My seven-year-old son, Roan has to be one of the most even-tempered, balanced and good-natured creatures that has ever walked this earth. I’m not bragging, it has nothing to do with me. He was born with a certain ease and happiness, and it has carried him through his life. He is not terribly competitive, and has mused to me that he is really good at sports but doesn’t enjoy them because he doesn’t care if he wins. Moreover, he doesn’t like to see his friends lose. That is a conundrum for a would-be athlete. Once in a while you can see a flame burst up when an injustice is perceived by him, but overall, this kid is pretty zen.
So on Sunday night, as I was lying in his bed singing the same seven songs we always sing at bedtime, I heard a sniffle. Then a bit of a whimper. I stopped singing and asked if he was crying. He at first said no, but then said yes. Obviously I asked him why, and my son had no answer other than saying he just felt sad. I started giving him other words, trying to offer vocabulary to help him describe it to me but nothing fit. Sad. Roan was just sad, and there was no impetus, there was not an event or a person or anything at all that he would or could name to let me in on why. So I gathered him up in my arms, which is a huge feat because Roan is a giant and is not much smaller than me. But I held onto him tight and told him to just go for it and he did. He sobbed for a while then said he felt better and then he fell asleep.
And obviously it was my fault. And obviously I needed an industrial-grade vacuum cleaner to pick up all the pieces of my heart that broke all over the room.
I walked out and needed to hear these things:
- Sometimes we all feel sad, and Roan is human and so sometimes he’s just going to feel sad.
- It is not my fault. Has nothing to do with the time that has been subtracted from him and added to his brother’s lives.
- It’s actually a credit to me that he trusted me with his vulnerable feelings.
I went to Anson and described the scene, to which he said, “Wow. He’s really feeling it – you not being so focused on him. What a big change for him. So much attention goes to Shep and Smitty, and Roan sometimes just sits at the table….alone….”
So Anson’s score for the evening was exactly 0 – 3.
I turned on my “Please stop talking” face and suggested as nicely as I could that we should watch TV and not say any more words to each other. Starting now. Right now. Boo hoo for me.
Monday morning rolled around and Roan had a cough and I said stay home from school, little guy. He lit right up and I told him we were going to relax and watch a lot of TV and just hang out. I spent the day attention-intensive on Roan, and on auto-pilot for the twins. Everyone went to bed feeling happy – except me. I felt a little guilty – I hadn’t coaxed enough smiles or stimulated these babies enough.
In relating this story to a girlfriend of mine she told me the secret of having three children: you will always be letting somebody down. Just try to pass it around. Don’t let the same person down over and over, and you are a successful parent. Who knew?
I suppose that’s the truth. If I’m totally honest here – I have to admit that I do miss the days where I could put all of my energy into Roan, and I could go to bed knowing that I’d done my best and had been a good parent to my child. It wasn’t every night that I felt like that – there were plenty of times where I felt like I’d blown it. But now those times are more frequent and it’s harder to make it up to him – especially when I’m not sure what it is I’m trying to make up for. But as I said in the beginning – I’m fortunate to have a happy child who is actually just built that way. He is perfectly fine, I know. It won’t stop me from trying to do some special things for him though. Like this weekend – we’re going to try to get a babysitter for the twins, and Anson and I will take Roan to a fancy dinner, just the three of us. We will get dressed up and I’ve promised Roan I will wear high-heels which is basically all he wants from me anyway. My son is more than a little disappointed with my resistance to being more fancy.
How about you? Is it true – with more than one kid, we’re destined to be disappointing someone almost all the time? This parenting thing – not as easy as one might think. Help me out. Commiserate. Get a better score than Anson.