Repairing with Gus
By Andrew Lesniewicz PCC-S
I don’t share much deeply personal material on social media, but feel open to sharing this. When my second son Gus was born this past May, I was happy, excited, a bit overwhelmed, and filled with love. But as the next several months unfolded, I found myself really struggling in a way that is unaccustomed for myself. I had a hard time feeling connected, more easily overwhelmed, and this really old ache inside came into my awareness as life continued. I loved my new guy, but also felt like I had this wall up around my heart, which kept me from being fully present with him.
Confused and overwhelmed, I constantly tried to look at and reflect on what was happening. Mind you, I thought about my situation with my oldest son, Vincent. I was worried about not showing him enough attention as well. Quite the conundrum. I’m sure many parents feel something similar with the advent of second and third children. It felt awful. In essence, not only was I not feeling close with Gus but also now having a barrier with Vincent. My attachment relationship with both boys was being affected. Yet there was still no immediate answer, just a pain and ache inside that also contributed to a sense of failing as a dad. I was letting them both down. As I explored this ache issue, talked with therapist friends, and had more of my own therapy, I became aware that this was something much deeper than just a seemingly surface awareness.
I am the oldest of three. The birth span between my younger brother Kerry and I, mirrors the birth span of time between my own first-born son Vincent and newborn son Gus. In actuality, there is chronologically just a 4 days difference between myself and my brother, and Gus and my oldest Vincent. I had always had this awareness I was excited about my baby brother coming into my life. In fact, prior to therapy it was actually my earliest memory. I remembered him coming home from the hospital, myself seeing him, with the sense that my best friend was here. But as I became increasingly aware, I also had a great deal of sadness and loneliness, which was showing up in my life presently with both my boys. This sadness was experienced, naturally, as a 2-year-old that suddenly doesn’t have all the attention that a first-born child receives. It had been lingering in my system for the last 41 years, lying dormant to me, but now seeping into my parental life. It had been contained by a sense of excitement and love for my brother, of the event of him coming into my life. The reality though, of adjusting to daily life with a new infant, left a well of unmet sadness for both myself as a toddler and my role as a father.
The value of therapy is that it can allow for different endings based on different actions, not taken from a place of emotional pain, negative beliefs, or procedurally somatic posturing. As I worked with validating and accepting this old sadness of my 2-year-old self, I also was able to let this younger part of myself know that he was still important, still a priority in a way he, I, was able to take in and accept.
The Action of Transformation
Then one day, this past December, when it was just Gus and I. I spoke to my then 7-month-old son from my heart- I started with, “Gus, I really need to apologize to you for this wall I have had up with you. I have had my own fear and sadness from when I was little and when my brother was born, that I wasn’t able to meet you in the way you deserve. I know you may not understand me or maybe you do get it, but either way, I ask that you forgive me for the wall I have had up. I am sorry it took so long.” My tears unfurled as I shared this with him. I started to notice in the next few hours, days, and weeks, this wall around my heart was gone. I could feel a love for Gus, coming from the same source that I felt for Vincent all along. Gus seemed to be reaching for me more, and maybe he was before, but I couldn’t see it because of my own barrier. I see his face light up when he sees me and I towards him. I feel him and see him now, not through my own place of hurt, but for the love that he needs and deserves.