Loving the second-born child
I teach my students about a concept called divided attention, wherein we simultaneously perform two attention-demanding tasks (like driving and having a conversation). We still don’t quite know how humans do this: Do we really perform them both in parallel or do we switch our attention very quickly between the two activities? I’ve been thinking about the experience of having a second child, and this topic keeps coming to mind.
Globally, I love both my children with every particle of my being, all the time. In parallel.
Locally, I find that my love switches between them, such that I have more love for the one who is not screaming at that particular moment.
Of course, much of the time I am not really loving either of them actively. It’s like that chronos vs. kairos post that Roccie loves so much (me too, of course!) says. Most of life is about trying to keep shit together–diaper clothing food chores nap chores diaper food chores nap etc. with a little play and cuddling here and there, so there are only a few minutes during the day when I even have the option of enjoying their company. But when I do, if they are both sweetness and light, it’s a horrifying love fest. But if one of them is a screaming asshole, and the other is the embodiment of all that is good about humankind, well, I love the second one better.
The unfortunate reality is that Bun Bun is a screaming asshole a lot these days. Or she’s climbing on me and elbowing my soft parts and grabbing me by the nostrils or the retina in all her toddler joyousness but this makes me want to scream or she’s demanding something I don’t feel like providing (MORE! BOOK! MORE BOOK! MORE! BOOK!) because I’ve used up all my energy preventing her from melting down by delicately managing every single fucking tiny transition all god-damned day long.
And another tough thing to admit is that she’s having a very mild case of Iprefertheotherparentitis, and the more she doesn’t want me to do things for her, the more I don’t want to do them. In an I wish I could be somewhere that is not anywhere near you right now way.
All of which results in Bunlet getting some extra love these days.
My older brother and I used to ask our mother who she loved more. Of course she always said she loved us both equally, but we were never satisfied with that answer. We finally came up with a solution that made sense to us–maybe she loved us both equally now, but she’d loved him for longer, thus he did in fact get more love over time. I think we may need to revisit this issue. Yeah, I loved Bun Bun very intensely for 16 months, but now…well…there might be the occasional gap.