“I just don’t think I could love him as much,” I told my wife. That was my biggest fear when we were discussing whether or not we should try to have a second child. Not the money stuff; not whether I’d continue staying at home; not whether I’d be able to handle twice as many kids, if I did. Those things would fall into place. We’d figure that stuff out. No biggie. But how could a second child hope to live up to my first? My Penny was special. We had an instant connection, a rare bond from Day One. She was the daddy’s girl I always wanted. How could I love anyone as much as I loved her?
Lots of parents share this concern. I Googled it for this article. (Bam! Researched.) The first thing that popped up was a parent forum with the query from an expectant mother, “wondering how any parent ever loves additional children as much as their first.” This feeling may not be universal, but (based on that Google search and some anecdotal evidence) it seems pretty widespread. How could it not be? Nothing changes your life more than having a baby. That baby becomes your life. Having a second child is a big deal, but not quite as world-shattering. (Though in some ways it’s a tougher decision because you know what you’re getting into.) By definition, number two cannot get ALL of your attention. How can you possibly love him as much as you love her?
Penny, who is four now, has always had a big personality and a lot of energy. And for the first three years of her life, most of that energy was focused on me. “I waaant my daaaaaddy!!!” she’d cry when my wife Allie got home from a long day of work and of missing her baby girl. The number of times I had to console Allie that “this too shall pass” borders on too-many-to-count. Penny might let mommy read her bedtime stories, but it was always daddy who had to lay in her bed so she could fall asleep.
And, at times, I have to admit that I may have exacerbated the situation. We’d be out and about, all walking together as a family, when Penny would “whisper” to me (when she “whispers,” everyone on the block can hear what she says), “let’s run fast!” I like to run and I’m kind of competitive and I not-so-secretly love sharing these attributes with my daughter. So, hell yeah, I’m runnin’! But mommy’s still walking. (This is the part I’m not too proud of and I’m not sure which one of us started it. I guess probably me.) We’d get a certain distance and start chanting, “we’re too fast and mommy’s too slow!” It was all meant in fun. We’d go back and walk together again…until Penny and I gave each other a nod and the whole scene played out the same way.
Not to say that our relationship was always smooth sailing, easygoing, and “us against the world.” Oh, we fight. I think it’s because I know how smart, mature, and awesome Penny can be that it really annoys the crap out of me when she misbehaves. And, good lord, when she cops an attitude it can drive anyone nuts. (My brothers call it “Pen-itude.” If it has a name, it ain’t exactly a rare occurrence.) But our battles always ended in hugs, with our “bond” seemingly stronger than before.
We’re Having a Baby! No, We’re Not.