Leaving Out Big Brother: The Dark Side of Parenting


Leaving Out Big Brother The Dark Side of ParentingWhen my oldest son was born, he was my everything. I was in awe of his tiny features, meticulously documenting each milestone that he hit. I felt like we had a near-psychic connection in the way that I could anticipate what he was about to ask for and the way I could comfort him like no daddy or grandma could. I was his everything.

Until his baby brother came along. 

In those months leading up to labor and delivery, I distinctly remember worrying about how the birth of this baby would affect my relationship with my oldest. I remember wondering how I would ever possibly be able to love someone else quite as much or share the same connection that I already had with my sweet two-year-old son. But nobody warned me how quickly that baby would take over my whole heart, pulling the rug out from under the boy who had been my everything for the last two years. No one warned me about how easily agitated I would get with my oldest, who always seemed to loudly reenact violent car crashes with his Hot Wheels in the living room when the baby was sleeping nearby in a pack ‘n play. How I would contort my face and use this horrible whisper-yell to remind him that he was doing the wrong thing for the fifteenth time today. Nobody warned me how quickly my relationship with my son would begin to unravel and daddy would take my place as the new favorite. Time and time again, I passed on building block towers or playing backyard games of toss because “the baby needs me right now” (always whisper-yelled somewhat aggressively while rocking back and forth in my glider chair). I kept reassuring myself that once things “settled down” with the baby, my relationship with my oldest would go right back to normal.

Well, my “baby” isn’t a baby anymore.

He is two-years-old, and my oldest is four. And things have not quite gone back to normal, as my husband reminded me just the other day after catching me sternly reprimanding our oldest for spilling a drink on the floor. I was shocked when he called me out on holding unrealistically high expectations for our oldest — constantly reminding him that he needs to be a “big boy” when sometimes he just needs to be a kid. He complained that I seem to have endless patience for our youngest, who has much more of a wild streak than our oldest ever did. He’s the one we catch hiding underneath the office desk ripping up important documents, scribbling on furniture with a Sharpie, and ripping his hand out of mine to run out into the street full of oncoming traffic. He gets his fair share of reprimands and punishments, for sure, but there is also a healthy measure of grace for his shortcomings because he’s “just a baby.” This line, of course, was my initial defense against my husband’s accusations. Of course I’m going to hold higher expectations for a four-year-old than a two-yea-old!…right?

But the longer I thought about it, the more I saw the truth in his words.

I started to become extra aware of how differently, and sometimes unfairly, I’ve been treating my oldest son. I saw how often I choose to reach down and pick up “the baby” because he’ll cry and scream if I don’t (something I do rarely, if ever, with my four-year-old). I realized that I usually choose to snuggle and nap with my two-year-old and opt to let Daddy take my four-year-old out for a fun afternoon activity. I saw how rarely I choose to praise my oldest for doing the right things, yet often pointing out the things he’s doing wrong.

The longer I sit here and write about it, the more ashamed I become with myself for allowing our relationship to transform into something so ugly. My four-year-old is a really good kid. He is sweet and sensitive, and he always makes sure to stop in the middle of eating his dinner to say, “Thank you for making this, Mommy!” (Something that no one ever taught him to say.) He can entertain himself for hours by working on solitary activities like piecing together difficult puzzles and coloring neatly inside the lines, hobbies that many of his peers have little patience for. He makes wise decisions at preschool, coming home and telling me, “I didn’t play with Preston today because he keeps getting me into trouble and making bad choices.” I get emotional thinking about what a good boy he is, and how he will grow up to be such a kind, decent man.

So what should I do about all of this?

I should tell him. I should tell him more often how proud I am of him. I should acknowledge when he does great things, like sharing selflessly with his little brother. I need to be willing to apologize when I make mistakes. It’s okay to let him know that sometimes mommies mess up too. And I need to be more intentional about spending one-on-one time with him, just like we used to do before baby brother came along. I’m already planning to take him to the Hangin’ with Heroes event hosted by Knoxville Moms Blog (Daddy can stay to nap with baby brother this time). I also plan to have at least one day each month that I set aside for a “date” with my son. I can leave my youngest at daycare for the day or at home with Daddy and take my oldest out to do something fun, just the two of us. We can go to Dollywood and ride the “big boy” rides that baby brother is too small for. We can go to the movies that baby brother is too squirmy to sit through. We can spend time reconnecting and building memories that are for just the two of us.

More than anything, I want my son to realize that he is still my everything. He always will be.


  1. I think you do a great job with both of the boys. Moms are spread very thin, especially if you work outside the home. They know you love them dearly, but Mom guilt is a very real thing. We all have it at some point, but don’t let it get the best of you! 😊💕

  2. Wow! What mature insight. So well written and vulnerable! I am sure this article will greatly help other young moms. You are a great mom, Rachel, and the boys are fortunate to have you!


  3. U did a great job . And i nearly tear when i read your blog . It makes me learn something from u. I have a second one along the way and this always been my concern . Pior to that i always tell my family and friends that one is enough because how could I possibly share an apple with two? As he turns one i think otherwise because i see his loneliness. At times he will just play and baby talk his own (cctv) and it pains me. Well long story short thanks for sharing. I have something to share as well for all mommies and daddies . No matter what always remind ourselves that our family is ONE because an apple is still one no matter u cut into half . Ps: i am a daddy


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