Hiding From the World
I made it pretty clear last week that I am not a news junkie, despite the fact that I have two degrees in journalism. I would have to be in an actual coma, though, I think, to have escaped the ugliness of the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict and the absolute gut-churning horror of the Ahlittia North abduction and murder. I read the news stories; and I read the opinion pieces; and then, because I am an idiot, I stuck my head tentatively into the comments sections – and then promptly withdrew it, not surprised enough to be appalled but sensitive enough to be disturbed. Jeez. I don’t want to think that there are people who have nothing better to do with their time than be professional Internet trolls, but I find that idea slightly more comforting than the idea that there are people who actually believe this shit. The verdict was what it was, but some of the reactions to it have been beyond disgusting. And the murder of a 6-year-old girl is just so painfully senseless, especially as I watch my own bubbly 6-year-old wiggle her teeth and wobble away on her bike. By the time Wednesday morning rolled around, I just wanted to climb into bed with my daughters, pull the covers over our heads, and look at YouTube videos of baby animals for the rest of our lives. (Those twin baby pandas? Ahhhh, adorable fuzzy pink jellybeans!!!)
But that, apparently, is not a strategy for long-term success, and I had to actually leave my house to ensure that I could do things like pay my $300 electric bill. I was still pretty determined to just try to ignore current affairs, though, because the current affairs of this week have really sucked and kind of made me hate being a human. So when I found myself waiting for a meeting and the only thing to read on the lobby coffee table was a September 2011 Time magazine, I was delighted.
The cover story was actually interesting to me, too, because even if I had read it back then (and I am pretty sure I didn’t), I wouldn’t have paid any attention because it was about whether parents always have a favorite child. And at the time the article was written, I still thought I was waking up queasy every morning because I had a lingering virus that Ruby had brought home from pre-K and that Ruby was going to be my one-and-onliest favorite perfect child forever and ever. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t a virus; it was the first sign of Georgia Ruth making her presence known, and she is now my other favorite perfect child.) So this time around, nearly two years later, I was very interested in the subject matter.
When I was about 20 weeks pregnant with Georgia and starting to believe that I really was going to take home a baby in May 2012, I became plagued with doubts about whether I would ever love Georgia as much as I loved Ruby. I made up ridiculous Sophie’s Choice scenarios and then cried out of guilt because I picked Ruby over her still-gestating sister every time. I cried about the sacrifices Ruby would have to make. I cried about the possibility of having less time with her. I cried about pretty much everything.
And then Georgia was born – and of course, as every parent of more than one child knows, I fell tremendously in love with her. And pretty soon, I was feeling achingly guilty over how much more I loved Baby Georgia than I had loved Baby Ruby, a colicky, intense, angry little thing who suffered from severe reflux and needed to be held upright in someone’s arms round the clock. As the intensity of the postpartum hormones waned, I realized that I didn’t love Baby Georgia more than I had loved Baby Ruby; I simply enjoyed her more. That somehow made it seem more fair: I hated Ruby’s infancy precisely because I loved her so fiercely that I felt her pain on a visceral, maternal level and wanted so badly to take it away. I remember so clearly those days when Ruby would wake up hungry from a nap and I would have to give her her Prevacid dose (it has to be given 30 minutes before a feeding, and it is startling how much this is all coming back to me) and then rock her, bounce her, distract her somehow until I could let her eat. Those 30 minutes were an eternity. And if I gave in and fed her too soon? Then she cried in pain. So often, I just gave up and cried with her. That was love. It wasn’t fun, but love isn’t always fun. Georgia, though, had no such issues. She enjoyed eating. She enjoyed sleeping. She was just fine with being set down in her bassinet or wheeled around in her stroller, and she specialized in making fantastic little cooing noises. So yeah, obviously Georgia was my favorite baby, but that certainly doesn’t mean she is my favorite kid.
Maybe it’s easier for me to discount that Time magazine article because there is such a big age gap between my girls, but I set the magazine down as I walked into my meeting and thought, “Well, that was bullshit.” As I tell Ruby whenever she asks, which is pretty infrequently, Georgia is my favorite 1-year-old and Ruby is my favorite 6-year-old. And I mean it. It isn’t some kind of white lie meant to spare her feelings – I genuinely do not love one more, and I find the idea that I possibly could kind of weird. I love Ruby’s feisty nature, her fearlessness, her friendliness. I am frustrated by her stubbornness, her defiance, her messy room. I love Georgia’s mellow personality, her gentleness, the way she clings to me and pats my back when I pick her up. I am frustrated by her 5 a.m. wakings, her obsession with my cell phone and the remote control, and her willingness to put absolutely anything she finds on the floor into her mouth. Both of them make me laugh. Both of them have terrible taste in television. Both of them are beautiful. And both of them enrich my life in ways I never could have imagined. But a favorite? No way. That’s like asking me to pick between Hershey’s Kisses or sour Jolly Ranchers: utterly impossible because they are both incredible and perfect and not remotely the same.
Ultimately, the dated article was useful to me only because it was meaningless and provided a brief distraction for me from the ugliness of the world. What it did not do was make me forget how very much I love my kids and how very much it would hurt if they were taken away from me in any way, but particularly in a violent way.
There really isn’t any escaping the real world, I guess, and the fear that comes along with loving anyone that much. But I am still going to spend the weekend Googling puppies – and giving a few extra kisses to both of my favorite daughters.