Friday, June 22, 2012

Benign Neglect

So one of the (many) things I angsted over during my last pregnancy was how we were "ruining B's life"---snatching him out of the warm garden of perpetual undivided attention and throwing him straight into the arena of sibling rivarly at the tender age of not-quite-two. Remembering his own infancy, I figured that the new baby would require most of our attention for several months, and he would be thrust into independence.
The reality---and from what I've read/heard its pretty common---is that B didn't give up a damn thing. Our family's life still revolves around him and his over-sized, attention-whore (and ridiculously adorable) personality. L is just along for the ride. We plan our outings around B's naps/meals/wants/moods...if L is sleeping, he's roused & plopped in the stroller, he eats on the go, and grimly endures the community pool when B wants to go for a swim (L doesn't appear to be a fan of cool water).
I'm OK with this...if we tried to plan around both kids' naps & meals, we'd never go anywhere...and really, at L's age, he is happy just to be out & about---crawling around & eating grass & leaves wherever we happen to land. Plus he clearly adores his older brother. He follows him everywhere and bubbles with joy when B deigns to acknowledge him.
But there are some aspects in which I do feel we are short-changing poor easy-going L. We used to read to B constantly. I tried establishing some bedtime stories with L, but these days he's exhausted & falls asleep nursing before I can get to the stories (and the one time he WAS awake, I reached for the books to realize that B had taken them back to his room as part of "cleaning up"). We mean to read to him at other times, but hasn't happened. We used to talk to B, sing him songs, ABCs, recite nursery rhymes & passages from his books. The way parents do with their adored little babies. Now we're still talking to B---not L---and since B actually responds, he's a much more stimulating conversation partner. If we do try to talk to L, B will interrupt, or  insist on knowing what was said (SUCH busybodies toddlers are, I tell you, worse than little old ladies!).  Its not all B's fault, though, G & I both admitted that when we're alone with L, we are so "talked out" (or "sung out" or "read out") that we take advantage of the lack of demand for conversation, and relish the silence.
Honestly, other than the reading part (which hopefully will fall into place over time, as he gets less sleepy at bedtime), I'm sure the whole thing will even out. What L lacks for in direct attention from us, he makes up for with the stimulation & motivation to develop to keep up with his big brother. And besides, the one who's really neglected? Their furry four-legged older sister.


  1. I look forward to experiencing the same thing...but as a second born child, I agree that it will all even out. Doubtless all those things we works so hard at and feel guilty for not doing are totally unnecessary.

  2. It will all even out in the end. FWIW, Dylan is usually too tired for books before bed, so we seldom read to her (though she does like eating her Fuzzy Bee book when she's being changed). And we don't even have the excuse of her being a second child.

    BTW -- Over at my blog just so you know I DEFINITELY wasn't referring to your post on being home with B when he had scarlet fever. I was referring to a Well Blog post from a few months back. I probably should have been more clear about that.

  3. My nieces, who are 21 months apart, were very much like this when they were younger. My older niece always demanded all the attention, while the younger one was content to sit and coo wherever you placed her. (I actually have a series of photos of her sleeping in laundry hampers, that's how easygoing she was.) The youngest (now six) has turned out completely fine despite the neglect, and last night was reading to me be flashlight in their backyard tent. So I suspect your youngest will turn out fine too. :D

  4. Hah, as I'm expecting my second in a few months, it's good to read this. And we also have a toddler who needs to know EVERYTHING we're talking about. I really relish the quiet sometimes :D