It was only when I returned from school earlier on this week that I spotted twin boy's book bag still waiting at the bottom of the stairs for him to take to school. In it were all the things he needed for school that day and his snack for break time. It was 10.30 am and break had just finished.
Now, had he been my firstborn, my immediate reaction would have been to jump straight into the car and deliver the book bag, while full of apologies that I hadn't done it sooner. But instead I thought to myself "Well, he'll just have to improvise today".
That is the difference between your first and your last child, that is.
And, I know now that he will definitely be my last child, not just because I recoil in horror at the thought of any more children, even when my husband jokingly suggests that I might like another baby. No, my baby making days are done now because I'm finally happy to write it down.
Anyway, the whole book bag thing got me thinking about all the
stupid things I used to tie myself in knots over do for my eldest without even questioning myself, compared to how lazy laid back I am with the littlest.
Firsts are firsts, there's no doubt about it. The trouble is when you've had first firsts, second firsts, third firsts (oh, you get the gist...) by the time you get to the fifth set of firsts your standards kind of slip a bit. When teen boy was a baby I had a record book, knew exactly when he first smiled, rolled, crawled, stood and walked and probably could back it up with photographic evidence. Even my scan photographs with him have been safely preserved in a folder, some we paid extra to have A4 sized versions.
With my last child (well, children - twins to be exact) I'm not sure I even remember where the scan pictures got to, and all the other milestone moments that should be imprinted on my brain were never so much as written down on the back of an envelope let alone in a fancy book.
2. Clothes and Shoes
With first children you spend ages planning, choosing and buying outfits. Then more hours washing them and ironing them. Worn once? In the washing machine it goes. It must be pristine for them to wear. And Clarks shoes must be replaced every 12 weeks because the lady in the shop told me so, and I am frightened of getting this so wrong that my child's feet might become deformed or something.
Last children not only have the pleasure of their siblings hand me downs, but shoes? Handed down also (somehow the thought of what might happen to your child's feet as a result of wearing their siblings old shoes has slipped to the back of your mind, despite the warnings of the Clarks lady) and now replaced once a year.
Firstborn children have a medicine cabinet dedicated solely to them. It is furnished with every type of over the counter medicine you can imagine (branded, natch.) in addition to which there is a top of the range Braun thermoscan thermometer just in case. There are also novelty plasters and one of those cold packs that you put in the fridge for bumps.
Last born children have a packet of plain Elastoplast which only contains the plasters that are a bit too small to be useful, some Tesco own brand Calpol substitute (no spoon) and the thermometer has run out of batteries.
If a first child says they feel a bit sick then they have a day off school. With a last child? The key criteria for being ill is whether they have a limb missing or not.
First time round schools are researched to find the best one in the area. You then jump through hoops to make sure your child gets a place. All uniform is the official stuff, a clean set for every day. Book bags are emptied every night and forms filled in on time. Homework is done to the highest standard (that's you, not them, obvs.) and never forgotten.
Last children go to the school that their siblings go to, you don't bother with second or third choices on the application form. Uniform is the unbranded supermarket stuff and you empty their book bag out when it becomes too heavy to carry. You are also pretty sure the school have stopped giving homework and reading books. Or have they...?
When your first child is born you immediately go and buy an Annabel Karmel weaning book. This becomes your bible and hours are spent puréeing vegetables, noting down which are the most accepted flavour combinations and tailoring every mealtime to their specific requirements. As they get older, your mealtime repertoire is based solely around the likes and dislikes of your child.
Last children are the reason that baby led weaning was invented (only you didn't realise that it had a name - you've given up puréeing carrots as they seem to manage fine with foods as they are). As your family grows older you also realise that your youngest child is never quite happy at mealtimes and eats everything begrudgingly - it isn't their favourite. You tell them this is tough, you are not running a restaurant.
Funnily enough despite these differences, my last child seems to be just as lovely, smiley and happy as my first. Maybe not tying myself in knots and worrying isn't such a bad thing.
Take the book bag incident for example. When I picked him up at home time he hadn't even needed it and had shared his sister's snack at break.
Like I say, he had to improvise. No big deal.