The number of baby pictures.
The recollection of her first __________ (fill in the blank – e.g. bath, word, step, facial expression)
The amount of quiet time spent just staring at her.
The list is virtually endless…
I am sure it’s not just me, but sometimes I feel like I am guilty – of ‘something’. I can’t put a word to it. I can’t really be sure it is actually true, but at the end of the day, I FEEL GUILTY! Deep guilt. And then I think more about it and rationalize my actions (or lack thereof). I’m not treating Hailee any different! It is just…different.
But the differences are controllable. I acknowledge them, but always in retrospect. In a multi-step program, acknowledging the problem is the first step to ‘recovery.’ So here I am, openly acknowledging my shortfalls. And I hope by doing so, taking the first step to do something about it.
All of our kids are individuals and have unique personalities, strengths, and weaknesses – as we all do. I am a very firm believer that you “are a product of your environment.” If you grow up loved, nurtured, cared for and about, with a nice place to live and plenty of food on the table, chances are you will be a caring, loving, well-adjusted person and want the same things for your own family someday.
I know that is how I grew up, and I would like to think that is the same environment we have provided for our daughters. I am fairly sure the physical “environment” is the same today (for the most part at least) as it was for Careena when she was Hailee’s age, but there are definitely differences when you stand back and really look closely. So if the environment is the same, why do I feel so guilty?
We are a family of routines. We play with the girls on the floor – tickling, blocks, tea parties. We get their pajamas on, brush their teeth, and read them books. It was the same for Careena when she was the only child…or was it? I think it was a little – different. With Careena, we read multiple books each night from pop-ups and ‘first word’ books, to nursery rhymes and short stories. We played with color-coded toys and the alphabet. Careena was a sponge and we just couldn’t seem to spend enough time with her; she learned and demonstrated everything.
And then came our Hailee. She was a spitting image of her big sister. Everyone that saw her and knew Careena as a newborn, or even just saw pictures were amazed at their resemblance. Careena immediately loved her little sister and could not be separated from her. But our routine changed just a little – it was different.
We still play with the girls, but maybe not as much or for as long in a given play session. And our attention is divided between the two of them and not focused on just one. I think maybe it is because the two girls play so well with each other that we don’t feel as “needed.” We still read books each night, although not as many. We teach Hailee colors and letters, but maybe not with the same level of effort.
I think I feel guilty at times because “I know” that these differences are real – unintentional or not. The guilt comes more from wondering if, no – how – they are affecting Hailee. Will she feel as loved? Will she sense a difference? Will any of this influence how well or fast she learns?
So there it is – my confession of falling short. Of not doing enough. Of guilt. Maybe it is all part of the normal evolution of parenthood. No, I think it can be better controlled if not avoided, but then again, that’s just…
This Dad’s View
Did you sense a difference in how you raised or treated your second child? Your third? Did you ever feel guilty about it?