Dave and I were both excited to get outside with Ben this weekend and watch him push around his wheeled toy. I knew this partly had to do with the fact that we are savoring the firsts of our last child. I also knew it partly had to do with what we went through with Max.
"Do you feel like you're making up for Max's past with Ben?" I asked Dave the other night, as we were talking about how cute Ben had looked.
"I'm enjoying Ben's babyhood in a different way than I did the other kids," Dave said, simply. And it was true for me, too.
When Sabrina was little, we very much appreciated the ease of her development. We were floored by the progress she made—toddling, feeding herself, holding blocks, saying words—that did not require endless sessions with physical, occupational and speech therapists. We were enchanted with her cuteness and her feisty personality; her favorite phrase was "NO TISSES!" ("NO KISSES!") But we were simultaneously immersed in Max's delays and challenges. A dark cloud of worry hung over us, never casting a shadow so heavy that it darkened our days but still, it was always there.
And now, Max and Sabrina are almost as tall as I am (OK, that's not so hard, I'm 5'2). Max is doing well for himself, far better than we ever dreamed. And Dave and I are free to enjoy Ben, our hearts and minds no longer clouded with anxiety.
On occasion, I feel a stab of guilt about this. But then I remind myself that it isn't about Ben being the son we never had. He is his own person, as is Max. We're relishing the first-time parenthood we never had, the one we've grieved for over the years.
The sad bond Dave and I shared has morphed into joint wonder and delight. We exchange smiles when Ben speaks gibberish sentences and zooms around the house. "What did Ben do this morning?" I ask Dave after he does the early shift. "What did Ben do tonight?" Dave asks when he works late. We groan at the gigantic poops and Ben's tendency to hide his shoes in random places and otherwise take comfort in mundane parenting realities.
And so, Dave watched with delight this weekend as Ben flew across the grass with his toy. And I watched Dave watching him. And I felt really happy for us.