactly the same.

I’m still Out-Numbered…