Like all mothers of more than one child, I learned the hard way (i.e. through a second labor) that your second child is never anything like your first. For example. Riding in the car to camp one day, Jacob and his friend were arguing over the correct name of a particular Pokemon character. As the discussion got louder and louder, the friend finally said, “Wanna bet? I’ll bet you two dollars!” And Jacob replied, “NO! Gambling is illegal in New York State for people under the age of 18!”
I peeked in the rear view mirror, and his friend was looking right at me with eyes that said, "are you a ventriloquist?"
And I looked back at him with eyes that said, "Dude, I swear he was born this way."
Seriously, how many nine-year-olds talk like that? And he's been like that for, oh, his whole life.
When he was three and got a new teacher at pre-school, the energetic young man tried to put Jacob at ease with the transition.
"Hey, you know we have something in common. Your name is Jake and I'm Mr. Jake!"
And Jacob responded, and I am not kidding,
"Actually, my name's Jacob."
ALL RIGHTY then.
Now let's take Ben. Last night, he filled up on vegetables and could only eat half of his cheeseburger for dinner. So this morning, I jokingly suggested he have the rest of it for breakfast.
"I can do that?" he asked.
"Uh, sure! Do you really want it?"
And so there I was, packing bologna for lunch and heating up a cheeseburger for breakfast. When he finished and was still hungry, I sent him out to the yard with a little container. He picked as many raspberries as he could find, then brought them in a devoured half of them.
What did Jacob want?
"Rice Krispies. No fruit."
Right. Like night and day.
So I shouldn't have been surprised when I arrived at camp to pick them up at camp one day and a young counselor-in-training came up to me and said, "Albert wants to talk to you about Ben."
Uh oh. What did Mr. Unpredictable do now?
"Hi, Albert. Is everything OK?"
"Well, yes, but I have some bad news about Ben."
What I asked was, "Is he OK? Did he hurt someone?"
And as my mind began to race, what I was thinking, but didn't say was, "Is he going to be expelled from camp? Are broken bones involved? AM I GOING TO NEED TO HIRE A LAWYER??"
Looking around, I still didn't see Ben anywhere. Truly, at that moment, anything was possible.
"He's fine, it's just..."
At this point, right before I really started to worry, Ben marched up to me with a down-turned mouth. On the verge of tears. In his socks.
As he buried his head in my stomach, Albert continued,
"...Ben took off one of his shoes and threw it in the latrine..." (this is scout camp. Translation: Ben threw his sneaker into a dark, smelly, 20-foot-deep hole in the ground where people, well, you know).
"...and he was worried you were going to be really mad at him."
Mad? He thought I was going to be mad? I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Did Ben then convince some other camper to climb in and retrieve the sneaker for him, leading the kid to get stuck down there? Did he throw someone's backpack in after the sneaker? That can't be the whole story. Can it? I mean, Ben's not a toddler. Throwing his sneaker in the toilet must be just the beginning. FOR GOD'S SAKE, HE'S A-SOON-TO-BE-SECOND-GRADER. Where's the drama? I held my breath.
Perhaps my silence seemed to Albert to be the calm before a storm. "We, uh, didn't try to retrieve it," he added sheepishly. "The other one is in his backpack."
Wow. That really is it. Silent exhale.
"Uh, OK. Thanks."
The archery coach, another counselor, the camp's assistant director, Ben's brother, another counselor from a different den and, well at that point I lost track, all came over to see if Ben was OK and ask if I'd heard the story. Apparently everyone in camp--like 50 people--knew about this. I mean, it was a big stinkin' deal. And the thing is, while this is so completely unlike anything Jacob would ever do, it is so typically Ben.
So there you have it. The only thing I learned about how to parent Ben by having Jacob first was how to change a diaper.
Let this be a message of enlightenment for those of you in love with, and feeling like a parenting pro of, your first-born. If you're saying to each other, "Hey! This is a piece of cake! We should have, like, eight more!" just keep this in mind. You weren't the first to utter those words. And you won't be the last.