For many months after my son was born I had this running joke with Ralph, although I don’t think he thought it was funny. “Which kid is your favorite?” I would ask as we drove in the car or watched them sleep. Before he could answer (he never did pick one) I’d say, “Mine is Sophie!” I mean, I loved my new little newborn and all, but he just wasn’t Sophie. He was soft and cuddly and smelled like milk but he had no personality.
I’m not sure when he caught up in my esteem but I really couldn’t choose between the two of them these days. Nels has a charm that is so solidly Nels he couldn’t be emulated in any way. He has a tenacious cheerfulness that manifests itself both in his happy moments (the umpteenth time during the day he fishes some food out of the trash and brings it to me and I scold, “Nels, we don’t eat out of the trash!” and he says, “OK!” and wheels around to put it back) and his sad ones (after literally any disappointment if he’s crying I can say, “Nels, you need to hold it together, OK? Mama will hold you if you want,” and he will belt out, “OK!”, pull his lip in, and regain composure).
Unlike Sophie, Nels seems to have very few experiences of guilt, fear, worry, or conscience. What he has instead is a willingness to “follow the rules” if I’m willing to enforce them. And with my two children I’ve gleaned two basic responses to the threat of Getting Punished – one child, upon being caught in naughtiness, will send up howls of remorse or scurry away, knowing the inevitable disciplinary measure is on it’s way. The other child will as quickly as possible try to get the most mileage out of the seconds he’s got left; one more drink of Mama’s beer, one more stomping on a bug, before his gleeful tour of Naughtiness is brought up short. Yeah. Nels.
I have heard parents of one child debate over having another, absolutely positive they couldn’t love the second as much. That is such a non-issue I could call it bullshit, except the people expressing that fear genuinely believe it. I am pretty sure if I had twelve children in a row my life would have just been filled up each time. The heart moves over to accommodate one more, and before you know it you have another person you feel you couldn’t survive without.
My girlfriend Kelly and her one-year old son are in town visiting for a few days. I am currently postponing my smoking break as she struggles to get him to bed. She is a real champ; that boy doesn’t want to surrender to sleep. Ever. I’ve known some tough nuts to crack in my day, but li’l Hank is a sheer force of wakeful will. I know its hard for her to be on sleep-duty around the clock but she keeps a great attitude. Bless her and all the Mamas like her.