Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another reason why time sucks

Yesterday was Veteran's Day, one of those holidays important enough to leave our trash by the curb for an extra day and let all the kids off from school, but not important enough to have your spouse off from work too. Since it was one of M's usual preschool days, I tried to be extra excited about Veteran's Day this year.

"You have a vacation day today!" I said brightly yesterday morning.
"Is it a preschool day?" M asked slowly.
"Yes, but you have vacation! A holiday!"
He cocked his head a little. "Can I go to preschool?"
The sinking feeling I've been getting a lot lately opened up in the pit of my stomach. "You don't have preschool today. It's vacation!"
M lowered his head and fiddled with his plate. "But I really wanted to go to preschool."

Apparently vacation doesn't mean much for a kid who thinks every preschool day is his "break" from Mommy. I try not to take that personally, although I'm really not sure how you take it any other way.

No matter. I promised him a fun and special lunch, right after we went to K's usual swim class. B stayed with M on the side, brought lots of trucks for him to play with, and pointed out our happy waves and smiles. At the end, he walked up to me, that same longing look on his face, and asked, "Now can I go in?" Repeat this scenario about ten times--compounding guilt exponentially--and you'll get the gist of the next hour.

It made me really feel for M. I know a lot of parents worry so much about not having enough time to spend with their second child, but the thing is, M doesn't remember that I spent a lot of time just with him, so there's not really much difference between the two. He doesn't remember that we did take swim lessons for months before K was born. He also does not remember, apparently, that he hated swim lessons, that they were filled with more screaming than splashing and that he never did learn to kick/paddle/hold his breath the way his sister has already done. This was because he wouldn't actually let go of me the entire lesson. He doesn't remember that we used to take long walks, just the two of us, that we ate lunch together every day, just the two of us, that we were one Mommy-M team against the world.

But it's in there, all the same. And I think it must generate a longing that I don't think I'll ever see in K, that subconscious desire to have that time back. So while parents are so busy worrying about whether they'll be there for the second child the way they were with the first, I think they are also forgetting that they exchange that focus for the one they had originally, the one that still lingers somewhere in the back of their first child's mind. And there's nothing I can do to pull it out, nothing I can do to trade in all those times for the ones he now lacks.

We did have a fun morning, despite the pouting and confusion and guilt. We shopped and the kids played with displays and ran through aisles and then we picked up lunch and took it over for a picnic with Daddy. On the way home, I said brightly, trying to put the morning behind us, "Now wasn't that a fun vacation day?"

"Yeah," M said reluctantly. "Now can I go to preschool?"

I'm a little quick on the uptake, obviously, but I will no longer mention vacation. Ever. Unless we're going to Oma and Opa's. Because that trumps everything--even a break from Mommy.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Maybe he missed preschool so much not because of the break from Mommy, but because that's his routine and routines are comforting?

But yeah, never ever mention vacation again. :)

And-- more positive spin here-- instead of having your focused attention, now he gets attention from you, and B, and K! That's a whole extra person! Less time, maybe, less focus, but another person! I may be reaching here.