It was a week before our baby’s (Luke’s) first birthday, and our oldest child was at her biological dad’s house and my wife and I had just gotten the triplets and Luke down for the night. We stood as we often do at such a point, on our deck, exhausted, recapping the day’s events.
Caroline told me that she had spoken to her mom earlier. She wanted to know what she should get her grandson for his birthday but Caroline had drawn a blank. Between Luke’s four siblings, three different camps, swim team obligations, a family campout and planning our August vacation, Caroline hadn’t had the time to give his birthday as much thought as she would have liked.
“So what did you tell her?”
“To just go with whatever.” A beat. “As long as he could play with it by himself.” Another, longer beat. One filled with regret.
“Poor Luke,” she finally said.
Poor Luke, indeed. There are so many times when he’s left to his own devices while we scurry about tending to our other children.
But I refuse to let my wife, or me for that matter, feel guilty about our situation. His situation. Acknowledge that on some level that it’s a shame? Sure. But feel guilty about it? No. Because there’s no reason to.
When a couple has a first child, there’s no one else to consider. No one else to shower attention on. Yet, when a couple has a fifth child, there’s four others to consider. What are we going to do? Blow off all the commitments of these other children so that Luke can garner the exact same amount of attention as our oldest received?
Even if we could magically create the time needed to give Luke the same amount of attention as Alli received when she was a baby, we wouldn’t. Not because there’s something wrong with the dynamic surrounding the birth of a first child.
But, rather, because there’s nothing wrong with the dynamic surrounding the birth of a final child. So, yes, Luke’s parents may be spread a bit thin, but whatever Luke lacks in minute-by-minute parental attention, he more than makes up for in sibling attention. He’s got way more playmates than Alli ever did.
Plus, as the final child, he’ll never be displaced in order by another birth. His ground, under-heralded as it might be from time to time, is more stable ground, indeed, than that of his siblings have ever enjoyed.
So while I may wish we had more time to dote on our little man, I also refuse to let that longing turn into a sense of guilt. Because being the youngest has many benefits, too. Besides, my wife and I are doing all we can to balance everything. And that’s what this all boils down to. Balancing an entire family.
And if we can somehow pull that off, all of our children will be better for it.