Bedtime routine was in full swing. Teeth were being brushed and pajamas were being donned. As I matter-of-factly tended to each of my children, I’m sure my face registered that worn out look of a mommy who has been counting down the minutes for the past half hour, anxiously awaiting the quiet calm that descends upon the home when the kids are sleeping.
And then I took a look at Moishy. Two and a half years of pure adorableness, plump with unshed baby fat and long brown curls that will not be cut until his third birthday. He erupted in an impromptu dance–knees slightly bent, arms erratically moving, hips rhythmically turning from side to side.
My face broke. The tension gave way to a smile. First a small giggle, then a full-out belly laugh. This kid just knows how to crack me up.
At first, Gavi, a tall and solidly built 5-year-old, was enjoying his younger brother’s antics along with me. But then he looked at me with pause, and asked seriously, “How come you never laugh at me like that? Sometimes you do. But not as much as for Moishy.”
“Well,” I started, realizing that he was right, “Moishy’s 2. Two-year-olds are cute and funny. When you were 2 we laughed at you a lot, too.”
The answer seemed to suffice, and bedtime proceeded as usual.
But once my children were tucked in, I puttered around the kitchen cleaning up, and the question stayed with me. True, I spend quality time with all of my kids, but right now, no one makes me laugh like Moishy. When Gavi tells me a made-up knock-knock joke that’s only funny because it doesn’t really work, he knows he’s only getting a pity laugh.
The realization stings. He’s craving my laugh. While he certainly gets his share of time, attention, and praise, he wants the feeling of receiving a real laugh from his mommy. It stings because I know that this is not something that can be forced or staged. I can’t fake an authentic laugh, and he wouldn’t be fooled if I tried.
Should I be saddened by the fact that I have different relationships with each child? Sure, my laughter comes more easily for Moishy, but the awe I have towards my first born–the one who made me into a mother–will never be replicated by any other kid. In my eyes, his five years feel like an eternity, and I am constantly filled with pride and amazement that I am the mother of such a big boy. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that way about Moishy.
As I sweep the crumbs from under the chair where they sat eating just hours before, I feel slightly less guilty. Maybe Gavi’s joke-telling skills will improve and he’ll become really funny; maybe not. That’s life. I take comfort in the knowledge that I shower him with positive attention and authentic praise. I interact with him in a way that feels genuine and normal. While he doesn’t always get a real laugh from mommy, at least he has a mommy that’s real.