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May 23, 2002 - Thursday
Since before Harry was born I've pondered the stereotypes that exist for first and second children. Often enough to fuel a label, first borns are somewhat repressed administrative types, have an extra active sense guilt, and are often a little high strung with worry. Contrarily, second children tend to be more independent, carefree, and outgoing. Of course, like all stereotypes these aren't rules, but the trends are prevalence enough so they appear to be more than mere coincidences. But, why?

My working theory has for a long time been that first child stereotype is the result a stereotypical first-time parenting nervousness and anxiety and constant reproaches on the grounds of being protective to every little awkward behavior a toddler tries. With second babies, the parents have inevitably mellowed and chastise less. I tried very hard to stay positive with Harry for at least his first year and was very responsive to his early life needs.

Now I have a different theory: maybe that added first-time parent responsiveness is the real root of the first child stereotype. No doubt, new parents with just one new baby are likely to be as responsive as we were. I don't see the responsiveness itself as a problem, but now that I have a toddler I wonder what expectations it has instilled in his mind. If a baby gets used to be attendedto at its beck and call, or whine and cry as the case may be, a two-year old may well go through quite a shock when essentially the same behavior yields far more negative responses. Perhaps, it is not the simple fact that two-year olds hear "no" or "don't" so much, but rather that they hear "no" or "don't" when they would have expected the grand loving attention they once received from attentive parents. Their whole world reference may well be thrown awry and the stereotypical self-doubt of first children creeps in. My theory is bolstered by the fact that second children rarely get the same attention.

Did we screw up with Harry by being too good parents? I can see the possibility.

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