Second child

Parents grossly exaggerate how little attention the second child gets.

This weekend my eldest wanted to play chess. No problem. My preschooler is < sarcasm > totally self sufficient and willing to play by himself while I give his older brother fifteen minutes of attention. < /sarcasm > Not because I ignore him, but because he knows what he wants in life and isn’t afraid to just go out and get it.

Image credit: Ken Teegardin via Creative Commons share alike

Image credit: Ken Teegardin via Creative Commons share alike

Peanut and I set up the pieces. And four-year-old Butterbean grabbed his stickers and started an art project.

On my shirt.

I, of course, supported his artistic drive. Mostly because it allowed about five minutes of play.

But at one point he pushed a stick hard on my back, and it hurt.

“Ow,” I said. “Please stop.”


“Because that hurt.”

“What part?”

“The part where you just pushed on my back.”

“Let me see.”

He lifted the back of my shirt and went looking, until he found what he said was a “red hurt spot.”

I made interested sounds. Not because I was ignoring. Because I couldn’t finagle my bishop into position.

Butter went to his room for his doctor kit, which he wielded expertly on my medical emergency. The red spot got fake injected, fake temperature checked, fake examined, and fake reflex checked.

And it got redder, he noted.


Ad Peanut and I got into the middle of the game, Butter went upstairs to get his geology tools: hammer, pick, tweezers, brush. All plastic, thankfully.

And declared he was a paleontologist. And started to dig into my back.

“Ow. Please stop it. That hurts.”

“Mommy, it’s okay. I’m a paleontologist.”

“Paleontologists look for fossils. In dirt. Not blood in their Moms.”

“Mom, it’s okay.”

“Yeah, well, still hurts.”

“Mom. Really. Okay. It’s O. Kay.”

He ditched the rockhound tools and picked up the queen my knight had just taken.

He used the queen to back methodically on the red spot on my back.

“Still red.”

Again with science.

“Yes. That’s the blood trying to help the skin get better from a hurt.”

“What hurts?”

“Banging queens on my back.”

“Mommy, I’m not banging queens on your back. I’m using one queen to find clues. Remember? I’m a paleontologist.”

I chased down Peanut’s King and ended the game just before the little one drew blood.

You see? Having two is totally easy. You should have several. Not much harder than having one. Or none. Or a puppy. Or a sandwich.

The broader point is that second children aren’t ignored. They don’t suffer from lack of attention. They have a better sense of what they want from life and seek without hanging back, without waiting for permission.

We could all learn from my youngest. If you want something, don’t let anything stand in your way. Not reality, or physics, or the medical needs of your mother.

8 thoughts on “Second child

  1. Sounds familiar. I have noticed that my youngest is already more self-sufficient when it comes to play. For instance right now she is engaged in an independent activity somewhere in the house…not sure where exactly, but she sounds happy.

    • [stifles laughter] Mine is totally not down with independent play. He gets so mad when he’s not the focus of attention. But guess what, kiddo: three people in this family. You’re not the center of the universe. So beg for attention any way you want, but you’ll only get it 1/2 the time. Or less.

  2. I should have put some band-aids in with the stickers. Noted.

    At work, I call it Moron Management. But I used to play chess and like it.

  3. My second child (I nanny them, they’re not actually mine) is very independent too, he just likes to be doing his own thing within sight of the rest of us. Which works quite well really, since he has the attention span of a gnat and playing with him is an exercise in restrained frustration.

    • I’m only laughing because my son isn’t even remotely independent. He’s just as much a “play with me” tyrant as his older brother. But he’s a second child, so he gets nothing.
      Nothing, I tell you.

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