This morning my 2-year-old and I were reading together while her big sister was at preschool. She chose a book geared toward early readers, with a letter-matching page (matching the upper case letter to its lower case counterpart) and proceeded to name each letter on the page. I knew she had learned a few letters here and there, but I had no idea she knew almost the whole alphabet. Since I haven’t taught her all of these letters, it stands to reason that her sister has been her tutor when I wasn’t paying attention.
That’s two big differences with second children: you aren’t as keenly aware of each little baby step toward some new milestone, so they sort of sneak up on you, and they also have another role model in the house that they look up to even more than you, and learn from better than from you. I remember when I was pregnant with our second daughter, and the pediatrician pointed to my belly and said, “Be prepared. The second child does everything much younger than the first one did.” And he was right. She knew how to use the dog’s hand commands for sit, down and stay before she could walk. She knew how to go up and down the stairs safely without the weeks of training we had to put in with the first kid. She hated baby food on sight, and wanted to eat what big sister was having, despite her lack of teeth (neither of my girls had a single tooth until they were over a year old). And, apparently, she has learned her letters and numbers while I was busy doing the dishes.
I’m eager to see what new skills she’ll acquire next, and I’ll try to do a better job of eavesdropping on those private lessons she’s getting from her big sis. Maybe I’ll even throw in a few suggestions, like: “How about you work on potty training her for me?” or “Can you teach her about laundry sorting?” My four-year-old, clothes-hound that she is, is an expert laundry sorter. Surely that skill’s ready to be passed along.