What do you do when one child needs you more than the other?
As a mother, it’s hard to accept that we can’t be everything to everyone all of the time, not even our babies.
Children have different needs at different stages and it seems impossible to ration our attention equally.
For years the needs of my oldest child seemed to take priority. It’s not that I deliberately paid more attention to one child more than the other. My heart’s focus just fell where the need was greatest.
Of course, each of my children have received the love and care they both deserve. That goes without saying. I don’t think either child has ever felt left out or forgotten and I don’t think that either child would even be aware that my focus wasn’t on both of them at all times. I am their mom. They are loved and they know it.
But, there’s a spot deep down in our parenting hearts that only has room for one. It’s a spot no one ever talks about. It’s the spot that keeps us awake at night. The spot where mommy worries take over. The spot where you just can’t fit one more child. Not in that moment.
When my youngest was born we were only at the beginning of what would be a long journey down a road of parenting a child with special needs. His older brother’s needs have always seemed to take priority. It sounds horrible, but we do the best we can, right?
My youngest has attended just as many parent/teacher conferences, therapy appointments, and doctor’s visits as I have. He’s been right there in the journey with us from our worst meltdowns to our biggest victories. We are a family. Although I believe there are many positives that my youngest has taken away from understanding all his brother has gone through, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that there have been some negatives too.
It’s hard to admit, but being a parent to a child with a special need means understanding that you can’t give of yourself equally all of the time. I don’t think any parent can.
There are just times when one child needs you more. We meet the needs that need to be met in order of importance. We have to pick.
Crying baby or happy toddler.
Struggling learner or advanced student.
Devastated teenage daughter or budding soccer star.
We live our lives picking one or the other. It’s just the way it goes.
Lately, I’ve been noticing a shift in the needs of my children. The one that used to need me most seems so independent. He’s grown and matured, and it’s a joy to watch. I don’t worry about him like I used to and sometimes I don’t know what to do with that extra space in my brain. Things that used to be so hard simply aren’t anymore.
It’s time to adjust my focus.
It’s time to make room in that sweet spot where the worry of one child is fleeting and another kind of worry is taking root. I see my youngest and I recognize his 8-year-old ways of telling me he needs me more.
He needs help building confidence and security.
He needs help finding direction.
He’s searching for his place in this world and it’s time to help him find it.
Until then, it will be that sweet spot in my heart where there’s only room for one.
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