I sometimes find it hard to balance the demands of two children. When there are more than one of them demanding your attention there are inevitably going to be winners and losers. Before I became a father I had heard of second child syndrome. Whilst the firstborn tends to be showered with praise and attention the second child quietly gets on with life knowing that they will forever be in the shadow of their elder sibling. I was determined that this would not happen to my beautiful daughter Meri. Indeed, this was one of the main reasons that I decided to take a year off work to spend with my family. After seven months I can sadly report that I have failed.
There are numerous reasons for this. The first is very simply that Arun came first. He was on the scene a good two years before Meri arrived and feels that he has prior call on our time and attention. He had a good long while to get used to the fact that he was the only game in town and he knows it. Moreover, as new parents we excitedly did all the things that new parents do – we read the books and really worked hard on spending quality time with Arun and making sure that we did everything we could to support him, develop him and have fun with him. When Meri came along this was old hat and we didn’t make the same effort with her because we were already into a groove.
This situation is exacerbated by the fact that Arun is disabled. So, inevitably, there is more we have to do with him. Feeding him is more difficult and time consuming, he has endless medical appointments and throw in the extra time that we need for occupational and physiotherapy at home and Arun’s schedule dominates our lives. Almost all of the families with disabled children that I know have commented that sadly, inevitably, their other children lose out. However, it goes further than this. It isn’t just time, it is also mental energy and focus. Arun is a complex case with complex needs. Clare and I spend long hours discussing and agreeing what is happening with him, what the root causes are and what we can do about them. We recently estimated that 70% of our conversation is about Arun. Poor Meri barely gets a look in.
Despite all of this Meri is an easy going, happy smiley baby. She adores her Mummy and Daddy and most charmingly of all, she absolutely dotes on her big brother. She plays happily and independently and when she sees an opportunity to hog our attention she takes it hungrily. As Arun goes to nursery I am finding it easier to spend quality time with just Meri and I am loving it and hopefully she is too. We work very hard to make sure that Meri knows that she is loved just as intensely by her parents as her brother is.
I just hope that as she grows us she takes a bit of a Marxist view on life: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”. I will certainly try to the best of my ability, I hope she understands that her needs are far less than her brothers and forgives me for it.