People often talk about second children receiving less attention than first children, but in my family our first child is more neglected than our second. Our first child, a fluffy 30-pound Sheltie mix, arrived in our home five years ago. She became our precious pup and was treated like canine royalty. We bought her premium bones, organic treats, and chewable toothbrushes. We took her to the dog park several times a week. She went on doggie playdates and attended doggy Easter egg hunts. (I’m fully aware of how crazy that last one sounds.)
Our spoiled pooch slept in our bed, lay with us on the couch, and received endless belly rubs. But then life changed. A whopping 10-pound baby boy entered our lives, and our first child was bumped off her throne. Now the treats are limited, dog park trips are rare, and belly rubs have decreased. Our family dog went from the center of our world to the periphery. It’s not that we love her any less; she will always be our first baby.
I feel guilty for the lack of attention we give her, but I don’t know of anything we can do to make amends for the radical changes. All I know to do is to apologize. So, here are a few regrets I should express to her after the birth of her brother. I hope she will forgive me.
1. For starters, I’m sorry. I know you didn’t see this coming. You probably thought you would always be the center of our attention. Maybe I should have showed you Lady and the Tramp. This is a natural change in the life of a family. Regardless, you will always be our first child, even though we just can’t afford to buy you fancy dog bones from the boutique dog shop anymore. I hope you will understand.
2. I know you have been neglected the last two and a half years. Your ball tosses and walks around the neighborhood have decreased. You get fewer toys. Oh, and I’m deeply ashamed of the time we forgot to let you outside for 12 hours, and you got a bladder infection. I feel terrible about that. To be fair, your brother was a month old, and I was so sleep-deprived I couldn’t remember my name, much less your bathroom schedule. I know there are no excuses. Sorry.
3. I appreciate you practicing non-violent resistance in the face of your brother’s aggression. I know this takes the patience of a saint, and you have proven you are a flexible pup. In the face of hostile hair-pulling and eye-gouging (and don’t worry buddy, we’re working on putting an end to this), you don’t even growl. Intuitively, you seem to understand this smelly ball of flesh is your sibling and important to us. This is pretty amazing. Much gratitude.
4. Thanks for the cute photo-ops with the the baby. They are appreciated, and your cooperation does not go unrecognized. Resting your head on our son’s back was a nice touch. I know many of the shots were demeaning, so thanks for being a good sport. Your participation goes a long way toward good family morale. If I can remember, I will get you a juicy bone next time I’m out, but let’s be honest: I will probably forget. I can barely remember to restock the diaper bag with wipes before I leave the house.
5. Most importantly, thanks for welcoming your brother (my son) into the family and making him feel welcome. You didn’t have to do that. Actually, you probably did. Living with a toddler is still better than the Humane Society. Here is the best I can do: I promise you shelter, food, and (inconsistent) belly rubs.