How a Second Child Changed My Relationship with My First


Having a second child changed my relationship with my first—in unexpected ways, and not necessarily for the better.

When I brought Cormac home, my motherly protectiveness switched suddenly from Claire to him. As a newborn, he needed my help much more than my 33-month old. And right away, that protectiveness was at odds with her behavior.

I want to preface this by saying that Claire really has been good. It’s just my perspective that changed. And really, Claire has such good intentions with regard to her brother. But when she’s hovering over him, holding his face with both hands, cooing at him and kissing him, I can’t help but want to smack her away. There. I said it. I don’t want to feel that way. I try to tell myself that she’s not doing anything wrong—that she’s bonding with him and it’s actually great that she’s showing such interest. But I see someone in his space and instinctively want to shield him from it.

I tell her to be quieter near his head, and I think she tries, but she has a hard time regulating her volume. And I don’t want to scold her about him because she’s so sensitive to it, and she loves him so much. So as much as I want to yell, I choke it back and say as kindly as I can, “Let’s read his body language. I think he’s trying to say that he doesn’t like that right now.” Or “Let’s give him a little space while he’s eating.”

I’ve always been a bit sound sensitive. (I’m that person who turns the radio right back down after you turn it up.)  But when Cormac arrived, my sound sensitivity intensified. Everything seemed so loud. I felt like everyone was shouting all the time. Claire especially. Particularly when emotions were high (for good or bad) and she’d shriek. I don’t know how many times I’ve told her to be quieter around the baby (and frankly, me), but again, she still has little ability to noise-regulate. My solution is simply to take Cormac and leave the room—or sometimes, the house. She then shrieks louder, but at least I can’t hear it.

As soon as I came home from the hospital and picked Claire up in my arms, she seemed about five times heavier than she had a couple days before. She seemed older, too. And as such, I started having higher expectations of her. She no longer seemed like my little baby. I suddenly felt that she was much too old to be wearing a night diaper or make up nonsense words. Instead of feeling that those things were developmentally appropriate, like I had before, I felt that they were simply annoying and childish. I went from believing that everything Claire did was cute to being much more objective. Little behaviors that had been fine a couple weeks ago started to get on my last nerve.

I’d like to say this was a short phase that I made my way through. And while it has gradually gotten a bit better, I still find myself being annoyed by some of Claire’s behaviors that are perfectly normal for her age. I try to search for the deep reserves of patience to tap into. And I remind myself that even though Claire’s a ‘big girl’ now, relatively-speaking, she’s not even three years old, and still needs my attention and protection as much, if not more, than her baby brother.

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Meghan Moran Wilson
Meghan moved to Flagstaff from Western New York in 2011 to pursue a PhD in Applied Linguistics. She met her now husband a couple years later and they bought an off-grid, water-catchment house in "the 40s" (about 35 minutes from town). She greatly enjoys teaching English and conducting research in linguistics at NAU. She also enjoys hiking, riding horses, exploring new places, reading historical fiction, hanging out with their four dogs, and, since January 2021, spending as much time as possible with their small fry, Claire Angelina.