Every parent expecting a new addition to the family has had this thought: Is the new baby going to steal the spotlight away from my firstborn? Will we be able to make the time to give all of our babies the appropriate amount of attention? Of course, you’ll love them exactly the same, you tell yourself. That will never happen!
Well, I’m here to burst your bubble because it happened to me. Confession: I’ve been seriously neglecting my firstborn.
In fact, my firstborn is so neglected that I haven’t even mentioned him once since I started writing for the blog. Him, you might be asking? In my first post, I went on and on about how badly I wanted a boy, but ended up with two precious girls instead. Yet, my firstborn is male. It’s true. I think it’s about time that I introduce you to my seven-year-old son, Desmond. He’s got shiny brown eyes like his dark-haired younger sisters, but a head of soft blond locks. And legs of blond locks. And back and tummy. And floppy ears. And paws.
OK, so my firstborn is a fur baby, but he still counts as my son. If you ask any of your childless friends with pets, they will insist that their dog or cat or horse or parrot is like their child. In some ways, I agree with them. (In other ways, I don’t. I mean, would you literally take a bullet for your cat, actually end your life without a second thought to save your cat? Because you’d do it for your kid a hundred times over.)
Before I had my daughters, Desmond was at the center of my life. I would make the half hour trip from Shelburne to the New North End of Burlington two or three times a week, just so that he could play at the superior dog park. Now he’s lucky if he gets a trip to the backyard to toss the ball around for ten minutes.
When Violet arrived in the summer of 2012, Des immediately took a backseat to her. Things only got worse when Sabine was born in 2014, at which point he was actually pushed to the front seat for car rides, struggling to balance on the angled cushion, and falling headfirst into the dashboard every other red light.
What’s worse, my fluffy Golden Retriever struggled with his weight in 2013. He is now at a healthy number on the scale after losing a whopping 15 pounds, but that means no scraps or people food for him anymore. So while other family doggies are enjoying the wonder of toddler food magically catapulting from the tops of high chairs, our poor Des is banished to the other side of the safety gate at the bottom of our stairs. If he could talk, he’d sound exactly like an older brother, whining, “Why do they get to sit at the table and be served yummy delights? They’re not even eating it! They’re just throwing it on the floor! This isn’t fair!”
I have felt so guilty about the situation that I’ve actually considered finding him a new home, where he is the only “child” and gets the proper attention he deserves. Surely he would be happier with some outdoorsy singleton who loves nothing more than an exhilarating two-hour hike in subzero winter temperatures.
Still, I only entertain this idea for a few moments before concluding it’s not the answer.
He is a part of our family and this is where he belongs.
More importantly, this is where he wants to be, even if he does roll his eyes when his sisters climb on top of him to play horsy. Even if he does sigh heavily with boredom when his presence is requested at High Tea.
But to quote the Beatles, “it’s getting better all the time.” This past summer, Violet started tossing him his ball outside. True, it only made it a few feet and it was more of a football touchdown spike than a throw, but he fetched it all the same. My girls are 3 and 1 now; they’re not a ton of fun for Des. But it’s only a matter of time before they are really engaging him, going from toddlers to children, and what dog doesn’t love kids? In as little as two years, they will become his people, his super energetic, carefree, treat-sneakin’ people. And two years is like two months in parenthood time.
Plus, I know that deep down, he already feels a connection to them. I see it when I catch him gazing out a window alongside one of my girls, taking the world in through their eyes. I see it when he shares their joy during the first beautiful Spring day of the year.
And if he didn’t care about them, would he really choose to use their smelly Stride Rite kicks as a pillow? The bond is there and it will only get stronger as the years go on.
So, Big Boy, my first “kiddo,” Desmond bud, you are stuck on this island much like your namesake from LOST. We are so sorry that your one-on-one time has been cut drastically, especially in the winter. All we can do is make a promise to include you more, to take more walks, to not stop short at red lights, and to teach our girls to love you as much as we do. They will be more fun for you eventually (though we can’t promise that the horsey game won’t still happen).