Before my second son was born, I experienced a genuine concern that I might not have enough love to lavish on another child. For some reason, I started to think that love was something quantifiable, something finite, that I could potentially run out of. To illustrate this point in a slightly stomach-churning David Cronenberg style, it felt like my shirt was concealing a pulsating, fleshy gauge, clumsily grafted onto my chest, which would show a crimson-coloured liquid at dangerously low levels. I already had a son that I adored and doted on, so I panicked that I would fall short for ‘Number Two’. Where would I find all that extra love?
Of course, those worries evaporated the moment I was handed a tiny newborn bundle that I was terrified of breaking. Very suddenly, the only thing I had to worry about was keeping my son alive and ensuring that his life was filled with happiness. And even before I’d managed to get his first vest inexplicably stuck over his head, before snapping every male press stud of his sleepsuit into the incorrect female sockets, I was filled with so much pure love that I would tear someone’s face off to protect him.
But things are different with a second child. I’m different. With Jasper, my eldest, I practically Milton-wiped every morsel of food as it travelled down his oesophagus. My view of the world was a bit like when Neo sees everything as green code at the end of The Matrix, only instead of code, I saw germs – everywhere.
With Lucas, though, I’ve found myself to be a lot more relaxed. Not because I care any less, but because he’s a force of nature. He’s spirited and determined. Unstoppable. He pads around the house hoovering up every minuscule piece of detritus or dropped item that he comes across, chomping through receipts like a human shredder, eating soot from the fireplace, and even polishing off a couple of flies (dead ones, obviously; he doesn’t pick them off mid-flight like a chameleon). But he still made it through his first year alive!
However, as he literally walks into his second year, his increased mobility has also changed his relationship with his older brother. When he was a supine baby (poo, sleep, poo, sleep, poo…Vanish soak, rinse, repeat) Jasper used to frequently ask if he could stroke Lucas “like a rabbit”. But increasingly, Jasper now views him as less Thumper and more General Woundwort from Watership Down, shouting at the top of his lungs every time he approaches the vast warren of toys – his toys – that he doesn’t want him to touch. His gentle stroking of Lucas’s head has also developed into rapid patting, so it sometimes feels like I’m living with Benny Hill and Jackie Wright.
Of course, poor Lucas has also developed a knack for always playing with the one thing that Jasper wants, at any given moment. “Hey!” he’ll shout, grumpily. “I wanted to play with that *squints eyes* screwed up page of the Parish newsletter with a half-chewed blueberry wafer stuck to the back of it!”
Jasper also went through a phase of overreacting every time Lucas touched him, with reactions that ranged from Vic Reeves’ “I’ve fallen” skit to Ferruh’s over-egged death scene in Karateci Kız. A completely innocent flap of the hand could swiftly be elevated to an incident of assault. “He pushed me!” Jasper would say, accusingly, as my wife and I scrambled to conduct a balanced investigation of the facts that would ultimately exonerate a slightly bewildered Lucas and re-establish the fragile peace.
In fairness to Jasper, he’s still adjusting to an event that’s rocked his entire world. But he seems to be doing so by occasionally re-living some of his greatest hits from when he was a baby. When Lucas cracked walking at 11 months – to obvious fanfare – Jasper created a role-playing game where he played the part of a baby who’d just learned to walk, and I had to be the daddy who was thrilled by it all. Similarly, following a recent conversation about potty training, he insisted on recreating the moment he pooed in a potty for the first time (acting, not shitting). It broke my heart a little.
After all, I could show him the actual video of his first steps, walking determinedly from the sofa to the bookshelf, where I was waiting to envelop him in a congratulatory cuddle. I could also show him a photo of him sitting on the potty, wearing a t-shirt with “I DO MY OWN STUNTS!” emblazoned across the back. But he’s achieved all of that now. He’s defeated those end of level bosses and progressed to the next stage of childhood, where there’s plenty more for us to be proud of.
Meanwhile, Lucas – adjusting to life in general – marches around the house like he owns the place. Not remotely interested in toys, he’s never happier than when he’s rifling through my wife’s handbag like a nifty-fingered bag thief, or gesturing impatiently at the pantry because he knows that’s where the snacks are kept, or walking into rooms holding aloft items of dirty underwear from the laundry basket as if he’s about to perform some off-colour semaphore. But he does it all with the cheekiest little smile.
I hope Jasper and Lucas will be friends. Every now and then, I spot a fleeting exchange of glances between them – a camaraderie – which gives me hope. And listening to their giggles the other night when we were playing Jasper’s snowman game (he played a ‘real life’ snowman and I had to be surprised that it was following me around the kitchen) filled my heart with so much joy, I could happily spend the rest of my days listening to nothing but that sound.
My lovely boys.