July 02, 2015

Q: I don't get to spend as much time playing with my toddler as I did with my first child. She knew the alphabet and colors at his age, and he doesn't. What can I do to feel less guilty?

A: Welcome to the there's-not-enough-of-me-to-go-around club, where every mom and dad is a member. Seriously, we all walk in your shoes and share the same undeserved guilt. For some relief, keep these thoughts in mind. First, experts agree that every kid learns differently, and boys advance more slowly than girls in the verbal department. Your son's inability to sing the ABC song may have nothing to do with how much time you've spent with him. He's certainly not academically behind; he has more than enough time to learn his letters and colors. Next, remember that independent play is a good thing for your son to learn, but there can be too much of a good thing. So if he abandons his trucks and reaches for you, try to forget about the vacuuming and sit on the floor to play with him, even if it's just for a few minutes. Also, when you're hanging out with both kids, try to get your daughter involved with your son. Encourage her to be a big sister and teach him his ABC's or label crayon colors as he scribbles. She'll probably love playing teacher. Finally, make it a priority to spend a little more time alone with your son. Hire a neighborhood teenager to look after your older child for a few weekend hours, or better yet, suggest that your husband spend some time alone with her. And stop worrying! Once your older child is in kindergarten, you'll have even more time to hang out with your toddler. --Julie Mazer

Originally published in American Baby magazine, February 2005. Updated 2009

Answered by American Baby Team