Happy Birthday! (And Sorry About That Whole Second Child Thing)

Dear Rosie,

You are 3 years old today. You should know this because we’ve been talking about it for weeks and your older sister threw an unbelievable tantrum yesterday morning that was allegedly about socks, but we both know it’s about you getting birthday attention when she’s not. Also, your Bubbe and Zayde bought you a fancy cupcake with sprinkles for your birthday dinner last night.

Now, I know that when your sister turned 3, she got a big birthday party at the park with all of her friends and a lot of fancy cupcakes, and all you got was dinner with your parents and grandparents. Don’t worry. We’ll get to the party just as soon as I can find the save the date email that I cleverly sent out to our friends and then promptly lost. (Let’s be honest, you’re a second child. You don’t really have your own friends. Fortunately, you seem to like most of the younger siblings of your sister’s friends.) 

In addition the Cinderella Duplo set I bought you for your birthday, I feel like I also owe you an apology. Not for forgetting about your party (I’ll find that email, I promise), but for the whole second-kid thing. I’m also a second child, and I really get how hard it can be. We sent out an actual birth announcement for your sister; your arrival was announced via email. Your sister’s “special blanky” is a beautiful hand knit piece that was made by your great-aunt in time for her birth. I’m still finishing your “special blanky” as well as the album from your first year. Fortunately, you don’t seem to mind wearing hand-me-downs, as long as the shirts are pink and the skirts are sufficiently twirly. I’m grateful for that, because I know how hard it can be to not get new clothes. I try to buy you new stuff whenever I can, but we just have so many clothes that already fit you.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what sort of personality you’re going to have. You’re happy and easy-going and hilarious, with just enough of a mischievous edge to keep me on my toes. I know that so much of who you are right now is in direct response to your sister, who is certainly happy and has an amazingly dry sense of humor, but she is far from easy-going, and she’s definitely a stickler for the rules. I can see that much of what you want from life is either because you want to be just like your sister or just the opposite. She loves ballet, and so do you. She likes purple today, so you choose pink. The connection between you two is strong in ways that I could have never imagined, and I hope it always is. I also hope that you find your own path, one that is defined by what resonates most deeply with your own unique way of being in the world.

Sometimes being the second kid isn’t so bad, though. By the time you came along, Daddy and I had already (mostly) survived the chaos of life with a newborn, so we weren’t quite the wrung-out, over-anxious messes that we were when your sister was born. For example, I didn’t feel the need to call the urgent care hotline the first time I noticed a tiny booger in your eye. I wish I could say the same for your sister. I’m sure that our different parenting styles had an impact on each of your personalities, for better and worse.

You’ve never had the undivided attention of your parents, to be sure, but you’ve always had the undivided attention of your sister, who insisted from the moment she first met you when you were only a few hours old that only Mommy could hold you. Her desire to protect you was stronger than her need for my attention.

Since that day, life has been a little easier for you with your big sister by your side. Trips to the doctor and the dentist were less scary because she went first, and she was there to comfort you on your first day of preschool when you were missing Mommy. She grabbed you from crawling (falling) down the stairs when my back was turned, and more than once she’s reminded you not to run into the street.

I guess being the second child is like almost everything else in life: there are ups and downs, and sometimes it’s awesome, and other times, well, not so much. Now that you’re a threenager, you’ll probably start noticing the downs a lot more than the ups. That’s ok. I’ll be right here with you, no matter what, along with your Daddy and your big sister. We love you so much. Happy Birthday, Rosie Posie.

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Carla Naumburg

Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a clinical social worker and writer. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post,The Huffington Post,,, The Jewish Daily Forward, and Psychology Today. She is the author of two books, Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters (Parallax, 2014) and Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family (New Harbinger, 2015). Carla grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Bay Area of California, and she currently lives outside of Boston with her husband and two young daughters. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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