So, as I acknowledged previously in my blog, I simply could never find a way to document all of the important events that I’ve missed documenting in the boys lives. And yet, I’m still very eager to get some of my more important and sentimental memories out of my head and onto a safe place where the boys could see them someday. The memory speaking loudest in my head today,and most days, is the story of when Ben was born, and Jake became a big brother.
Also, as I’ve alluded to in previous blog posts, I was fairly anxious about bringing a second child into a single household. SO, I had been reading all of the books I could find to help Jake and myself transition more smoothly into the next step of our life. I followed all the advices of all of the experts. I spoke with Jake frequently about babies. I taught him that the big bump in my belly was his little brother. I taught that babies are small and fragile, and even though he’ll love his brother someday, when he was born, his little brother would only poop and cry.. (not play…)Jake responded well to these ideas. He would sing lullabies to my belly and speak excitedly about being a “big boy” or a “big brother”. He was even very successful at a game we invented to help him be a big brother; Jake would take a simple shot glass and put toys into it. If the toys fit, he knew they were small enough to be swallowed by his baby brother, and so they were not safe. If they didn’t fit, the baby could see them. Jake would teach this game to babysitters and grandma when they came to visit.
But, as promising as his outlook had seemed, there were some definite clues that Jake was not going to make the transition to big brother seamlessly. Jake was given a doll, just like the experts suggested, to play with. The hope was that he would see me getting ready for my baby, and he would want to emulate that with his doll, putting him in the position to think like a big boy instead of like a baby. If I feed my baby, he would feed his baby. If I changed my baby’s diaper, he would change his baby’s diaper. This however, did not agree with Jake. He had no interest in this doll. He would push it aside, throw it away (literally), drop it down the laundry chute, leave it in the cars… but had not taken any interest in protecting and loving it.
So, being optimistic but cautious, we invited Jake into the labor and delivery room when Ben was bundled up and sound asleep. Ben was an extraordinarily cute baby, and while he was sleeping, it’s hard to imagine there would be a heart that he couldn’t just melt. Apparently, Jake thought otherwise. Jake slowly walked up to the bed and climbed up onto my lap. We showed him the baby, and he just stared at him.
“I DON’T LIKE THAT BABY, MAMA! YOU GIVE HIM BACK!”
Hmmm… not what I had been hoping for. Ryan and I began to reassure Jake that this was his baby and he was a good baby, and the baby even “came with presents” for him. We gave Jake the presents from “his brother” (gma Linda) and waited for a more positive response. Jake just kept saying over and over, “I don’t like this baby. I want a different baby.”
Strangely, Ben had always just adored Jake. Even as a small baby, from his earliest moments of being alert, Ben was interested in his big brother. After a few, long, tough moments of our lives, Jake finally agreed to hold his little brother. Ryan had positioned Jake in his reclining rocking chair. Ben was sleeping soundly as I laid him in Jake’s arms. Jake starred at him. He smelled his hair, and slowly, he started rocking. Jake was just a few moments into holding his brother for the first time when he feel asleep. It was obvious they were very comfortable supporting each other.
Off and on Jake alternated throughout the next year holding his brother, helping him with toys and yelling at him for crying or being alive, for the most part. Slowly, the times Jake was in love with Ben started to outweigh the the times when he was upset. He started becoming protective over Ben. He started to read to him, and he LOVED to make Ben laugh and giggle. And Ben, being the sunshine he has always been, would not disappoint. Ben would crack a smile if Jake so much looked in his direction, rewarding Jake’s efforts and reinforcing the behavior.
These days, it almost seems as though the tides have turned. Jake is an excellent big brother. He is very protective over Ben, sometimes to the point that Ryan and I have to remind him that he is not Ben’s father. He plays games to make Ben happy and he even reads books to him. Ben, though still very much intrigued and inspired by his big brother, is now the child we are trying to teach to share and have empathy. Just with all boys, he’s learning, but these days, as Ben has started forming his own sense of independence, we see more challenges than we have in the past.
Rest assured, these two have become very close brothers. As I wrote this today, I watched as Jake played a monster truck video game, and as Ben independently built a racetrack of legos around Jake. I also watched as Jacob complimented Ben’s building skills and suggested where Ben could find the big monster truck to race on the track, so that he could play just like his big brother, but in his own way. It was such a cute moment, just as many are each day. It has been so fun watching them become brothers…