Happy birthday son, am I failing you as a dad?

Last week my son, Jonas, turned two. If you follow my Facebook posts, you’ll see a lot of them focus on my daughter, while Jonas doesn’t get as many mentions.

The biggest reason for that is the fact that at four-years-old (or four-and-a-half, as she’ll inform you), she’s much more verbal. She’s an endless font of awesome quotes, so she seems like kind of an only child in the online representation.

Jonas’ birth was very different for my wife and I. Ava’s involved more than 24 hours of labor, while Jonas was out about 45 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. It would be foolish to call it an easy labor, but compared to Ava’s marathon, it was a short sprint.

When my beautiful boy came out, his umbilical cord was touching his neck. Not wrapped around it, but it seems just touching the neck is enough for doctors to suggest a child be taken to NICU for some oxygen as a precaution.

When Ava was born, Berkleigh got to hold her immediately. I wanted the same for Jonas, but instead I had to accompany him to another floor, where I could just hold his hand while he was on oxygen. He was fine, though it was a little scary. And I felt guilty that he wasn’t in his mother’s arms, nursing already.

He got there eventually, but it still haunts me that for the first 45 minutes or so of his life, he just got his dad holding his hand instead of a mother enveloping him with love.

If you have more than one child, you’ve probably noticed that the way you raise the second kid probably differs from the first. There’s a learning curve with parenting, and the “I’m going to smother this kid with love” of the first kid can transition into “How about another episode of ‘Sesame Street?'” for the second.

When your oldest child bumps their head for the first time, you fret about if you should go to the doctor, and did you just cost them a chance at an ivy league education. Kid two dives off the couch and you think “He’ll be fine.”

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We also have so many more photos of Ava than Jonas. Everything Ava did for the first year of her life was documented like she was a world leader. I’m sure part of the reason Jonas didn’t get as much paparazzi treatment was because we realized we didn’t need evidence that he once consumed an apple, but we probably also just got a little lazier.

When Ava was a baby, I would get up early with her, bring her downstairs and read to her for hours. She would imitate the animal noises I made and follow my instructions on how to make toys work. When she fell asleep every other hour or so, as babies do, I would play a video game or surf the web on my iPad. When she woke up, I would go back to lavishing attention on her.

When Jonas was born, things didn’t work quite the same way. I would go downstairs with the kids, turn on the TV for Ava and then look at my phone while holding Jonas. He’s not as verbal as Ava was, and I worry that it’s because I didn’t read enough to him when he was young. I’m sure he’s picked up more secondhand screen time through me and Ava than Ava had been exposed to at his age.

He loves to read, but I still worry that I didn’t give him enough book time compared to Ava. Ava was playing with creative toys from an early age, and they’re still around, but for some reason it felt easier to just say “Here’s a car, vrooom vrooom!” with Jonas.

As much you may want to think little boys and girls are the same, you start to notice the changes ever day. Ava was talking earlier, but Jonas was crawling earlier and walking earlier. He can be a tiny force of destruction (and the occasional smacks across mom and dad’s faces), despite the fact that there don’t seem to be any major environmental differences between their upbringings.

I think of my grandfather, often stern and quiet. I think of my dad, kind, but quiet and sometimes distant. I love them both, but I know they passed on their quiet gene to me. I worry that there might be a gap starting to form already.

It’s all probably foolish, but I worry that I wasn’t the kind of love he needed in the first moments of his life. I worry that I don’t pay him enough attention compared to what I gave Ava. I worry that he might be too ignored while Ava dominates a room. Our doctor has told us he doesn’t need to be as verbal, since Ava acts as his translator. That’s probably true to an extent, but it’s also not a good excuse. Also, sometimes I suspect her translations are just to benefit her. “Jonas wants to watch ‘Jake & The Neverland Pirates.'” Sure he does.

But they both seem to have inherited my love of Batman and Superman, so there are small victories.

Jonas, I’m sorry that you haven’t gotten as many social media posts as Ava. You’ve been having a vocabulary explosion over the last few weeks, so maybe it’s on its way. But I wanted to put this so that in 30 years you can visit this blog on whatever mental implant people are using to surf the internet and see that you’re always on my mind. I love you, and keep fighting the good fight with the anti-robot resistance. They need you, kiddo. Smash those robots good.

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