I’m dreading Noah’s 18th birthday, even if it is 16 years away. Why? Because when my wife and I inevitably break out the old albums to embarrass him in front of his girlfriend, we’ll struggle to find any photos of him; and, as we scrabble around in boxes of memories it’ll be us who are the embarrassed ones. And then we’ll find a photo and triumphantly hold it aloft as it flaps sadly in the air, by which time everyone will have gone home.
Finding a photo of my eldest son, Isaac, wouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact there’s a whole box in the loft full of memorabilia from his past: his hospital wristband from when he was born, the first drawing he created – and, of course, a good two or three albums crammed full of photographs.
Of course, we don’t love Noah any less; it’s just that with your firstborn you religiously hoard everything about them, some people even going so far as to keep their child’s first tooth (when it falls out naturally, of course. Punching your child in the mouth to gain a memento is, at best, illegal).
With subsequent children, though, things are different. If your first child drops his dummy on the floor, you pick it up, sterilise it, replace it, and watch your child very carefully for the next 24-48 hours. With your second, you pick it up, dust it off, and plop it back in their mouth. With your first child, you keep everything they do. With your second, you ooh and aah, stick it on the fridge door, and then throw it away when you next spring clean, saving only the really good ones for the memento box.
It’s not just physical mementos: with Isaac we sat and taught him his colours, his numbers, and so on. With Noah, we just don’t have as much time. He’s not falling behind, but he certainly isn’t at the level Isaac was at at his age. Mind you, as I’ve written before, they’re completely different, and so its unfair to compare. Noah can throw a ball with incredibly accuracy; Isaac shrieks whenever I throw a ball to him, but he can write a darn good story and he’s far ahead of his age bracket at spelling and maths. But if you were to base our parenting purely on the number of photographs we have, you’d be forgiven for thinking Noah was sloppy seconds.