Tuesday, 26 June 2012
The Gift of a Sibling
I watch them playing together, these two boys of mine. They build a city across the living room, each adding pieces here and there, a twisting mass of rails and roads and animals and vehicles. They talk and laugh, oblivious to the rest of the world.
I watch them come to a disagreement. I don't step in, not yet. I wait, and there it is, the boy's calm defusing: "We're starting to fight again. Can we find something else to do together?" Little brother agrees and their play resumes in peace. It doesn't always work out that way, but when it does, it is so very good.
I watch them later. The boy wants some quiet time in his room, so I gently steer a heartbroken little brother away. I know how the boy feels; I often crave that alone time myself. But, tenderhearted boy that he is, he hears his little brother's cries and opens the door, invites him in. They snuggle together on a bed and page through books. It's only quiet for a short time before the giggling and play begins again.
Once upon a time, two pink lines told me my long-desired second child was beginning to form within my womb. I celebrated joyously.
I also doubted.
What was I doing to my firstborn by bringing another child into our home? Would he resent his big-brother role? Suddenly I was tired and sick; how unfair to him that we no longer spent our days as we once did! I was, for the first time, snapping impatiently at my beautiful little boy; would I ever be the same patient mother I once had been?
Little brother arrived and the boy was enthralled. He held his brother, snuggled with him, touched his fingers and peeked under his hat to see his ears. He was soon making his brother smile, then laugh. He cheered his brother on through each new stage.
And still I doubted.
I was too tired, too impatient, too worn out. I spent too long putting the baby to bed while the boy waited patiently on the other side of the door. Our old habits had been replaced with a new life; no longer did we bake together every week or take a walk every day. I no longer tackled the big projects with the energy I once had; instead I accepted them reluctantly, half-heartedly, or pushed them off altogether. There was so much guilt and I worried. Had he lost out when we took away his only-child status?
Two more pink lines later and once again my energy was sapped, my patience lowered. Again long-awaited, again much-celebrated, and again the doubt and guilt.
Only now the doubt and guilt were doubled. Just look at them, playing together, loving each other, hugging and wrestling and laughing and best friends, these two are.
What have I done?
What will a third child mean? How will it change their relationships? How will this little one fit in; is someone always going to be the third wheel, left out, feelings hurt, tears falling?
Will my big boy, so responsible, so willing to do for others, grow to feel that we asked too much of him? More responsibility, less responsibility, I never know what's right. He's so small, this oldest of my babies. So big and so small.
His little brother will become a middle child. I don't know what that means; I was the oldest and only know the good and bad of that role in a family. I don't want my affectionate little boy to feel forgotten, overlooked, invisible is his position as neither oldest nor youngest.
And what will it mean for me? More children than hands, myself spread yet more thin. I don't want to be the impatient mother, the too-tired mother, the no-not-today-maybe-tomorrow mother, lacking both time and energy. I am afraid.
I watch them. I watch and fears begin to fade, because such brotherly love and joy can only be a gift. One more can only be an addition, not a subtraction. Maybe their lives would be different if they were onlies - maybe we'd do more, explore more, travel more, tackle more, I don't know - but this gift of each other is something I could never wish away.
Their excitement over the new baby is infectious. The older one can hardly wait. The younger one pokes and prods my growing belly, asking question after question - is the baby sleeping? eating? pooing? ready to come out now? - and finishing with a hug and kiss before pulling my shirt back down. These two, they have no doubts, no fears. They simply embrace and I have so much to learn from them.
It is late and I open their door, wait for my eyes to adjust to the dark. There they are. Even in sleep, they are touching, always touching, and I know: this is a gift. Always, always, a new sibling is a gift. This new little brother or sister will only add to their joy.
They are all three so very blessed.