Thursday, August 4, 2016

An Apology to the New Little Guy

I don't know how much my youngest son weighs now.

I don't know how tall he is and I couldn't tell you how big his head is around. For the uninitiated, these are the standard measurements medical folks use to gauge a baby's growth.

But, from a parent's perspective, when each of those measurements tops the 95th percentile, what difference does it make?

"Future's so bright...."
This kid is big. Now, just a week shy of the nine-month mark since his birth, he is wearing clothes for 18-month olds.

Based on his early proclivities, he's going to need every bit of that heft and padding to endure the regular crashes, falls, tumbles, slips, smacks and trips he puts himself through.

His future is likely to be one filled with bumps and bruises punctuated with the occasional trip to the emergency room.

He crawls quickly. Often he's just trying to keep up with me, his mom or his big brother but other times he's off on his own mission. Lately the stairs have been his destination of choice.

On those occasions when he is following us, he lets us know if we're getting too far away from him. He'll squeal and cry a little to remind us that he's there and that, whatever we're doing, he wants in.

He's taken to putting anything that fits into his mouth, in his mouth. When this scenario is at its best, it could be food that fell under the kitchen table hours before. When it's worse, it could be a butter knife his forgetful father left on his high chair tray.

Which brings me to the greater point here. I owe my Little Guy a deep, heartfelt apology.

I apologize to him because he's had a tougher road to hoe than his older brother. When The Boy came along he was the first — for everything.

Mrs. Blackwell and I were learning on the fly and to flatten that learning curve we consistently erred on the side of excessive caution.
Both boy's are able to drive at the grocery store.
From birth, justice as fairness! 

Food. The temperature of bath water. The cleanliness of the floors he was crawling on. The age-appropriateness of his toys.

We watched him like a hawk. When he went mobile one of his parents was always, always, always hovering nearby.

We surveilled and examined his world to a granular, case-by-case, moment-to-moment degree for the first couple years of his life.

"Is your pillow soft enough?"

"Is the tag on your pajamas bothering you?

"Is your bottle warm enough?

"Did you need your special blanket, your Mickey Mouse doll and your other special blanket?"

He was a baby, he was fragile and vulnerable and so we did what many parents do, we grossly overcompensated.

Flash forward to Saturday morning when I lost sight of New Little Guy for who knows how long. That moment of terror hit me like an electric shock and I ran a panicked lap around my kitchen and family room before locating him.

He was perched on the third step of the stairway toward our second floor chewing on God only knows what.

And sometimes he finds trumpets. 
He smiled and let out a giggle when I found him, which made liberating the contents of his mouth easier (I don't know what it was but, yes, it was soggy and gross, thanks for asking).

I'm not saying that this type of thing never happened with The Boy. It's just that it undoubtedly happens more with the New Little Guy.

Admitting this is a tad painful because you want everything to be equal for your kids. You don't want one kid to have more than the other, or to have it easier. But, the sad fact is there is no "equal." That's an ideal that doesn't exist and, frankly, aspiring toward it is a fool's errand.

I say this as the middle of three boys and the son of parents who fought this battle regularly. The reality is that kids who come after the first born are bound to have it a bit tougher, at least early on.

I think it boils down to the fact that once you see one kid go through life and survive you automatically adjust. So when the next kid comes along, you know they'll be okay. They don't get that  same allowance of patience, of coddling and sheltering that their older sibling got.

Your parental reflexes change by the time the second kid comes along.

That doesn't mean you don't feel bad about this as a parent. To the contrary, I feel bad about it all the time and, as a second born myself, I'd like to think I'm attuned to it more than most. But, at this point, I'm ready to accept reality and try my best to bend it toward a better ideal.

Later in the same trip to the grocery store, some how some
way the first born ends up with the Ben & Jerry's.
 Justice as subjective fairness.
I'm not sure how that effort manifests itself but, at its core, I know that the motivation is to ensure that neither of my kids feels shortchanged, regardless of what I might think of my own parenting.

If this approach works, when they grow old and reflect on my parenting, they'll resent me equally.

Up to this point I've accepted responsibility for my role in the New Little Guy's rougher road. Now, I'll divest myself of some.

The fact is, this fellow likes adventure more than either of his parents are accustomed to.

My parents have never expressed to me that I was a particularly adventurous little boy. On the other side of the parenting equation, I'm convinced Mrs. Blackwell was born with an actuary's guide in her hand and consulted with it before making even the most mundane decisions.

For his part, The Boy is a fun little dude but, he's more of a button pusher than a boundary tester.

So, it's particularly ironic that we've got this little creature of extremes skittering around our home attempting to scale our stairs and roll off our beds and treating the mere notion of gravity with disdain. And it's damn near incomprehensible how he greets each and every close call with a grin and, often, a giggle.

He possesses many of his parents traits and, as we've all learned (the hard way on a few occasions), a few that we don't.

Yes, we're in the midst of another ride and while it's not our first, in many ways it feels like it.

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