The Five Second Rule
by Michele Christopher

Stacy returns with another parenting issue.

The old saw that parents are more laid back about their second child isn't so much cliche as cold, hard fact. Everything about the first child is steeped in mystery and reverence...their first poopy diaper, their first step, their first word...all the stuff of diligent documentation. Everything about the second child is, well, unsurprising. It's not that the second child's firsts aren't special (because they most certainly are), it's that we parents just don't have the energy to get as worked up as we used to.

Consider, if you will, the bit of food dropped on the floor. With our first child, no matter what kind of food was dropped, it went straight into the trash. Once the second child came along, if the food isn't overly sticky to begin with and doesn't collect any visible cat hairs after the fall, it is still eligible for consumption. "Just blow on it," we say. And the Five Second Rule is officially in effect: pick it up before five seconds have elapsed and it's just fine. Similarly, the baby bottle and pacifiers that were previously boiled between uses are now just rinsed under a lukewarm tap and popped back into place. Or maybe just wiped free of lint and such with our hand, depending on the day.

100503144.jpegHandling of the children changes also, upon the advent of a second child. We handled our first child, if not like actual spun glass, then at least like something that would chip dreadfully if bonked in the slightest. With our second child, it is often like we are test driving her for Road and Baby Magazine's special Off Road edition, making sure her suspension holds and her chassis is sound. Not that we are dangling her by one leg while we change her diaper or anything. Well, just the once, maybe.

Boo-boos are similarly now rather unexciting. Our first child's every scrape and scratch was soothed with kisses, hugs and the odd Band-Aid. Until the time, at the age of 2, when he gashed his head open on a Christmas ornament and we spent five hours in the Emergency Room. That pretty much used up our available panic for the next 30 or so years. So these days, if they're not actively gushing blood, a pat on the head and a "you'll live," seems to do the trick.

Before you call Child Services on us, for unfairly favoring our firstborn over our second, understand that they both now get treated this way. With the arrival of the second child, two very important things come into play: 1) the relative resilience of the first child has been established and 2) it's hard to be coddling, cooing and/or dancing attendance on small creatures when your fine motor skills have drastically deteriorated due to four solid years of fragmented sleep. Trust me, our children will be just fine consuming five-second Oreos, being swung about in raucous games of Airplane and getting Mommy-hugs instead of Bactine. We promise.

Stacy has two children who have yet to feel any negative effects from the five second rule. Yet.

Previously by Stacy:

Font Geeks
Playground Dynamics
My Battle with Inertia

Guest Author archives


i was a second child.....

this means something....


Our first child was held according to proper procedure set forth by the hospital, doctors, books, experts, etc.

The second kid was passed around like a football.

The first kid didn't taste candy until she was about three.

The second was eating a lollipop he found on the floor behind the couch before he had teeth.


If it wasn't for second children, our immune systems wouldn't get any work at all.


In my culture it doesn't matter who comes first the boys got the good treatment. I got nada. Anyone looking to adopt a 25 year old Korean female? Potty trained and everything promise!


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