Richie has been wanting nobody but me to do anything with or for him. He’s developed it into a bit of an obsession: push the toy car, brush teeth, change nappy, do catheter, feed dinner – it must be Mommy. Last night during the same pre-bed performance Sean and I looked at each other conspiratorially and apologetically and Sean said “It’s gotta be Mommy, huh?” and I said “He’s going through a major Mommy phase” and I turned to Richie and said, “You love your Mommy, hey boy?”
And Richie took me totally seriously and looked me in the eye and said, “Yes. I love you... LOTS much.” I was just thinking that I wouldn’t forget this moment ever (Richie is sparing in his affections) and giving him a huge cuddle and staring deep into his eyes when I hear another little voice from the bed. “Uh... Mommy?”
“Ree....member what we talked about earlier?”
*What we talked about earlier*
Felix had been tearful and morose for a day or two, taking to long spells of “alone time” in his room or escaping into electronic media. I was on the point of getting worried. But also, school had just closed, and it turns out maybe Felix didn’t really know what that meant. Was school over forever? Would he ever go back? Was Grade R finished? Also, I had been sick and proper bedridden and so unavailable for the kids for three days and while Richie would articulate his stress (“Please play with me Mommy”) Felix would be all grown up and understanding and leave me to lie in bed. So I thought it was maybe all those things but it turns out it was a good solid bout of sibling jealousy. Finally Felix told me, through streams of tears, that “You play more with Richie than with me, even Daddy does!”
My heart was very sore for my brave fist born who often takes the back seat during one of Richie’s many demanding spells (and we are just going through one of those). We spoke about how the loudest sometimes get the biggest reaction, and about how I also felt jealous of my brother when I was little, and about how much we loved Felix and spending time with him. (“One day, when Matteo sat on my Mommy’s lap, I also felt jealous. I said, ‘Hey, that’s my Mommy,’” chipped in Richie, astonishing us that he knew the concept of jealousy and also his memory as this incident occurred possibly six months to a year ago.) I suggested we make sure we did five of Felix’s favourite things, just him and me, this Easter weekend. He wasn’t passionate about the idea but agreed. I also encouraged him to speak up when he felt sad or slighted.
Hence his admonition to me now.
“Oh, is my cuddling Richie making you feel a bit jealous?” I asked.
“Yes!” agreed Felix.
And so I cuddled my other son, and my husband and I talked about the was love is not a finite product, but there’s tailor-made love for every member of the family, and how neither of us could cope without either of our two boys. How we loved Felix for Felix and Richie for Richie, “even though you are quite different”. “Oh!” said Felix to some of the information as if it was quite new.
I am so sorry for Felix feeling that way. I can see how it happens. Weirdly enough if anything I am having to try harder to feel all the feelz for Richie at the moment as he is being a bit of an asshole again. Favourite children? I suspect every child worries about it but while I love my two differently, I mean it when I tell Felix I need them both and would be devastated without either of them (and could never choose to have only the one over the other child). So I am not worried that I really am preferring Richie over Felix. I am just sorry he had to think he wasn’t the favourite. “You love Richie more,” he actually said, last night. For the record, I really don’t, Felix. I love you both more than I can measure.