Second Child Syndrome?

14/08/2014 17:00 | Updated 20 May 2015

I have this (unscientific, untested and unproven) theory that children are delightful when they turn a whole number (one, two, three are the only ones I've experienced so far) and slightly more demonic at the halfway points.

I remember 18-24 months being particularly difficult for us since Diana was frustrated but didn't have the skills to communicate her frustration. Thirty months was tantrum-central.

And now, three-and-a-half is a real battle of wills, thankfully punctuated by lots of loveliness.

Also thankfully, D and Liv are at different cycles in my totally-made-up-theory, so as D has started to push boundaries anew, Liv has turned from rather furious infant to contented, sociable toddler since turning one in January.

Or maybe she's just trying to put on a happy face while suffering from second-child syndrome neglect and a wardrobe of hand-me-downs (in bulldog print, no less).

Liv has certain perks that D never did (and by perks, I mean things I once upon a time viewed as serious parenting fails), like her special Sofia the First/Jake and the Neverland Pirates theme tunes dance that gets wheeled out at least once a day since cartoons are on A LOT now.

She also hasn't been trussed up in all manner of "chic" baby ensembles and made to pose for thousands of photos of her, drooling.

Because I haven't taken a pic of anyone since February.

No wonder her signature look is more of a scowl than a smile (So proud that she already has a statement pose, and I think it can compete with Zoolander's 'Blue Steel'!). I like that Liv's not the typical, happy-go-lucky, bubbly baby and makes you work for it. Except for when I think about the reasons/consequences of this...

I would love to know how much of Liv's personality is the result of her biological nature and how much is her nurture, i.e. falling into the pecking order as the second child and spending her time being alternately bossed, chased and cuddled by her older sister.

Is she frowning at people because that's her natural tendency? Or because she's been hopelessly under-exposed to baby groups (we have finally, after one year, started going to a music class. Diana was a baby music/massage/sign/swim veteran by this stage in the game).

Alternatively, Liv may be frowning because she assumes people are going to take something from her, which is usually what happens every time her smiling sister approaches her. Or her mother - I am trying to take the glue (or whatever non-baby friendly item) she's procured from D's crafts box, has managed to open and is trying to stab into her eardrum.

Liv has become the class clown of our family. She will regale us at dinner by rubbing butter all over herself, wearing bowls and buckets as hats, spilling her water all over the table and then smushing her face in it and blowing bubbles... She's hilarious - and knows it, from her swinging-hip dance moves to her insistence on wearing her sister's oversized scooter helmet as a crash helmet around the house (actually a very good thing since she's a kamikaze babe who likes to hurl herself off of stairs and into walls).

That's another thing. Liv is permanently decorated with bruises. I feel like Diana didn't have as many at this age, but then again, maybe that's because there weren't bikes and scooters meant for a four-year-old that she was trying to climb and ride on the whole time?

Liv also has very particular tastes - peas, plastic necklaces and anything belonging to Diana is a "yes." Also: "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" seems to be the solution to almost every issue. I have no idea why...

Liv is also really good at giving toys away - have I given birth to some amazing altruist? Or, more plausibly, is it her instinct to give something away once she gets it because she's so used to things being taken?

Before having a second child, my biggest concern was making sure that my first one wouldn't be emotionally scarred by the experience. Having never had siblings, I didn't really think about what the second would go through. Liv actually gives me looks of sheer joy when she gets solo cuddles. I think she's... grateful? I am still waiting to find that expression on my older daughter's face.

After a couple of tough weeks, where I have been playdating my heart out for D - only to often find that she is behaving hideously towards her playdate for at least some part of the occasion, and I am sitting there doing princess puzzles with a three-year-old while Diana sulks in a corner - D has turned back to her lovely self and has been sweet and generous with her friends. Hooray!

Unfortunately, this meant that Liv got picked on. She was renamed "baby Louis, the boy," tickled incessantly and even had stones from the garden dropped down her top (poor Liv!)

Of course, baby Liv couldn't have been happier. Older girls! Lots of attention! Being allowed to play in our not-so-safe-garden-with decking-that-has-been-warped-by-rain-and-which-our-landlady-has-yet-to-replace!

I would not have let a 14-month-old D within five metres of that garden. Or let her play with older, bigger kids. So maybe being number two isn't so bad after all...

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