Dear Amy: I need help. I don’t love my firstborn son. I feel nothing with him. When I hold my second son, my newborn, my heart swells with love. It used to be like that with my first, too, but it’s not like that anymore, and I’m not sure why.
My older son is two-and-a-half, and a real handful. That might be why he's into everything constantly.
I feel like all I do is get after him! I hardly have time to sit for a second anymore.
I try to bond with him, I try to play with him, but every time I try he's good for a minute and then starts biting me or slapping me or licking me, and I just feel angry again.
I feel so guilty. I want to love him like I love my other son but for now I just pretend to love them the same. I don't want to hurt his little feelings. What should I do?
-- Sad Mom
Dear Sad: Your life right now is the very definition of overwhelming (parents everywhere are nodding their heads in solidarity). However, you might also be depressed. Post-partum depression affects an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of new moms. The symptoms include having trouble sleeping or concentrating; anger and having trouble bonding. (You have bonded with your baby, but are now detached from your toddler.)
You should see your doctor as soon as possible. Describe in detail how you are feeling.
Also understand that your son's behavior is linked with yours. He is also overwhelmed. He is trapped in his toddler body, but he's regressing; he wants to be a baby again. Offer him a special blankie or stuffed toy to hug for those times when he's feeling needy.
For expert wisdom, I shared your question with Gay Cioffi, a parent-coach (littlefolksbigquestions.com), and former director of the Little Folks School in Washington, D.C. In four decades of teaching young children, she has found ways to love hundreds of toddlers.
She says, "Toddlers will inevitably begin to challenge parents as they try to figure out where their needs begin and end. That's their job, and they frequently do it in ways that are maddening. Add an infant, and a parent who is feeling overwhelmed and disconnected, and the situation is magnified further.
"All children, especially young ones, will mirror the emotion of their caregiver, and thus the cycle continues. Even when we do not feel calm and loving, it is our responsibility to try to send that message -- or get the support we need to get there.
"In addition to professional support, enlisting the help of a family member or even a mother's helper for just an hour a day might help. Self-care is critical in this scenario."
Your son would benefit from attending a toddler group, early Head Start or a preschool class. He should spend some time in an environment where he will be stimulated, learning, and around other adults and children.
Dear Amy: I just received a text picture of an invitation to a baby shower. I found it very tacky. It made me feel unimportant.
Why would somebody text or email when they can use Evite? Is this something new?
-- On the B List
Dear On The B List: Yes, this is something new. I notice several outlets helping people to create invitations suitable for texting. Consider this an Evite.
Technology is constantly enabling people to reach one another in new ways. Sometimes this creates confusion or -- in your case -- hurt feelings.
This does not mean you are on the "B List." It likely means that your host has your phone number but not your email address, and is perhaps sending all of the invitations this way. As always, you should respond politely, considering only the way you feel about the event itself, and not the way the invitation was delivered.
I received a texted photo of a wedding invitation, including a photo of a hand-lettered envelope (addressed to someone else), the week before the wedding. Now that's B List!
Dear Amy: I’d like to echo others' objections to your awful answer to “Wondering Woman,” who wouldn’t tell a man in her neighborhood her exact address. Doing this is incredibly dangerous!
Dear Disappointed: “Wondering Woman” described herself as an “urban pioneer,” who was gentrifying the neighborhood. I saw this query as a bid for connection, from a longtime resident of the neighborhood. But yes, Wondering Wife was right to follow her own instincts, as I said in my answer.