The Boy is turning 1 in a few weeks and I’ve been in a reflective mood about the past year. There have been, of course, great joys – another set of firsts to track (his first steps happened just days ago – more on this in a moment). But one feeling that has been popping up in me lately is not quite so happy or positive. It’s guilt.
For all the research we did about having a second kid – all the websites we scoured, people we talked to and books we read – I don’t recall anyone talking about the guilt you might feel about upsetting the balance of the first kids life.
I’m really feeling for The Girl these days. She is also approaching a birthday – 4 for her – and while I know she loves her little brother, there are those moments when you can absolutely feel the sadness in her, mourning what she once had exclusively and is now gone. And it’s not pouting or whining (although those do appear as well), but there is just this feeling of genuine resignation that occasionally settles over her as she struggles to deal with this change.
Case in point. The Boy has started walking and, like most parents, we are heaping encouragement upon him as he struggles to master this skill. I caught some video of this the other night and it wasn’t until I was watching it later that I saw just how upset it made The Girl that her little brother was getting all this positive encouragement from his Dad for walking.
In the background you can see her, sitting on the floor, back to the camera completely ignoring what is happening around her – her little brothers first steps. Her shoulders are slumped over and she is absentmindedly playing with a doll. But you know her attention is focused on what is going on around her; she just isn’t showing it.
Her Mom is much better at including her at moments like this, but I couldn’t help but fell very conflicted over this one little moment. On one hand, I want to cheer for The Boy, want to heap encouragement on him and help him, just like I did for her when she was learning to walk. He deserves just as much. But on the other, I feel horrible that she is being eaten up by this and, almost worse, can’t take pride in her little brother’s accomplishments.
And therein lies the guilt. In a lot of ways, life before #2 had settled into comfortable normalcy for her, and for us. We had our routines and she was very much at the center of everything. Then, overnight, that “normal” life is ripped away and redefined. We did prepare her as best we could, but how can a 3 year old really comprehend what a difference a sibling is going to make in their life when even her parents can’t comprehend what a difference 2 will make?
I know that ever family goes through this kind of stuff, and that it will, with love and patience, all work itself out. But I really wish someone would have told me about this before so I could have been better prepared to internally handle such a negative emotion as guilt.