I think my sweet little three year-old has some of my hyper-sensitivity. I've been told and have come to believe this trait is not a character defect, but can be troublesome. He notices changes and details I think will escape him. While considering pruning the refrigerator of "art" and various commemorative papers, I thought I had best take the items down and save them to make sure one of them wasn't, in fact, a prized possession.
My caution regarding his sensitivity reminded me of a sweet story. My first pet, a goldfish, whom I think was named, Curly, as in Larry, Moe, and Curly, died when I was about 3. I watched the Three Stooges every morning at 6 AM with my dad. We both like the stories and predicaments the Stooges get themselves into, and ignore the slapstick stuff. I don't remember becoming particularly emotionally attached to the goldfish, but, in an act of fatherly love, upon Curly's passing in the night, my dad went to Kmart to replace him, assuming I would not notice the impostor. When I got up the next morning to feed Curly, I remarked he had grown - quite a bit. I think my dad chuckled. I don't remember being sad about Curly's demise, and I was perfectly happy with his successor, probably named Larry or Moe. Even three year-olds can handle some changes without trauma or later need therapy.
I have a hard time seeing Hank get upset. But I know, if I prevent all pain, I will be robbing him of valuable human experiences. Better to go through pain with my support and carry that skill into adulthood. It's such a knee-jerk and unconscious drive to want to immediately take away or prevent any discomfort. But, I should give him credit that he has been stepping back from the ledge of panic sooner and with more ease when something upsets him, little by little.
It's also a balance between validating his wants and emotions with trying to help him put them in perspective and/or simply distracting him away from being upset. When you spill milk for the first time, it IS a big deal. But, on the 50th time, maybe we come to the realization that it's no longer a cry-worthy event.
The other day while schlepping food, drinks, and Charlie into Hank's room to play, Hank suggested we bring Charlie's pacifier "so he didn't cry." Apparently the urge to prevent pain develops early. (Of course, I understand it's also a matter of who gets the attention, but he did seem to have some genuine sympathy for Charlie). I've been trying to remind Hank that when he was a baby and was upset, we tried to comfort him in the same way we comfort Charlie. I hope that will sink in on some level at least for future reference. (And not the memory that when Charlie came along, Hank became less important).
I don't at all feel like there isn't enough love to go around, but I do feel guilty that Hank has less of my attention than he used to. But again, I think that's probably not a bad skill to acquire as a human, and what better time than when he is developing the hard wiring of the way the world works. At some point we all move from being the neediest little person on the planet to becoming more and more self-sufficient and less in need or want of undivided attention. That is, until 80 or 90 years later, when we do need someone's undivided attention, again. Loss is still a ledge I don't even like to look at. I just try to breath and enjoy the moment, rather than to stand on the ledge, looking at it, and worrying about when I will fall off.
Last night I stayed up past both kids going to sleep. When I went up to bed, I had kind of an LSD-whoa that we have two little people who live with us and sleep with us, and all we did to get them was have sex. It's pretty amazing that having sex one time leads to the creation of another human being who will call you mommy or whatever you tell him your name is, probably. I think I'll go by "mum" with the next one. Not really. And I was not taking LSD last night, it just reminded me of the awes some people experience. (Although 99.9% of the time the deep thoughts LSD inspires are totally stupid or totally incomprehensible the next day). Or the idea scribbled on a napkin or toilet paper roll or forearm is illegible and lost for the benefit of humanity. Too bad.