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My Second Child Gets Shortchanged

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When my first child, June, turned one year old, it was a big deal: lots of gifts, wrapping paper, cards, photo ops, a homemade birthday cake (which incidentally marked June’s very first taste of frosting), and 20 family members in attendance.

My second-born, Katie, turns one in a week and it will be a decidedly lower key affair. I plan to buy a single gift. It might even be a baby toy, if not something dreary and practical like an econo-pack of pacifiers. Only two relatives outside of the immediate family will be there. I do plan to bake a homemade birthday cake, but she’s already eaten plenty of frosting, so the passing of that evil white sugar through her lips is nothing momentous.

This sounds like I’m relegating Katie to second tier status … which, to call a spade a spade, I am. But you know what? I’m okay with it.

As a parent, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everything among siblings has to be equal. If one child gets a new backpack for kindergarten, the second child should too, even though that original backpack cost $45 from Hanna Andersson and it’s still in great condition by the time the second kid is ready to wear it.

Not only is this a waste of money, but it presumes that I, the mom, know what I’m doing. That I have all the answers. That everything in our lives is neatly ordered, divided, and decided. That I don’t make mistakes practically every day with my children.

It’s so cliché to say, but parenting really is a learning process. I’m learning how to drive this minivan right along with my children, the unwitting passengers. And one of the things I’ve learned so far is that throwing big parties for a small being who has more fun sucking cardboard is kinda pointless. It’s stressful, incredibly over-stimulating for the guest of honor, and for the most part, a waste of time.

I didn’t realize that with June. I thought that to be a “good parent,” you had to throw the biggest birthday bash for your baby. I thought you had to buy lots of presents and invite in-laws who don’t really want to be there, and make everyone wear stupid party hats, and watch me open a bunch of presents for a one-year-old while we film the whole spectacle. (In hindsight that sounds like torture. Did I really do that?)

So while I could view this episode as a classic example of the second child shortchange, I prefer to see it as testament of my growing maturity as a parent.

Elaborate baby birthday parties – at least in this household – simply aren’t important. I had to experience it firsthand with my eldest to come to this realization.

Katie won’t remember it. I probably won’t either, and not because her party will be so boring, but because it’s a superfluous detail in an otherwise well-loved life.

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