If you’re reading this and/or you follow me on social media (and if you don’t, WTF is your problem: here’s my Twitter and my Facebook), you probably know that I take great pleasure in exploiting my children in a desperate reach for fame (ha!) and fortune (*starts crying*).
If you follow me on Instagram (again: if not, what gives, jerk?), you’ve probably noticed that The Hammer has been dominating my timeline.
And I’m starting to feel guilty about overlooking his older brother.
There’s no real reason for this. It’s not like Detective Munch isn’t cute anymore. (He’s a long way from the transformative hellscape of puberty.) He’s infuriating and annoying and a smart-ass and so much like me I want to kill myself, but lack of cuteness isn’t the problem. Mostly, he’s just harder to pin down.
The fourteen-month-old can walk now, but he’s still a long way from being to do much of anything without one of us nearby. As such, he’s usually an easy photo subject. Detective Munch, meanwhile, can barely sit still, and even if he does, he typically resists having his picture taken.
Can you tell I’m rationalizing?
Lately, I’ve been starting to feel bad that I share more photos of The Hammer than I do of his big brother. Because I’m starting to feel bad that I sometimes prefer The Hammer. It’s not that I think it makes me a bad person; as I wrote recently, it’s totally normal to occasionally prefer one kid to the other (or to want nothing to do with either of them!). I just worry that devoting too much attention to my baby will have a negative impact on Detective Munch. I don’t want it to feel like I’m overlooking him.
Detective Munch doesn’t follow me online (outrageous, I know!), so he doesn’t know that my feeds have been featuring his baby bro’s face more than his. But I worry that this “preference” is manifesting itself in my day-to-day life. Every once in a while, big brother will act out and say something snotty about being overlooked, and while that’s mostly just him whining, there’s likely some truth there. I’m not blind to my own faults. Either way, it’s not easy losing pole position. Especially after five years!
Do I really like my baby more than my 6-year-old? It’s not that simple. For one thing, babies have a low bar. All their negative qualities – the crying, the pooping, the not-sleeping, the being so incredibly stupid they give you constant heart attacks – aren’t their fault. Their cuteness supersedes all of that, and The Hammer has cuteness in spades.
For another thing, 6-year-olds are a handful. They have increasingly distinct personalities, ridiculously strong opinions (often about utter nonsense), and a never-ending list of things they want. They also have whip-smart mouths that they wield when they don’t get those things. Sometimes, in the face of a determined, envelope-pushing, did-he-really-just-say-that-to-me 6-year-old, a baby is a welcome respite.
Babies can’t talk back! When you live with a child who has a smart response for everything, or a dumb response for everything – the dude always has some kind of response for everything! He can’t not respond. It’s infuriating! – the insipid gurgling of a mush-mouthed, pea-brained infant is an oasis of comfort in a desert of defiance.
But that will change. Soon enough, The Hammer will start hammering me just as much as his older brother does. Eventually I’ll be double-teamed, and any guilt I have about favoring one of my sons over the other will be drowned in the intense frustration that submerges my love for either of them.
Until then, though, I need to be wary. It’s natural that the baby gets a little more attention sometimes, but it’s important to remember that while a 6-year-old may be old enough to understand why, that doesn’t mean he’s emotionally equipped to handle it. Efforts need to be made to avoid making him feel like we’re overlooking him. We have to keep him in the loop, keep him involved, let him help with the baby (he’s been a great big brother so far), let him share the spotlight, and remind him that he remains just as important a part of the family as ever.
About a year and a half ago, a few months before The Hammer was born, I wrote a letter to my firstborn. In that letter, I promised that I wouldn’t lose sight of him, even in the chaos of infant care, and that he needn’t worry about being overlooked. Sometimes I worry that I’m blowing it.
Then I see all the “likes” every picture of my baby gets, and I realize you people are the problem. Stop encouraging me!