As the holidays approach, the event planner within me is going nuts with excitement. This is the only time of the year when my to-do list is chock full of things I can’t wait to do. But there’s one thing, sitting on my distant to-do list that keeps tripping me up. Abbott’s second birthday. It just doesn’t feel like he should be two. It feels like I was just pregnant with him yesterday.
Every year around Matty’s birthday, I have a similar feeling. It’s very similar to watching Matty do something new and thinking “when did he get so big?” I think it’s a common feeling that a lot of parents can empathize with. But this feeling I have in regards to Bot’s birthday is more than innocently wishing time didn’t go so fast or rhetorically asking myself how he got so big. This feeling is bogged down with another feeling I think a lot of parents can empathize with, guilt. I typically try to downplay it and shrug it off as nothing more than the curse of being a close second but as his second birthday nears, it’s getting harder to ignore.
With Matty, I celebrated every single first. His first coo, his first real blow out, his first tummy time, his first pair of jeans, his first real patch of hair, his first wrist roll, his first tooth, his first nail trimming, his first word, his first steps. And it doesn’t stop there, I noticed his first freckle, just on the underside of his thumb and his second, just below his hairline on the upper-right side of his forehead. I notice new words, new facial expressions, new interests and new skills and I celebrate all of those, too.
But with Abbott, I find myself constantly blindsided. I could sum his whole life’s accomplishments in one sentence: He woke up one day and he was just [insert large accomplishment here]. But seriously, in my memory, Abbott was born one day in the midst of a snowstorm and it’s been a snow storm ever since; one big, wild, blinding blur. He woke up one day (I couldn’t even tell you which month of which year) and he was crawling. The next day, he was walking and then the next he was running. I look at Abbott every day and I just feel like he’s been exactly the same boy he is right now since I met him that cold night in December.
I don’t remember Abbott’s baby rolls or his baby coos or his first pair of jeans or one single second of tummy time. I don’t remember the first song he loved. I don’t remember feeding him bottles. I don’t remember cuddling. I honestly don’t remember his first word and I barely remember his first steps but I know it was around the holidays because he was wearing Santa Claus pajamas. I have no idea how old he was when he got his first tooth and even worse I have at least two thousand less pictures of him than I do of Matty.
I woke up one day and Bot wasn’t just saying one word – he was talking in sentences. He was yelling commands at people and had an affinity for dance parties. I woke up one day and he was showing me his wrestling stance, showing off his sense of humor, climbing things and jumping off even higher things. And now he’s almost two and I feel guilty.
I feel guilty for not paying more attention because I’m sure I could have. I feel guilty for having 18 months alone with Matty because Abbott deserves that, too. But I know that’s not how this works. I feel guilty that we had a baby so soon after Matty and I feel guilty for ever worrying I wouldn’t be able to love him as much. And I already feel guilty for all of the details I won’t have or remember later in life when he’s suddenly 18 and leaving home. But I know that’s how it goes.
Shortly after Abbott was born, I was overwhelmed with this same feeling. I told my mom and my aunts I wished I had the same time with Abbott that I had had with Matty, that I felt bad because he never got that attention and love. My aunt, who has two daughters about the same age apart as the boys, said something that I’ve clung to every time the days turn into blurry months and unnoticed years. “Don’t worry about that. The time that you didn’t get in the beginning, you’ll get back in the end. When Matty goes off to school, you’ll have that time with Abbott. It will be different but I know – for me – that time was special.”
Maybe the curse of being a close second will end up being a blessing. Who knows? I love how close the boys are to each other and how much excitement (and exhaustion) they bring to our home. I love knowing they have each other and it’s even better that they’re polar opposites and a perfect balance. I love knowing they have built-in confidantes and in Abbott’s case, a built in bodyguard and mentor. I only wish I could remember more of the details of Bot’s first years, soak up more of the moments.
But, then again, don’t we all?