I was excitedly plunging through the infamous stuffed-to-the-brim Rubbermaid boxes of autumn holiday décor in my garage when I ran across those festively fun children’s Halloween books that I used to love reading to my oldest son. It occurred to me that while I did read to my second child for a time, we did not strive toward a nightly routine as I did with his older brother. Contemplating this, I thought about all the things I did with my firstborn that I simply did not do with his younger brother.
Feeling somewhat of a failure to my present nine-year-old baby, I had another thought. What if the first few years of perfect mommy bliss with my first baby will be magically transferred to the last few years with my second born when his brother no longer lives at home?
After trying for years to conceive and finally experiencing the bliss of first-time parenthood with my now 11-year-old man-child, I tried to do everything humanly possible with my first baby. I sang to him each night. I rocked him to sleep. I read to him (inside the womb and out). I recorded every single event from the first step to the first tooth to the first tantrum. It was all monumental. Epic. Like no baby had ever, in the history of the world, smiled with such gusto as my very own firstborn son.
Then came my second son. This baby was considerably easier (or perhaps his mother was considerably more laid back, which translated to his nine years of cool, easy-going, go-with-the-flow nature, which is the exact opposite of his older brother). Please don’t get me wrong, I experienced such joy and panic-free parenting with my second child. We did not encounter the breastfeeding battles I did with my first.
I think perhaps I failed to invest the time and energy into his toddler years as I did with his older brother.
He slept through the night long before I did. He was constantly smiling for my endless array of photo sessions. He was just plain… easy! I knew how to parent and he knew how to baby. It was a match made in heaven, which required very little forcing, fussing, poking and prodding to simply just be with this child.
As adaptable as he was, I think perhaps I failed to invest the time and energy into his toddler years as I did with his older brother. Oh, and there was the fact that I was tired. Having two children under the age of three will do that to a mama, no matter what caliber of superhero she assuredly is.
While we did read nighttime stories on occasion, it was not every single night, as was the case when I had only one child to put to bed. While I did take this child to the park and on play dates, it was not with a fever of fury because I was concerned about his socialization and ability to interact with other children. I figured my youngest had a brother and I needed a nap, so I didn’t push the out-of-house excursions I felt so pressured to experience with my firstborn.
I still reveled at my baby when he took his first steps, grew his first tooth and said his first word. Yet, I failed to document it like I did with his older brother. Was it because my love was less? Absolutely not! I think it was that his temperament did not require as much attention as his brother. Again, that probably stems somewhat from my experience and ease as a mother with child number two versus child number one.
Feeling somewhat despondent that I let my baby down compared to the rock-star mother I was with his slightly older brother, something hit me. When my oldest son begins to spread his wings and fly further away from home base, I will be left with my youngest son. Those magical one-on-one experiences I had with my firstborn, before his brother arrived, will be paid back in full.
Mamas, don’t feel bad that you didn’t raise your second, third or fourth child the exact same way you did your first. The tables will turn.
When my oldest moves away and goes to college, I will have two blissful years with his younger brother. Now, I realize that at the ripe old age of 16, he will likely not want to bond with me as he would have as a young child. Still, I will take full advantage of the time he allows me to indulge him in mother-and-son dates.
We will get coffee together. We will shop for his favorite sports items and gaming desires and I will spoil him in much the same way I spoiled his brother years ago. I will encourage him to tell me about his day, talk about the girls he finds interesting and what, in particular, he enjoys about each one. I will, once again, feel that fury of pressure to attend every sports event, high school play or other extra-curricular activity in which he is involved. I will have the time and the freedom to do so with no competing from his older brother, who will likely be in the blissful throes of young adulthood.
Mamas, don’t feel bad that you didn’t raise your second, third or fourth child the exact same way you did your first. The tables will turn. The time will come that you can invest just as fully in those younger siblings as you did the first that originally made you a mother. I look forward to that time. Bonding with my youngest child, my baby, my last-born, is a future gift I vow to treasure. I will take full advantage of the time and space he allows me to mother him as an only, if only for a short time before he, too, spreads those glorious young man wings and flies closer to adulthood.