Are we more lenient with our second child than our first? It’s a question we ask ourselves repeatedly, and almost always our answer is a resounding yes.
Of course we’re aware of the need to be careful and to hide our tendencies from our eldest. I think we both make a conscious effort to be fair when she’s around. But when she’s busy doing all the things that 5 year olds do, I suppose we aren’t quite so careful.
Is this just a second child thing? Are you simply more relaxed the second time around? Do you let more things go? Is the new carpet less new and less precious once it has been christened a few times? Do the play foods really have to be organised into separate containers or can the wooden ice-creams, the biscuits and the cardboard packets all be bunged in together? Maybe there’s a bit of that going on. There’s certainly far less time than there used to be with just one to look after. The sacrosanct nightly bath, for example, seemed to morph slowly to 3 times a week and now twice a week purely because it’s such a nightmare getting them both in, out, washed and dressed.
Or are we more lenient with our second because she was born extremely prematurely and spent 5 months in hospital fighting for her life? Are we now over-compensating for that because we can’t come to terms with how much she’s suffered? I suspect that this does play a huge part in shaping our thinking, our decision making and our parenting. When you’ve watched your child go through heart surgery, or sat at their bedside night after night willing them to live, to keep breathing until the morning, it’s very hard to deny them anything.
I think we’re a long way off ‘spoiling’ her, but I do think it’s something we need to remain aware of and sense check from time to time, just to make sure we don’t ever fall into that camp. I wonder how many other parents there are out there in similar positions? How many parents of preemies, or parents of children who’ve had a serious accident/illness find it hard to treat them the same as they treat their siblings?
In other words, how much do childhood crises like prematurity, illnesses and serious accidents influence the way we parent our children? Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts about this interesting topic.