Fatherhood Adventures

A little green monster has infiltrated my family.

Yes, Beckett, the 20-month-old, continues to hope his little brother Carson, who marks 3 months today, will get out of his house.

At first, Beckett seemed oblivious to Carson, acknowledging him sparingly and occasionally giving him a kiss on the head as he moved from one toy to another. Although he still gives him a kiss on the head most days, there have been a couple situations that make it clear to us he doesn’t think too much of him.

For example, the other morning, he and I were downstairs playing when he heard Pam coming down the steps. As is often the case, he will run to greet her before he sees her, saying some sweet “mamas” along the way. When he finally saw her, I could hear him growl from the other room. Turns out, his mom had the nerve of bringing his younger brother downstairs as well before properly greeting her firstborn.

There are many other examples confirming jealously has taken root, but the thorniest moments come when the kids have a man-up advantage on a parent. This is when things get a little testy, particularly when it’s time to feed Carson. Since our little guy has reflux, he needs careful attention and his feedings need to be slow and deliberate.

Beckett wants no part of this and is obvious with his disdain. He feels scorned. Of course, it’s no coincidence that during Carson’s feeding is when he must have “Cookie’s Week”, “Goodnight Moon” or “Have You Seen My Cat?” read to him immediately and all at once, seemingly.

When it’s explained to him that Carson is hungry and needs to eat, he wants no part of it. He has been known to drop the books immediately (on Carson’s head if you are not quick) and storm off in a fit (a loud one at that).

There are many tricks to implement to keep him pacified at these testy times. Unfortunately, none of them seem to work during the entire feeding. Occasionally, a video, a drink and a snack will combine to keep things peaceful, but before you know it Beckett’s trying to climb in your lap with an empty sippie cup, saying, “all gone, dada.”

Beckett surely carries a grudge when it comes to his brother. Last weekend, I was impressed with how he handled one particular Carson feeding. He still had a major meltdown, of course, but he eventually settled himself and went about stacking his blocks and cups. When I went to thank him for cooperating, he smacked me, once with the right hand followed quickly by a grimy left hand.

There’s nothing like being smacked in the face by your son. This is not one of those cherished parenthood memories. I find it to be one of the more frustrating chapters in this adventure. It’s no coincidence it started when Carson was born and is surely a result of jealously and frustration. It often arises when he’s tired as well.

Nonetheless, while I understand this, it’s difficult to accept at times. The other night was one such example. Beckett’s patience was wearing thin, while I was trimming his toenails in his room after his bath. It eventually got the best of him as he yanked his foot out from my hand and kicked me directly in the rib cage. When I let him know that was unacceptable, he slapped me, again with a strong right-left combination (he always leads with his right). Besides the behavioral issue, the most immediate concern is he’s getting big enough now that it actually hurts when he hits or kicks. It goes without saying being put in pain by your 30-pound toddler is neither enjoyable nor tolerable.

If there is any silver lining in this rebellion phase, it’s that he spreads it around evenly. He’s certainly an equal-opportunity hitter, as my wife and I both are targets, resulting in him becoming one with the time-out rug of late.

Although we are diligent, little progress has come so far and we often have to remind each other as parents it’s just a phase, a continual adjustment to some changes that have come with the new baby.

After that brutal shot to the rib cage the other night after his bath, I was exasperated. I have no problem admitting this rib cage boot followed up by the open-handed, right-left hook had me bothered. Who likes to be hit?

As I proceeded to tell Pam the story, I asked what I thought was the proverbial elephant in the room. “What if he’s just mean?,” I asked. She laughed and assured me he’s not, telling me plenty of other stories of parents she knew who went through this adjustment. “It’s just a phase,” she said.

That’s the beauty of having two parents who are hands on and involved daily with their kids. I often marvel over single-parent situations or those households where the mother or father travels a lot. I honestly do not know how they handle the ups and downs. Parents need breaks and these folks do not get them. I respect them a lot.

As much as kids need their parents to support them, spouses require each other’s help along the way as well. Parenting is not easy, and I am learning every day that having two kids under the age of 2 can be difficult. I couldn’t imagine going about this without my wife and I know she feels the same.

In the meantime, until my little bruiser eases up a little, I just keep telling myself “it’s just a phase” … “it’s just a phase.”

All the while, I remain patient. That’s the only way to cope when in a 10-second spell he gives me a sweet kiss goodnight followed up by a quick slap.

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