The forgotten son

It really hit me while we were on holiday last week just how unequal life is when you’re the younger of two children, especially when you’re an immobile three month old and your brother is a hyperactive, attention-seeking, clingy two year old. (Okay, just ‘toddler’ would have covered that last bit sufficiently, wouldn’t it?)

Sadly, that’s Toby’s lot in life right now. While Zac is haring about all over the place, filling his days with swimming and slides and (I kid you not) Angelina Ballerina stage shows, having the entire day’s schedule planned around his activities and middle-of-the-day sleep, Toby has to be content with being wheeled around from pillar to post, a barely remembered afterthought in the midst of a toddler tornado.

He will never know what it is like to be the sole focus of his parents’ attention. (True, Zac is too young to remember what that’s like as well, but he will still have had it.) And while we will coo in enthusiasm and support as he progresses through his young life’s little milestones, it will never be quite the same as experiencing your first-born’s first roll, first crawl, first step or first word.

From my perspective, our holiday couldn’t have come at a better time in terms of building my relationship with Toby. He stopped breast-feeding in the week before we went, meaning that Heather now doesn’t always have to be around to feed him. Before then, when we needed to divide resources she had to have Toby out of necessity while I got Zac (which in itself was great as it has transformed my relationship with the former mummy’s boy).

Last week, though, the shoe was on the other foot, which was fantastic for me. Liberated from his human milk supply, it meant Toby and I could spend long periods alone together while Heather took Zac swimming, say. (Conversely, it had been three months since she had had some proper one-to-one time with Zac, so it was good for her too.) Before, Daddy/Toby time had been extremely limited; I had always had Heather nearby, or had him on my own for, at most, half an hour at a time. But to be able to spend extended periods playing, feeding and talking, just getting to understand his reactions and his personality a whole lot better, was hugely rewarding.

So now I have a much better idea of his likes and dislikes, and in what ways he is similar to and different from Zac. More importantly, I have a much greater degree of confidence in my ability to look after him. And for Heather the end of breast-feeding, while saddening in many ways, has been like watching the shackles melt away. A social life is now once again a possibility for her. I can see many boys’ days out and nights in the weeks and months to come. I’m not complaining. It now finally feels like I am properly the father of two sons, rather than a father of one and the occasional carer of another.