the second kid is harder

Round Two is a series of posts about having that second kid. 

If you think this post is bullshit, check out The Second Kid is Easier beacuse 

When it comes to the question of whether the second kid is easier or harder, nobody ever gives it to you straight. Everyone's all like well it depends on the kids and it depends on you and spiritual hoodoo and misty woo-woo and you do you and no matter what just try to stay present...

Everyone hedges. Except me. I'm here to tell you the truth about having a second baby. For I am a truth-teller. It's a blessing... and a curse.




Glad you asked.

This Debate, About Everything

Buster threw up at 3:45 am.

Chicken has school at 9 am.


If Buster barfed this morning, Chicken will be blowing chunks sometime in the next 12-18 hours. 
Chicken shouldn't go to school.

No but he's fine right now. It doesn't make any sense to keep big bro home just because little B tossed his cookies. 
Chicken must go to school.

Just because he looks fine doesn't mean he is fine. He's an incubator of viral plague. 
He shouldn't go to school.

If Chicken stays home from school I'll have to deal with a sick Buster and a stir-crazy Chicken all day long. 
He must go to school.

What if, on the way to school, Buster barfs in his car seat? 
Chicken can't go to school. We can't go anywhere except in machine-washable things.

I have been awake for 5 hours and it's not even human breakfast time yet. I have to sleep.
Chicken must go to school.

This is just one example of the spirited internal debate you must have about everything when you are taking into account all of the following:

1. Your older child's activities and needs
2. Your younger child's activities and needs
3. What shoes you can find for the children to wear
4. The shit you actually need to get done today
5. The weather
6. How to prevent your children from becoming THOSE PEOPLE.

It wasn't so hard with one kid because you usually knew where his shoes were. But now? In your whole house all you've got is a single sharky rain boot and another single Old Navy flip-flop that's one size too big. And they're BOTH RIGHTS.

This debate puts a fresh spin on the maxim, "damned if you do, damned if you don't." It's a terrible burden to bear, to weigh each of your decisions while staring back and forth between two sets of eyes that assume you are always going to be right about everything, while remembering everything people have told you about how to be a parent, while recalling your own grocery list, setting back to tomorrow, again, a walk in the sunshine.

I actually said to Chicken the other day, "I'm just trying to make the best decision I can for you and me and your brother and our family and the future of our country and the planet." 

I wasn't even exaggerating, you guys. 

picking soup is really hard


Everything your first kid did, your second kid will do sooner, harder, and with less fear. The first child was born into a paradise of gradual discovery and wonder; the second child was born in the thunder dome, and with a single purpose: GET THAT BIGGER KID AND GET THE THING HE HAS.

Chicken slept in a crib until he was 3.

Buster climbed out of his crib at 16 months.

There was a 26-pound man-baby on the loose in that room climb like a mongoose, bite like a badger, and make reasoned decisions like a chicken. NOBODY and NOTHING was safe. 

Here is a list of words and phrases that Buster learned before the age of 2:

Want it
My turn

See? THUNDER DOME. First kid broke the seal; second kid breaks everything else.

The Math Adds Up

Don't worry. Your heart will expand, warm, and somehow produce another impossibly decadent slice of love pie for every one of your children, no matter how many you have.

Love is infinite.

But there are only ever 24 hours in a day.

But you will only ever have two hands, one brain, two ears that can only hear one voice at a time. You will only ever have 100% of your patience to give.

Once you have your second, you will love both of your children more. You will be able to show it less. It's the meanest inverse ratio I know.

There's just not enough time to give each of your children that luxurious, top-shelf "only-child" experience.

Good news: you will become a love ninja. When one of your kiddos is hurting, you will know how to love him to fucking death in like 3 super-fast moves so you can advance to the next level of parenting, which is always some version of "I TOLD YOU TWO TO TAKE TURNS. OKAY, I'm setting the timer."

Good news: you are not the only person in your family with hands, brains, ears, and patience. Buster smacked his face on his bed frame and Chicken ran to get him an ice pack, a cup of ice water, and a book. It was so sweet, the way he held that ice pack to his brother's nose. Even when Buster started fighting for air, he never let go...

OK The Food Bills Tho

Not immediately, but shockingly quickly after baby #2, you will find yourself buying the same things at Costco as the overburdened after-school program or the mother of seven that you assume is devout but might just be horny. Let's keep open hearts and minds, guys.

Costco used to be a four-stop shop: olive oil, coffee, wine, and diapers.  But after second baby, mark my words, you will buy everything there.

Of course you'll bulk-buy dry goods like crackers, cereal, rice, and soup. But stay with me, you will also be purchasing PERISHABLES by the crate and vat-load.  And you won't have a second fridge- you won't need one. That shit just vanishes as soon as you bring it in the house. Cheese, 4 gallons of milk, a 40-pack of yogurt, fruit and vegetables by the 10-pound, 148 artisanal sausages (assortment) (you only like 2 of the 3 flavored but) (still a deal), rotisserie chickens the size of golden retrievers... You will get two of them. And they will both be picked clean in under 24 hours.

Toddlers Are Still Harder

Unless your newborn baby has colic, or your toddler is a bonafide European, your toddler is probably still going to be harder than your baby.

Baby has frequent and urgent needs, but the needs are simple, physical, and easily met. Once fed, changed, burped, or napped, Baby typically resumes watchful vegetation.

Toddler has frequent and urgent needs, but the needs are complex, emotional, difficult to articulate, and often impossible to meet. Toddler loves independent achievement. He wants to climb the ladder. Toddler is too small to climb the ladder. Toddler will not accept help climbing the ladder. Toddler is stuck on the bottom rung of a ladder, screaming "CLIMB" and also screaming "NO" when you extend a hand for a boost. No, Toddler does not want to do the slide. Toddler is not a peasant. Toddler is frustrated and disappointed. Toddler wants to burn this mofo to the ground.

Toddler needs patience and insight, emotional energy focused on helping him to understand his feelings, that those feelings are always okay even if they're unpleasant or scary, and that he is not alone as he rides out this storm.

Baby needs milk.

Now you have to do both.

Toddlers Are Still Babies Too

When you bring home this teaspoon of a child and lay him on the changing mat and HIS WHOLE BODY FITS ON THE CHANGING MAT with 10 inches to spare, you look at your toddler with his entire shins dangling off the end of the table and you're like Damn, son! You are a BEAST!

It's sorely tempting to watch your toddler holding the infant, and see a child holding a baby.

What you're seeing, though, is a baby holding a baby.

The appearance of a newborn does not accelerate the development of your toddler's social skills, patience, kindness, impulse control, language skills, potty training, sleep... let's try this another way, actually.

The appearance of a newborn ONLY accelerates the development of your toddler's interest in the texture of the human eye.

I used to get so furious at Chicken when I'd be trying to put Buster down and that kid would just bust into the room like Denzel Washington in every Denzel Washington movie including Philadelphia because he opens doors like he motherfucking means it. Buster would snap awake, begin to scream, and Chicken would jump up and down in the doorway, flapping his arms, saying something like "but can I play the fishy game on the iPad you said I could play the fishy game on the iPad later and now it's later," and I'd be like "DO YOU SEE WHAT I AM DOING RIGHT NOW," and he'd be like, "you're putting Buster down for a nap," and I'd be like, "Correct. So what does that mean I need you to do?" And he'd be like, "be quiet and wait for you to come out," and I'd be like, "correct again," and he'd be like, "I FOUND A KAZOO!"

And boy howdy, can he play a kazoo.

He understood what was going on and could recite the right answers to my questions. I'd drilled him well, and often, on naptime procedure. But that didn't change the fact that he was still a baby, bursting with excitement when he remembered that "later" was coming, could even be here already!

That was hard. Trying not to take it personally. Trying to see my child through eyes that err on the side of understanding and not resentment. Reminding myself that he isn't picking a fight on purpose. It's still hard.

It's Baaaaaaaack...



Pumping is a thing again.

At least the first time was a little bit thrilling, like "ooooh! Look at meee! I'm pumping! Tee hee! What a miracle my body is! Isn't this funny? Take a picture of me pumping. This isn't that bad!"

Yes, the first time out pumping started as an adventure. But then you realized what the breast pump really was: the machine from the Princess Bride that straps you to a table and sucks years of your life out of your body.

Second time around there's none of the novelty, none of the sense of pride you get when you hold up the warm bottle of creamy you, filled to the top in 8 minutes flat.

It's just... fuck it, we just used formula the second time around.

This Ain't Deja-Vu

Second kid does not equal first kid + experience.

Second kid equals a whole new mammal.

You might have been a parent before, but you've never been THIS parent before. Not to THIS kid. I spent 2 years drafting an encyclopedia of hard-won wisdom on "how to raise a son of mine and Ryan's." And then Buster popped out and set 90% of the damn thing on fire. 

Buster: Where's the chapter on biting?
Me: Oh, we don't need that. 
Buster: You sure?
Me: Absolutely. Chicken was never a biter.
Buster: Great! Is that your earlobe?
Me: I'msorryI'msorryI'msorryohGodI'msorryforwhateverIdid

Me: Buster, I am here to strap you into your car seat. 
Buster: Okay.
Me: I've done this a few times, so you're in good hands here. We're gonna get through this.
Buster: Cool.
Me: Step one: CALM DOWN.
Buster: Aight.
Buster: No but I'm good tho.
Buster: Nah.
Me: You're totally fine with the car seat.
Buster: Yep.
Me: (Sets one year of previous experience aflame)

Your two children are guaranteed to diverge, so no matter what you will find yourself in uncharted territory on the second go-round.

Luckily, you're already pretty much unpacked in "I don't know what the fuck is going on-istan," so even if your first kid's experience is only parenthetically helpful to you on this second go-round, at least you know that at this stage of parenting, "doing great" looks exactly like "hanging on."

AMNESIA. It's not just a river in Egypt.

In the library of your mind, the "Newborn Baby" wing looks exactly like the one where the Beast keeps his magic rose.

You start creeping up the stairs and you pause by a portrait. There's something familiar about this, you think. You hesitate. You want to turn back. And yet you must find out what else is hidden in these dark and musty corridors.

I'll tell you what's hidden there.

A shit in every diaper, that's what.
Umbilical cord stump care, that's what.
Crossed eyes, that's what.
Sleep laughing. Hand expressing. Breast pads.

What was the 5th S again? Swaddle, Shush, Swing, Side, and... Squeeze? Is it squeeze? I'm gonna squeeze. Nope, wasn't squeeze. Babe, can you get a towel?

You Love Them Both, Unlike Some People

People compare your two kids now, which is as gutting as listening to strangers discuss which of your attributes is more pleasing: your muscle tone, or your complexion. No matter which way they land, your feelings are gonna get hurt.

It's not the comparison that irks me. Let's be real: I compare my two kids. One is hardier, one is more delicate; one is happier, one is moodier. One is always hungry, the other sips milk as gingerly as a baby squirrel whose mama raised him right.

What's hard is when society in general (and by society in general I mean high school friends from Facebook and strangers in public) deems one of your children better than the other.

What's hard is when you know that the world looks at one of your children with adoring eyes, and merely takes note of the other.

Buster is a charmer, round-faced and flirtatious. He waves, says hi, bye, blows kisses, dutifully giggles and tucks his chin into his shoulder when an adult plays peek-a-boo. People want to eat him. I do too.

Chicken is an old soul, often standoffish with new people, serious, and stonefaced when a stranger makes a silly face at him. He is spookily well-spoken for his age, emotionally intense. People fear that he has powers. I do too.

The world looks at Buster with a honeyed glow and Buster wraps himself in it; Chicken arouses curiosity and amusement, but from a distance.

It's okay that the world sees them that way - I expect nothing less. It's okay for people to connect with one child in particular - I expect nothing less.

Just don't, like, tell me about it.

Don't toss off a token compliment about Buster and then dive into the wonder that is Chicken. Don't say, "Chicken knows a lot of words! But BUSTER... God's heavenly light shines through that child's perfect beauty and I would not be surprised if he is, himself, Jesus."

When people do that it forces you to say, "Well, Chicken could be Jesus too," and then there's this weird double Jesus tension between you guys and pretty soon you're not getting a Christmas card anymore.

Holy Shit

The two of them

Are just

I can't

Spontaneous cardiac immolation is not outside the realm of possibility.

You Might Become An Asshole

There is a tiny asshole in my brain.


Nope, I'm just gonna leave it there and keep moving. 

SO! There is a tiny asshole in my brain and every time I hear a parent of one child talking about how hard it is to take their kid to the grocery store or shoe shopping or bedtime, while most of my nice person brain is genuinely like "that sounds so hard, I can totally relate," Tiny Asshole in my brain is like, "You think your shit is hard? Do you want to trade kids for 15 minutes and see what it's like in the jungle, hoss?"

When I was a mom of one I don't remember having Tiny Asshole in my brain. I was lost and trying to laugh at my situation, alongside so many other women who were lost and trying to laugh. I'd see other moms who had Tiny Assholes (you can always tell because they nod sympathetically when you talk but they also smile patronizingly like the Queen of England and then immediately start telling you how to fix your problem) and I'd think, "hey, man, nothing to win here. Just be nice, okay? We're all on the same team, right?"

Now that I have two kids, I also have a Tiny Asshole. I shout her down. I beat her back. I smother her with silence. But no matter how much I loathe Tiny Asshole, she is always there.

No matter how much I love and respect the mom who is having a hard time with her one kid, Tiny Asshole is there.

Tiny Asshole believes that if I can prove that I have it harder than other moms, then I win... something.

Tiny Asshole believes that other people don't have the right to complain about their hard stuff because my stuff is obviously harder.

Tiny Asshole is always right.

Tiny Asshole competes with other moms, as if there were only room for one of us at the top.

Tiny Asshole is the dark side of pride in your work, confidence in your judgment, certainty of your expertise.

If you have a Tiny Asshole, two things:

1. Don't worry - everyone has a Tiny Asshole about something. Tiny Asshole only gets bigger if you feed her. It's okay to have smug thoughts about first-time parents who are worried about stuff that you know they don't need to worry about. Just keep that shit to yourself. Nobody wants to meet your Tiny Asshole, okay?

2. If anyone knows how to get rid of Tiny Asshole for good please share it with the class.

All The Other Stuff

No blog post about the second kid being harder would be complete without a few other mentions, runners-up if you will. These are all things that I found harder about having the second kid, but I didn't have like a philosophical treatise to write about them.

- Back pain

- They run in opposite directions. It's not a myth. It's not because you're a bad mom. They do it every time and you just have to stay close enough to one of them that you can scoop him up and chase down the other one before he eats that dude's popcorn.

- Your you-time is a shadow of the shadow of its former self. Haircuts, exercise, hobbies, friends - you get to pick one. A day. A week. A month. Depending on how everything is at home. It's a blessing to have precious free time; it's a curse that all you can summon the will to do with that free time is look at unfolded laundry and drink. (Good news: Your friends can probably summon the will to come over and look at your unfolded laundry and drink with you!) I hear this doesn't last forever. They tell me I will miss it.

- Friends and relatives cut back on the free babysitting. We don't blame them. You have to start paying for that shit. And it costs MONEY.

- It's much harder to be a cool mom of two kids than it was to be a cool mom of one kid. I don't know why. I suspect it has something to do with the dearth of time for personal grooming.

- It looks like you live in your car. And you could. If you don't mind eating Cheerios that were one crispy but then sat on the floor mat so long they became stale and then had chocolate milk spat on them and became soggy and then sat on the floor mat some more and soaked up all the milk in the puddle and became kind of gluey and gray.

- You're like Dory the fish when it comes to giving your toddler chances to be adorable with the baby. It doesn't matter how many times the toddler lies down on the baby's face, if there's good light coming in through the window you'll be like, "Chicken? Want to come snuggle with the baby?"

- Sometimes they both scream at the same time and you become a monster. Here's how I get through it:

1. Try not to black out.
2. Apologize when it's over.


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