Signs of {Second} Child Syndrome


It seems to be a universal phenomenon. Every single two-child family I know (or have randomly surveyed in waiting rooms or on playgrounds) says the same thing. The second child is coo-coo for coco puffs. Loony toons. A soup sandwich. Cray. Z. 

When the first child calmly gathers his clothes and methodically dresses himself after one request to do so, the second is performing an interpretive dance in his birthday suit while you hold the undies in your hand in vain.

While the first insists you hold his hand very firmly as he carefully navigates his way around the jungle gym, the second scales the rock wall with the speed of SpiderMan and leaps onto the slide for a head-first dive. 

As the first contentedly flips through books or colors quietly for a solid hour, the second makes it to page two before launching the book across the room. He has no time for crayons unless you count peeling every square inch of paper off them so that his new found bullet will sail more swiftly through the air. 

I don’t know why and I don’t know how but there is something to this. There is a Second Child Syndrome. Same parents. Same parenting. Same rules. Same structure and routines. Child numero uno is eager to please, generally submissive, and careful. Child numero dos is mucho loco. 

I’ve discussed this with both of my sisters-in-law who have experienced the seemingly inescapable Second Child Syndrome in their own families. The only theory we have come up with is that it must be us.

We as parents are more easy going and frankly just spread thinner than we were before. We don’t fret as much during the pregnancy. We are less fearful that every fall will result in irreparable damage. We don’t have that single-minded devotion our first child received so although rules may exist, we weren’t always there to enforce them immediately.

In short, life with two kids is way harder than it is with one. And the result is a second child that is crazy as an outhouse rat. 

It is this reality that left us not the slightest bit surprised when our second was the very first in our family to visit the ER for a self-inflicted injury requiring stitches. SMH for my second child. 

Mothers of two…let me hear from you! Does your family suffer from Second Child Syndrome too?


  1. You nailed this one as well. Look to Douglas for the supreme example, and Peg, despite her protests to the contrary. You make me proud, Ms. Writer.

  2. When I just had two children, I thought it was a flip of the coin. When I had my third, I realized it was a roll of the dice. I highly recommend Kevin Leman’s book The Birth Order. It’s an entertaining look at how birth order in the family constellation impacts personalities. It’s also really amusing because you can look at friends and family members and know where they fall in their own families.

  3. Mother of 3 girls in Columbia, sc. Yes my 2nd child is my wild child, rebellious child, got to make a scene over everything child. This being a thing even before the 3rd child. She is a sassy, firecracker. Many days hard to deal with, but that is the story of a mothers life. We have good days and bad days, as well as do the children. 1 may be easier than 2 or 3 but parenting no matter how many has its obstacles.


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