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The Sibling Time Warp

Maddie and Cora are almost exactly two years apart. Maddie’s development often seems to catch me by surprise – hey, look at that, she’s rolling over! I can’t believe she recognizes her alphabet! Wow, is she putting her face in the water and blowing bubbles already? That sort of thing. Cora is just the opposite: I’m inclined to think such unfair thoughts as – hey, why isn’t she brushing her teeth as well as Maddie does? When is her attention span going to get better?

It’s not that I’m constantly comparing Cora to Maddie, in a sort of “Well, Maddie rolled over at four months and Cora didn’t do it until five months. Slacker.” way. But with your first child, whatever stage you are in feels like it will go on forever: you will ALWAYS be breastfeeding/pureeing solid foods/changing diapers/potty training/sleep training/whatever. And then suddenly you’re in a different stage.

With second (and I’m assuming subsequent) children, you are busier and have less time for contemplative navel-gazing; even the times you’re sitting and nursing the baby, you’ve got an older one clamoring for attention as well. So developmental stages seem to fly by – you look around, and it’s already time to start solid foods/potty train/learn to tie shoelaces. Time really does fly faster.

And I think, too, second (and I’m assuming subsequent) children learn from their older siblings, and thus obfuscate their true age to their vaguely-paying-attention parents. Cora became independent with her shoes – putting them on, being responsible for putting them away, and so forth – at a much earlier age than Maddie did (or still has yet to do – but that’s a blog for another day). I often see Cora striving to keep up with Maddie, and forget there’s two years between them. I become impatient with Cora, start to hold her to higher standards than I have any right to considering her age.

At one point I began to fear that Cora might be, well, a little slow. I confessed my fear to a very good friend. She looked at me in disbelief and said, “Jennifer, Cora isn’t slow. She’s quite bright. The problem is that she’s younger than you think she is.”

And she was absolutely right.

Maddie is the oldest. I think she’ll be in a current stage forever, until one day I wake up and realize those shorts are waaaaaaaaay to short, and when exactly did she get so grown-up looking? Perhaps I don’t need to cut her grapes into eight equal pieces any more. Cora is the youngest, and when I stop cutting grapes for Maddie I’m impatient to be done with them for Cora as well. I don’t stop and marvel at her moving on the next milestone; a part of me – the bad mommy part – looks at her remarkable achievement (whatever it may be) and thinks (completely unfairly) “Well it’s about time.”

My children are two years apart, and thanks to the Sibling Time Warp I sometimes think they’re practically twins. And that’s not fair to either one of them.

I need to expect more of Maddie sooner, and less of Cora more often.

I’ll get right on that.


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