When coming second feels like winning: A letter to my beautiful second daughter.

29th January 2016

My wonderful Willow,

Coming second is usually seen as not being as good as coming first. Coming first equals winning, and while being a runner up is great, it means you haven’t quite secured the best result. Well, that may be true in terms of your wardrobe, toys, and any other hand-me-downs you receive, but I’ll only save the really good stuff for you, I promise. 

  

I’ve been thinking about it lots recently and what you do have, that your big sister Rose didn’t, is a more confident and chilled out Mummy who exploded with nothing but love when you arrived – there was none of the anxiety or fear that surrounded the arrival of our first baby. I couldn’t wait to get you home from the hospital – there wasn’t even so much as a glimmer of concern about what to do once we got there, whereas I remember setting your sister’s car seat down in the living room, looking at your Daddy’s equally puzzled face and thinking ‘What do we do now?’

 

Like me, as a second child myself, you also have a bright, bubbly and brave big sister to guide you along the way – and boy is she keen to show you how things are done. Only yesterday she told you firmly ‘No, Willow, kicking isn’t nice’ – I often remind her you don’t mean to kick her, pull her hair or grab her clothes, and I’m fairly sure she won’t hold it against you. This morning she told you ‘I love you to the moon and back, Willow’ and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that she means it wholeheartedly. Judging by the elated grin that spreads across her face when you walk into the room, I’d say the feeling is mutual. 

 

From personal experience, there is nothing quite like a sisterly bond. You are tied together through thick and thin and although friendships may come and go, sisters are forever linked by love, family and childhood memories. You won’t always get along, your Aunty Jenny, Aunty Sammy and I have had plenty of arguments over the years, but we have always come out the other side closer and stronger and will always be there for each other, no matter what. 

  
Other second-place rewards include more time in comfortable babygrows and a pretty confident guarantee that you won’t suffer as a light sleeper in the future. I was in such a rush to get Rose into cute outfits, but now I realise how awkward and unnecessary they were and how utterly gorgeous you look and how snuggly you must feel in super soft babygrows. And you manage excellent naps and settled bedtimes, despite your full-of-beans big sis bounding around the house, singing her heart out.

  
I am also finding, this wonderful second-time-around, that I am treasuring the moments even more. I think it’s a combination of knowing first hand how fast time really does go (everyone tells you it will, but nothing can prepare you for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace at which babyhood disappears) and also being pretty certain that you are the last baby I will have. And that’s just fine – you and your sister are utter perfection – but it’s a sad realisation as well, simply because I’m not sure there’s anything more magical than bringing a child into the world (something I will try not to go on and on and on about when I start to yearn for grandchildren as you and your sister grow into the brilliant women I know you will become).


You are exactly five months old today and just last week you sat up by yourself for the very first time. I was so excited, so proud that you are starting to master something you’ve been wanting to do (and getting a little frustrated about…) for quite some time. Rose clapped enthusiastically as I took a photograph of you sitting in your inflatable play ring (we call it your boat) and in that moment it occurred to me – your milestones are just as exciting because they are YOUR firsts and they will be celebrated with just as much whooping and cheering as Rose’s were (if not more – she’s very loud), because YOU are just as amazing and clever and superb as she is, but in your own special way. 

  

Siblings naturally draw comparisons and it’s for that reason I’m so pleased that you aren’t a carbon copy of your sister. You look just like me, complete with a cute little dimple in your right cheek, whereas Rose looks a lot like Daddy. You are quite different but there are definite similarities too. Firstly, you’re both beautiful. I know, I know, I’m incredibly biased, but you really are. You both have blue eyes that are so bright, so shiny, I wish I could dive into them. Rose’s are round and yours are more almond-shaped. You also have the same golden-coloured hair, it’s glorious, like closing your eyes on a warm day and feeling the sunshine on your face. Rose has crazy ringlets (from Daddy’s side of the family) and I have a hunch that yours might be poker straight like mine – and no doubt you’ll both covet what the other has. Don’t worry, hair products these days can do amazing things. The most obvious shared feature so far is your smile. When you both smile, your adorable little faces fill with delight and my heart melts every single time.


You look most different when you’re tired – Rose gets shadows under her eyes and you get little creases instead and you had different challenges on the beauty-front when you were newborns too. You, bless your heart, had some baby acne to contend with and also suffered with cradle cap, but I’ve managed to fend that off for now (Aloe Vera baby oil, just FYI in case those grandchildren come along at any point). Rose was more fortunate in that she didn’t have a single blotch on her face when she arrived – however she did develop a receding hairline that could rival your Grandad’s and spent a good couple of months with a rather dodgy monk-style hairdo – so I’d call that one even, if I were you. 
 
Rose was a much better sleeper, but thankfully me and your Dad are much better at coping when we’re tired this time around. You make up for it by being super calm when you’re awake – lots of people comment on how relaxed you are and how they’ve never heard you cry – whereas Rose was colicky and grumpy for quite a few of those tricky early weeks. 

  
As much as I daren’t wish the time away, I’m so curious to see what you will be like when you grow up. I wonder if you’ll be a girly girl like your doll-obsessed big sister, or if you might be more like I was, into climbing trees and playing football. You are already displaying some of the same early likes and dislikes – you both despise the Bumbo seat (there’s £40 we’ll never see again) and you both looked at me in disgust when I tried to coax parsnip purée into your mouths. Neither of you could look happier than when we are splashing around in the bath or at the swimming pool – my little water babies.

 
So, my little one, my youngest, my wonderful Willow, I suppose only time will tell, but there is one thing you can be absolutely sure of for the future: you will always be totally adored. You might have come second, but you have won my heart just as much as your sister has, and you will always be my Bobbins.

    

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