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day 57: big brother is watching

March 30, 2011

I don’t know about you guys, but I love to watch my kids interact with each other.  While their “interactions” include relentless teasing (“you’re a GIRL!” is a favorite insult these days — thanks, guys) and impressive bids for couch dominance during movie nights, they also include expressions of genuine affection.  I love to eavesdrop on my boys being kind to one another, like recently when the older patted the younger on the head, saying, “I love you, little brother,” when he thought no one else was listening.

Sibling relationships are complicated and sweet.  They shape us in ways my children don’t yet understand, but I look forward to the day they will.

I was lucky enough, on Day 57, to have dinner with my dear friend Ashton who was in town for work.  Ashton and I met ten years ago and became fast friends, working at a child abuse prevention center in Raleigh.  We’ve remained close in spite of her move to another city, and I welcome any opportunity to share a phone call or a visit with her.  She is due to deliver her second baby, a girl, this summer, and she’s been suffering through my name suggestions for months (what do you think of Georgia?  Quinn?  Claire?  I’ve got more…).

Among many other things, Ashton is a planner — detailed and meticulous by nature, she likes to thoroughly evaluate a subject before diving into it (when she and I took a personality quiz at some staff retreat years ago, her personality type was “Analytical”…  mine, in case you are wondering, was “Amiable”).

I thought about Ashton’s meticulous nature, her quirky sense of humor, and her loving dedication to mothering when I chose her gifts on Day 57.

When I was expecting my second child, a good friend took seriously my concern about the impact our new addition would have on my two and a half year old and gave me this book.  Written by Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You are Expecting, it claims to be appropriate for children aged two to five years old.

Five year old? Maybe. Two year old? Not mine.

Um, not my two year-old.

While reviews praise its use of “anatomically correct language” and its “clear, sensitive” responses to such questions as “Where is the baby?” and “How did the baby get in there?”, I was unable to read even one page to my child without dissolving into giggles. 

As it turns out, I have the maturity of a twelve year old.

You should know, though, that this book uses an illustration of a child climbing through a play tunnel to illustrate childbirth.  It also recommends that older children wrap themselves tightly in a blanket to imagine what it must feel like to be in Mommy’s uterus.  I know I should grow up already, but I think it’s really pretty funny.

Even better, I knew Ashton would laugh harder at the play tunnel illustration than I did.

Because I also wanted to give her an actual resource, I gave Ashton our copy of Joanna Cole’s I’m a Big Brother, a sweet account of new-siblinghood which is laughable only because the parents in it share the same Bob Ross-esque hairstyle.

I have powerful memories of sitting on my son’s bed, hugely pregnant with his baby brother, and reading Cole’s book to him.  I remember him pointing at the stroller, at the trees illustrated on its pages, and wondering if he had any idea what he was in for in the coming weeks.

He didn’t, of course — none of us did — but in the two years since, my boys have further convinced me that a sibling is an incredible gift to give a child.  I remember my sister saying that very thing when, in the final months of my second pregnancy, I shared my worry about the new baby’s impact on my oldest.  She understood, then and now, that no one else in the world will ever know us like our siblings know us.  The fleeting resentment, the early days spent begging to send the new baby back to the hospital, are so quickly won over by that inextricable sibling link.  My boys needle and poke and hit each other, but they also bless each other beyond measure.

As will Ashton’s new baby bless her family.  With her mother’s contemplative nature, her father’s smile, and a big-hearted brother watching over her, how could she not?

Today, I hope you call your sister or write your brother.  Remind them of the time they threw your doll down the stairs to see which step it landed on, or the time they stood up for you when no one else would.

Thank you, as always, for showing up.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbara Culbertson permalink
    April 1, 2011 7:59 pm

    You and Steve are such good parents.

    l’ve learned so much from you.

    • April 3, 2011 7:45 am

      I could say the exact same thing about you, Barbara… in fact, I will. We are so grateful for you!

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