What I’ve learned about brothers

Alex and Charlie holiday photo

In just a couple of weeks, my littlest monkey will be turning 1. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I started sobbing looking at the totally unexpected pink lines on the pregnancy test (those were panic tears). At the time we had a handful of a 14-month-old and had discussed waiting at least another year before trying to have a baby so we could spread out daycare costs a bit. So much for that.

At first, I was a little concerned about introducing another tiny person to the family. As Alex’s preferred parent (daddy is second-fiddle at our house), we have a close relationship. I knew I wouldn’t be as available to him, and I had a hard time visualizing how an extra person was going to fit into what felt like a pretty perfect family of 3. It seemed hard, and a lot of work, and maybe even a lot of misery for Alex. I felt pretty guilty about that last part, even though I am pro-sibling as a general rule. I expressed my concerns to my BFF since middle school, who said she felt the same way when they had their second, but it all worked out great and seeing the affection her kids had for each other was beautiful to watch. She’s usually right about these things, so I assuaged the guilt by buying Alex condolence vanilla bean Frappuchinos.

Mommy and Charlie

When Charlie arrived, I fell in love with the little peanut. I called him my kitten piglet — he was pretty small, and his crying sounded like little kitten mews. Even the nurses commented on it. We brought him home just a couple of days later, and so began a pretty amazing year of sibling affection. Maybe it was because Alex was barely about to turn 2, but we didn’t experience any of the jealousy and regression you worry about when bringing home a new baby. He was sweet to his baby brother (when he wasn’t ignoring him all together — there were toys to be played with and Thomas the Tank Engine to watch, after all), and I could tell Charlie enjoyed interacting with his big brother.

When Charlie got to the magical 6 month stage, when you can park your kid sitting up somewhere, I couldn’t help but notice that Charlie watched Alex. A lot. He was interested in everything he did, and found what he was doing to be pretty funny. Curiously, he especially found Alex tackling him to be funny, which made said tackling difficult to police. I remember constantly thinking “wait, you’re WAY to little for parallel play,” but that’s what the two of them were doing. I don’t remember Alex ever “playing” with other kids, but Charlie pretty quickly became Alex’s baby sidekick. 

Today there are lots of games of “chase” (or Alex’s modified version which involves lapping crawling Charlie several times over). Lately we’ve been dealing with Alex climbing in the crib and sleeping with Charlie. And Charlie continues to think Alex is the BEST THING EVER. There is no doubt in my mind that Alex enjoys the encouragement and attention from his brother. 

Okay, so it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

Okay, so it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

The biggest lesson for me in all of this is that love grows. What I thought was a heart already brimming with love for Alex was actually only the tip of the iceberg. There was more room than I imagined. Not just in me, but I saw it happen in Alex’s small toddler-centered world — a space grew for Charlie, and with it came lots of hugs and kisses and concern for his well being, something I absolutely would not have expected to see from a two-year-old. Empathy? Worry? Those are pretty big concepts for a little kid, but they were there all the same because he allowed love to grow. I’m truly humbled by watching that process happen over the last year. It was a good and necessary reminder for me. In this imperfect world, sometimes it feels easier to harden my heart and stifle growth, but I bet I’ll miss a lot of beautiful moments that way.

And with that, a few words for my sons as they approach their first and third birthdays:

Charlie pic

Charlie: Knowing you are likely my last baby, I have savored so many moments of this last year, and sniffed your head countless times. Apologies in advance because I will continue to cuddle and sniff you. I love your serious and playful sides, and I can’t wait to see your personality shine over the next year.

Alex pic

Alex: Charlie is super lucky to have you as a brother. I can’t even begin to imagine the fun you two will have.  I am so, so proud of you for being kind to your brother, but for the love of Pete, would you please stop climbing in the crib. I’m afraid you’re going to step on your brother’s head. 

 

 

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