“Mom. Mama. Mommy. Mom.” My 4 year old, E is relentless in trying to gain my attention.
It always reminds me of, what may be, the only episode of Family Guy I’ve ever seen, where the baby goes over to where the mom Lois is trying to relax and keeps saying her name until she gets annoyed and demands “What?!”. Sometimes I have this same reaction. “What is it? What could be so important that you just. won’t. let. up?” But usually I stop and ask him what it is that’s on his mind. His needs can range from a glass of milk and a snack to a 30 minute board game and my full presence.
For the majority of the time, I love to play with my son.
No, really. I enjoy playing outside, and crafts, and puzzles, and reading books. Then, along came baby #2, and I tried with all my might to give E the same amount of attention as I did pre-baby. We still make it to the park, we still make finger-paint works of art, and we still make time to spend together, just the two of us. It just isn’t the same uninterrupted-kind of time.
With the addition of E’s little brother, there have been times when I’ve felt stretched thin. I’ve had two boys want all of my attention at the same time, and neither is particularly happy that they have to share me. I’ve had to ask E to play quietly while I try to put the baby to sleep, or while I’m busy with another task, and at first this was very difficult for him, and I felt a lot of guilt not being able to give him 100%, like before.
I started seeing E act out, in desperate attempts to get the attention he was so accustomed to, and that made me feel guilty too.
It has been a year since E earned his title of “big brother“, and the flow in our household has gotten much smoother. He knows that when I’m trying to put his brother to sleep, it is quiet time. He can play independently or will watch a show quietly. Then, I try to use the baby’s nap time as a time for E and I to spend together, doing projects and playing games like we used to, sans baby bro. It isn’t a great deal of time, but it is E’s alone.
This past week, I came downstairs from laying the baby down for a nap, and said “E, do you want to read your new book?”
Me, surprised: “Do you want to play Candy Land?”
E: “no thanks, I’m playing trains”
Me, feeling hurt: “Do you want to do anything with me?”
E: “not right now”
I couldn’t believe it. He was being so independent, and I should’ve been ecstatic, but I was sad!
I realized, at that moment, I was not the most exciting thing to my son. My kid, who would jump at any chance to hang out with Mom, all of a sudden seemed older. So, I tried to embrace this new-found disposition, rather than sulking, and I took on some household chores that I had put off. (Was I more sad about cleaning, or that my first-born is now too cool for mom-son-time?). It was certainly a bittersweet moment for me as a mom, to see my son growing up to be so independent, but also losing interest in our play time together.