I have a brother, two years younger than me, with whom I am extremely close. We’ve gone through stretches of being less close in our lives, as I imagine most siblings do. But what always mattered most is the things we lived through together, the shared experiences. We are each others’ links to a treasure trove of past memories. He remembers things that I’ve forgotten and vice versa that would otherwise just be gone forever. And what we don’t exactly remember, we can usually patch together.
But it’s more than that. He knows more about me than probably even my wife, because he understands what made me the way I am. He was there to see most of it, for better or worse. The nightly inquiry of ‘Psst, are you asleep?’ across the darkness almost always turned into a lengthy discussion about everything and nothing under glow-in-the-dark stars and planets.
Somehow, our parents made sure that even when we traded insults, bickered or just plain slugged it out, that there was still a mutual respect for one another that superseded all. But is this something they taught us, or did it just happen?
I obviously want this for Bub, but how do you instill that sense of importance in a two-year-old? It’s kind of a big deal, right? Bub, meet Peanut, you’ll be spending the next 16 years or so with her, several of those in the same bedroom. And then for the rest of your lives, she will be your best connection to the past, your partner in critiquing our parenting and probably the only person that will unconditionally have your back. No pressure, though!
So we did the whole ‘Here’s a present from your new little sister’ when she came home. He seemed to intuit rather quickly that Peanut was just going to be around for awhile, and seemed okay with it. Now I don’t know much about parenting, but it seems to me that kids like tasks. It gives them a sense of direction and self-worth; they feel included.
So we started asking Bub to retrieve Peanut’s fikey and blanket in times of need. Then during tummy time, he got into shaking something to try and get her to lift her head. He at least says goodnight, sometimes gives her a kiss on the head before bed, and knows he can rock her swing, as long as he does so gently.
Then the other night, my wife was feeding Peanut on the couch when Bub’s bedtime rolled around. I brought him in to say goodnight.
“Goodnight, Mommy!” he said. You want to tell Mommy you love her? We are sooooo not above leading questions around here.
“I wuv you, Mommy,” he said. Thanks, Bub. You want to say goodnight to Peanut?
“Goodnight, Peanut!” he said. Thank you, let’s go to bed.
“I wuv you, Peanut,” he said.
Okay, maybe it was reflex. Maybe it was past his bedtime. Maybe he’d been hitting the milk bottle a little too hard, but it was unsolicited. And yes, of course, he doesn’t know what he’s saying, the complexities and subtle intricacies of love. But man, it was really cute. He’s at least headed in the right direction. Just wait till she starts stealing his toys.