Will Emmett’s First Words Reveal My Benign Neglect?


No, he’s only 6 months, so he hasn’t spoken yet. But when he does, these will be his first words:

“Sorry, Emmett!!”

“Hold on, Emmett!”

“Almost there, Emmett!!!”

I swear with kid number 2, it feels like a constant race to get to him. But it’s a race with metaphorical boulders to climb and streams to cross. In other words: Fia.

The first kid just seems to take precedence. Not because she is any more important, but her needs are. Or seem to be. After all, she could choke from the crayon she is putting in her mouth, fall off the chair she is trying to climb, or get scratched by Wayne Sanchez whom she is trying to smother (in a nice way). In essence, I’m just trying to keep her alive. With Emmett I’m just trying to keep him happy. Plus, Fia can voice her needs so I instinctually go to her first. I guess this is precisely why they say the second child usually goes with the flow more. They have to by necessity. They learn to wait. And wait. And wait.

I kinda feel badly about this, but then another friend told me about a mom she met who had extraordinary kids. She asked what her secret was. “Benign neglect.” I love everything about that word combination. I want to marry that mom.

To me, benign neglect is gently and kindly letting the kids do their own thing–within reason, of course. Not always having to entertain them or give them center stage. It certainly takes the pressure off (and the guilt I struggle with). For Fia, that means playing on her own so I can tend to Emmett. For Emmett, that means learning to wait if I have to tend to Fia. And the best case scenario is when they are both content without my help. But my attitude can’t be one of frustration or annoyance. It has to come from a gentler place.

In the meantime, I’m going to work on saying, “Mommy” before the “hold on wait!!” part. This way, maybe “Mommy” will be his first word instead of “Sorry-Hold On-Wait”!

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  1. [...] the flow practically since she was born. One of my fave bloggers Jill Cordes recently mentioned the philosophy of ‘benign neglect’… LadyP and I are living proof that it works, minus the mini-meltdown when it was time to get [...]

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    I love this term! And I agree, it’s useful for any kid to realize they are not the center of the universe (firstborns included!). And I think they will not resent it unless they pick up on you feeling guilty about it, they will just understand it as the way the world works. Which is a good life lesson for all of us!

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