Sharing the Love

I’m fairly certain I ruined my son’s life when I decided to give him a sibling. Of course, being the
overachiever that I am, I gave him not one sibling, but two. At once. TWIN. SISTERS.
Just like his daddy and I, the poor kid was blindsided. Back in the day, he was a pretty big deal.
On his daddy’s side, he is the firstborn son of a firstborn son of a firstborn son. The first
grandchild on both sides of the family; the first great grandchild to several living great
grandparents. He made me a mom and transformed my life. He was my world and my one pure
love.
And then there were three. At 4 years, 4 months, he became Big Brother. Not the baby
anymore, but the big boy, the helper, the one I can rely on, the one who has to just suck it up
and let his sister play with his toy for a minute because do you really want to listen to her
scream and I know it’s not fair but she’s a baby and doesn’t know any better and I need your
help because it’s just really hard for me right now because there are two of them. That one.
And for me, the eternal guilt of never again being mother to only him.
The other day I read this blog post, a letter from a mom of two to her firstborn, telling him how
much she misses him, misses being just the two of them. The piece was heartfelt and genuine.
She conveyed the special memories she had with her firstborn, and the bittersweetness of
adding another child to the family, the inner conflict that many moms have felt as they figure out
how to love more than one child with their whole heart.
While I’m sure it was not the author’s intent, the piece left me feeling incredibly sad. I too miss
when it was just the two of us, mostly because I never really appreciated how freakin’ easy it
can be to care for one baby, rather than a 4­year­old and two babies, or a six ­year ­old and two
TWO­ YEAR ­OLDS. I used to think it was so hard, when it was just him. And it was. He was a
challenging baby, and the learning curve is so steep when you are thrown into this big crazy
jungle called parenthood, and venture forth to cut your own path for the first time. But I’m sad
because, although I remember how much I’ve always loved him, I don’t really have fond
memories of “just us.” I was always distracted by something else, mostly just by making it
through each day. The first year felt like an exhausted blur, as I struggled to recalibrate my life
and sense of self while learning to be a mom and teaching full­time. As he turned two, I was
planning my wedding with his dad and took a financial blow as my job was cut back; when he
turned three, I was battling breast cancer; by his fourth birthday, I was pregnant with his sisters,
and the rest is history. I’m sad because I wish I could go back, oh­so­briefly, to when it was just
us, and appreciate it a little more.
I’m sad because my baby, my boy wonder, my firstborn, turns seven next week. His childhood is
slipping away and, as I struggle to keep my head above water, to keep his little sisters alive and
happy, to make some small dent in the housework, to grow my business, to manage our
household logistics and finances, to maybe exchange some meaningful words with my
husband, and to nurture my own body or soul in some small way, I end each day feeling like I
have mostly failed him. I have not made him the center of my universe enough that day. I have
not looked him in the eyes enough and given him my undivided attention. My voice became
impatient; my nagging was too much. Or maybe I was too lenient, letting him slip away to watch
TV, when I should have sat down and read with him, or known how to ask the questions about
his day in a way that would solicit more than monosyllabic answers. Does he know, I mean
really KNOW, how much I love him?
YES. The answer is yes, he does.
He is not the center of my universe. I am the center of his. He is my World and I am his Sun: the
constant in his life, his light. I know this when he still asks me, nearly every night, if I will lie
down with him while he falls asleep. I know this when I walk upstairs with him to turn on a light
because he is scared to do it alone. When I leave for yoga class and he balks and asks, “Why
do you have to leave all the time?!?!?,” even if I haven’t actually been away from my children for
more than two hours that week. When I pull myself into the moment, look into his eyes, and
laugh at a silly joke he has made, because then he knows that we share a funny, grownup
secret that his sisters don’t understand. When we find time to snuggle in bed and read about
Star Wars, and Minecraft, and monsters, and Battle Bunny, even though it makes my mind
numb and I would rather read Charlotte’s Web.
Even when I feel spread so thin that there cannot possibly be enough of me to go around, he
knows. In those moments, I remember that, despite my many shortcomings as a mother, I am,
indeed, his Sun. And just knowing that gives me the strength to shine a little brighter.

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