“I will never have enough love to go around.”
That is what I once thought.
In general, I’m a pretty doleful person. I’m fine with that. I look forward to three things: watching my Buffalo Bills play, an undisturbed day of yard work and any kind of project in the garage, such as restoring an old piece of furniture or refinishing an old bicycle. I also enjoy waxing floors.
When my daughter came into my life, I was shocked at the amount of love I had for her. It seemed to come from a deep pocket of my soul I didn’t know existed. I’d loved things before, but not the I-would-do-anything-for-this-person kind of love. That was new.
As years rolled by, though, and sporadic, short-lived romances came and went, I began to wonder if the sincere love I had for my daughter was all I had to offer this world. I don’t like to be bothered when I’m doing my stuff. If I’m in the garage or yard or watching a football game that had anything to do with the Bills, leave me alone unless the house is on fire and no one at 911 is answering. Only Kalista, it seemed, was the recipient of so much of my love that she was allowed to interrupt me. Would there ever be another person more deserving of my attention than football or my yard … perhaps a wife or another child? I’ve had my doubts.
Then there’s this fear that’s kept me awake before: What if I do love someone else and the love I have for Kalista must be divided?
On the surface to a guy who’s never had much use for math, dividing love means there’s less of it to go around for the original recipient(s). One divided by two, for instance, is a half. If I love someone else, I worried, Kalista and another would get half of what I originally felt for Kalista. Dividing my capacity to love by three was unthinkable.
Then came Kalob – my drooling, chubby, bald-headed son who’s always smiling and had his four-month birthday last week. As it’s always been with Kalista, time stops for me when he looks my way and gives a full-faced smile followed by a bashful laugh at the times I least expect it. His whole world revolves around a bottle every four hours, his mother and – I’d like to think – me. My whole world revolves around him. As it was when I first held Kalista, I’m almost shocked I can love something so much. As it was with Kalista, I find myself not thinking about how I’m supposed to parent or what I’m supposed to do or how I can make him happy, but just how great is that particular moment. Time is standing still when I hold him in my arms, but it’s doing it quickly.
Meanwhile, earlier this week I watched Kalista get called up on stage at her school’s end-of-year awards ceremony and receive six noteworthy certificates commemorating strong academic performances in a variety of subjects; her haul was noticeably larger than many other students’. Last week, she was notified she’d been selected for next year’s gifted and talented program. No, she doesn’t do much in terms of extracurricular activities and has won me zero friendships with the “who’s who” of our town, but I’ve only ever heard good things about her demeanor and character and have never received reports of her being unkind to other students. That’s what really matters, as far as I’m concerned.
Consequently, seeing her recognized for these things amid a year of transition and occasional chaos nearly brought me to tears. I realized I hadn’t always been there to help with homework and have wondered if I made the right choice putting the responsibility of keeping track of her own class assignments on her by intentionally NOT being the parent who hen-pecks her teacher every three days wanting to know what’s been assigned, what’s due soon and who she’s getting along with in the classroom. I gave her plenty of rope to hang herself this year, yet she’s not only still alive, she’s actually flourished. I was so proud of her this day.
Part of me, however, still pictured her on the very same stage four years ago dressed up as a cat for her role in the kindergarteners’ skit. Part of me still saw her with mostly baby hair. Part of me still felt for her exactly the way I feel for my new little boy.
Now I realize how it’s possible for a parent to love his or her children EXACTLY the same amount. My parents weren’t lying to me about that when I was a kid. I didn’t lose love for one child when another was born – I duplicated the love I had. I get sad every time I come across an outfit Kalob has outgrown the same way it hurt to hear Kalista say she wants her room re-painted so it isn’t so “babyish.” His crooked smile is as precious to me as her symmetrical grin. I know I’ll always remember his helpless, thankful look of relief at 3 a.m. in the dim light of the living room as he takes those first drinks of his bottle. I know someday he, too, will walk across some stage at school and I’ll get all teary-eyed and choked up revisiting the memories of what’s happening right now, just as I do with Kalista.
It seems my love was not divided with the birth of my second child – it multiplied.