When my eldest son was born, my wife and I poured all the love we had, or could ever imagine having, into him. Every giggle, every smile, every waking moment was spent in interaction with him, showing him we loved him. This was especially obvious before the symptoms of sleep deprivation set in.
His presence in our home made our love for one another grow and I, for one, became infinitely more patient. Waking several times each night, never sleeping longer than three hours at a time, and then wiping poop off a tiny baby butt at four in the morning were things I would have avoided at all cost prior to his arrival. Once I saw him, though, these were all things I gladly did.
Before reaching his first birthday, my wife and I learned that we were expecting another baby. We were overjoyed. The big brother conversations started with our first son. We began telling him all the things he and his brother would be to one another. He was such a mellow, laid-back baby that we were certain jealousy would not be an issue.
As the due date drew closer, however, my wife and I began to worry. Not that our first son would rebel or try to off his little brother out of competition for our affection. We began to worry about splitting the love for our family between two children. We held so much love for our first son and we were afraid we’d have to divide that love in half to give each son a portion when the new baby came. Love seemed like a quantifiable resource and we needed to be careful how we allocated it. It was as if a mathematical equation of love existed inside our hearts which would only let us generate a certain amount. Thus, we feared out oldest would get less love and the youngest would never get quite as much as the oldest had originally had. We were afraid we were going to be short-changing them both.
This all seems so silly now, but it’s one of those life lessons that someone could tell you about but that you will never truly comprehend until you’ve experienced it for yourself. Any of us with siblings have heard the line from our parents that they love us all equally and in different ways. Who really buys that at the time, though? Your parents can tell you that, but each of you ends up developing your own theories about who is their favorite. Parents having a favorite seems like an undeniable truth to the universe when you’re a kid.
I guess this was in the back of my head as the time came closer to having two diapers at a time to change. My wife and I talked about it and started to get pretty nervous. Two things happened then. First, our youngest son was born. Instantly, out love doubled. It just happened. I could feel it like I was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. It grew right inside my chest.
But the second thing to happen was really special.
Two days later, we brought the younger of our two sons home from the hospital. Our oldest was just recovering from a fever. We brought with us French fries for him, one of his favorite foods at the time, and even now. We placed the baby in the bucket (the car seat that is) on top of the dining room table and had our oldest climb up on the chair to get a good look. Immediately, he took a French fry and shoved it in his brand new brother’s face.
“Here you go, baby, here you go,” he said.
At that moment, our love (and I know I speak for my wife here as well) increased logarithmically. It was probably as close to an out of body experience as I’ve ever had. I learned that day that my sons would inspire me in ways I’d never imagined before. I new that the love I felt for the boys, for my wife, for this big round crazy world in general was not done growing. I knew I had suddenly discovered a well of love and energy that would never run out.
I joke now with my oldest son about this day. I tell him that it was the first and last time he ever shared anything with his little brother. But the truth of it is, I will always feel in his debt for pulling off that moment at just the right time to quell my fears.
Also, I now know that parents around the world who say that they love all their kids equally were not full of crap.