My second child has no friends and that is okay

My two-year-old son gets almost no play dates compared with his older brother, but he is wonderfully independent

My wife and I have two boys. Ciaran is almost five years old and Ruan is getting close to three.

Ruan is a warm, delightful and charming human being. But he has no friends.

Okay, it might be a tad extreme to describe him as a Norman No Friends. There are a couple of other boys around his age whom we socialise with and they all attend a sports class together on Mondays.

But in comparison with our elder boy, Ruan has far fewer "friends" in his day-to-day.

If we were in some bizarre dimension where the boys HAD to get married right now, Ciaran would have a head-scratchingly difficult time choosing his best man, while Ruan would be frantically cold-calling his buddies from nursery school that he has long lost touch with.

Why the disparity in social life between the older and younger offspring? Part of it is a simple time game.

The older kids love Ruan and see him as a magnificent novelty, but he's always going to be Robin, never Batman. And you know what, I don't really mind... I like that they shower him with so much affection and know his name instead of just saying "that's Ciaran's brother".

Ciaran has been a resident on planet Earth for about double the time of his younger brother and he's obviously been able to build up a more padded black book of contacts. Ruan just hasn't had as much time to play in the networking scene.

It is like when your 60-year-old mother has been on Facebook only since last year and she still has only 18 friends and you say "yes" to her friend request just because you feel bad.

Another factor is the type of schools they are in. Ciaran has already started "big school" and is in an international class of 20 children, whose parents are all forced to enthusiastically embrace one another on a WhatsApp group chat.

It is a fast and furious hub of classroom-related planning, kids' birthday party invites and scheduling that much-anticipated Adult Cocktails Night Out. It also means we can all see the other parents' phone numbers and the arrangement of play dates is an easy and much appreciated convenience.

In Ruan's pre-school, he happens to be a bit of a lone wolf, floating in and out of selected classes with no core of peers and no infrastructure connecting the parents. Plus, he is only two, so it is not like he is coming home with extensive monologues about who his best friend in class is or when they would like to have a play date.

All this makes it hard for us parents to know who might be his friend and how we would go about arranging a get-together.

Another reason is the cold, hard fact of life - that the second child doesn't get the same love the first child does. And for all you perfect parents reading, who might be tutting at me and muttering about how you love your children equally, please show me your iPhone.

Photo albums: first child 86GB, second child 86MB.

Don't worry, everybody is the same. We are all guilty of showering the firstborn with more attention than the second.

Perhaps you simply have less time on your hands to devote to the second baby because you have to split your parenting focus between two kids now. Perhaps you have learnt that a baby doesn't need as much "babying" as you did the first time round.

Whatever it is, you will undoubtedly feel a little sorry for Baby No. 2, wearing hand-me- downs and playing with inherited alphabet-sound toys whose batteries you are now too lazy to replace.

I'm sorry to admit I could go on and on about the different approaches we took to Baby No. 1 and Baby No. 2.

Baby No. 1 would have his milk bottles religiously steamed and sanitised. For Baby No. 2, you just toss him the formula and hope he works it out for himself.

Baby No. 1 had Chinese immersion workshops from the age of six months. For Baby No. 2, immersive Mandarin learning means getting beef kway teow for lunch.

Just the other day, my wife and I were recalling the one-month party we threw for Ciaran, with red eggs and elaborately decorated cupcakes. And then we spent 10 minutes searching our brains, asking: "Did we even have a one-month party for Ruan?"

I think you already know the answer we eventually arrived at.

So that is the reality for us. If there is a kid's birthday party to attend on the weekend, invariably it is one of Ciaran's friends and little Ruan, ever the sidekick, tags along.

The older kids love him and see him as a magnificent novelty, but he's always going to be Robin, never Batman. And you know what, I don't really mind.

I love to see him run around with the older children, desperately trying to keep up with what looks like a game of tag between thoroughbred horses, with one cow thrown in, clumsily hoping to be one of the gang.

I like that they shower him with so much affection and know his name instead of just saying "that's Ciaran's brother".

Plus, our kids' social calendar is already pretty full and that is just with one child having mates.

What would it be like if Ruan had a full cohort too? We would not have time to shuttle everyone about to all their play dates, gymnastic classes and bouncy castles.

So to my wonderfully independent second child, I say, it is great you don't have many friends and that you tag along to the parties your older brother goes to.

You still get a goodie bag and that is what really counts.

• Shan Wee is a radio deejay at One FM 91.3 and author of the tongue-in-cheek book, 99 Rules For New Dads.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 25, 2017, with the headline 'My second child has no friends and that is okay'. Print Edition | Subscribe