Your sister was thrilling simply because she was a baby. Everything about her was new and (I’ll admit) fascinating because we had no idea what babies did. It wasn’t until later, however, that we could look back and distinguish between what was just something that every baby does and what was unique to her. She was, we could tell looking back, loud and insistent, keenly aware and eager to taste everything around her. In the last three years I’ve been able to trace the patterns and recognize so much of myself in her.
It was different when you were born. When you were born, we started getting to know you from the instant you were born. We could distinguish all the things you did that were just typical baby traits, and could appreciate all the little details that made you unique. We’ve known from the earliest days of your life that you are all sweetness and patience, gentleness and coziness.
I have spent this year fascinated by the novelty of you. You are so unfamiliar to me. You seek out hugs and sit quietly enjoying the action that swirls around you. Your patience and peacefulness amaze me.
I had thought your sister was my mirror image as she reflected back to me all my unrestrained passions and raw character flaws. But I’ve come to see that you are more truly my mirror, the fascinating, unexplicable opposite of everything I am. I cannot explain you or understand you, so I study you. You have taught me to listen to those who do not speak and to watch those who do not seek the spotlight.
Your dad has always cheered for underdogs. This is, I believe, a function of being the little brother. He could sympathize with being the one who was just a little smaller, a little less coordinated. I prefer to cheer for the winner, jumping on bandwagons just in time to start the victory parade. It wasn’t until I fell in love with you that I realized what it is to walk into a world that is already made and have to try and find your place in it. It wasn’t until you were born that I felt the pull of sympathy for the littler one.
I’m overthinking this, of course, but I worry about you being ignored and overlooked. I feel strangely defensive about you. You have a cousin on one side of your family who is only a few weeks older than you and one on the other side who is only a few months younger than you, so I am always sure you are being squeezed out and forgotten. I know, it’s ridiculous and totally made up, but it is probably a good thing for me to feel this new awareness of what it is like to be the little or middle sibling… really anything but the first, oldest, newest. So I relish the way you’re teaching me a new layer of empathy I didn’t even realize I lacked.
Of course, now that I have figured you and your sister out, it is my job to make sure I don’t hold too tightly to my ideas about you, but that I allow you to be your nuanced selves. At a year, you–the quiet one–have learned to make some pretty incredible screeching noises. And you–the patient one–have begun to strain against diaper changes and sitting still in my lap. (While your fierce and independent older sister is learning to listen and to snuggle! Will wonders never cease!) So, keep surprising me. Teach me the lessons I need to learn and the lessons I’m least expecting. Keep reflecting back to me my own personality traits and the traits I least understand. Keep being yourself. I’ll try to keep up.