i didn’t realize he’d suddenly seem so HUGE.

i didn’t realize how ambivalent i’d feel about that, about his seemingly shocking catapult leap from my baby to this…boy. this boy, this big, solid, willful boy with a sweet streak who’s coping with the arrival of his sibling relatively gracefully, really, but also bringing out the big guns of no and i can’t hear you mama and i’m not going to sleep past 5:45 am nyah nyah nyah thank you very much, ma’am so that my exhausted brain sometimes clamps down on him more sharply than it ought, labelling new behaviors manipulative where really, i can see how they make sense, how they’re a reasonable use of the tools in his arsenal given the upheaval around this place in the last two weeks.

i just didn’t know that, looming over the frail stick limbs of his newborn sister, my boy could seem foreign, could trigger my mama bear protective response against him. ouch. he was here first, says my heart. she’s so breakable, it counters in the same breath, a house divided.

and still he trots over in the morning cooing “my baby!” and even if the proffered kiss is not for me and this decentering has us both a little shaken my heart warms to see him take it all in stride as best he can, facing the world with his chin out like he does, my sunny kid with the hands like meathooks. i marvel at how those paws got so big without me even noticing, each day an increment until the whole escaped me and i wonder if he isn’t secretly sixteen already and i’ve just failed to keep up?

then i stand back and look and am shocked to realize, he’s still little too.

both of us are wandering a strange and tilting path these days, negotiating a family structure in which our roles have shifted, been altered forever. and a part of me longs for space alone with him, not my firstborn but still my first in so many ways, my little boy, my O, my Other. something about the change leaves me with a nagging feeling of anxiety, like in this new completeness and contentment i’d overlooked or undersold the whole that was Oscar and i, bargained it off permanently, irrevocably. in a sense, maybe i have. but then i remember that he has always shared that space of the whole with shadow siblings, his elder brother gone but so present in Oscar’s early days, this always-wanted second – third – child hoped for from the beginning. my guilty heart breathes a sigh of relief, and reads from the Second-Time-Around Parents’ Handbook, Standard Version…what Oscar is to me has not been changed by Josephine…only the lens through which i can focus on him, see him. and it will take time for that to feel balanced again. repeat. catch self. blink back tears at sight of elder child running across lawn like young gazelle, pointing out how fleeting all this is.

we have time, it seems. it seems they will keep growing, these miraculous creatures, the two of them.
Oscar and Posey and mama

i never really had a brother, though. i have two half-brothers, both younger, one so much so that i was his babysitter and doted on him when they visited in summertimes…but distance made them more like cousins than siblings. i remember some twinges of jealousy when the younger was born…but they were the jealousy of a child who does not have a father feeling replaced by a sibling who will. i do not think i know what it is to be Oscar right now. nor do i have any real expectations of his relationship with Posey. all my female friends growing up – almost without exception – were eldest daughters. all my significant long-term relationships with men – which, admittedly, can be counted on one hand – have been with onlies or with the babies of the family. so i’ve got no model from which to imagine a relationship between a brother and sister, especially one where there’s only a couple of years between the two. and i wonder…is this like having a cat and a dog, or two birds of a feather? will they play together? like each other? drive each other crazy? be there for each other when Dave & i (knock wood) grow old?

i know only the two of them, as individuals, will work out the answers. and yet brothers are such foreign country for me that i cannot imagine anything beyond today, beyond the curly blond head bending to kiss the tiny dark one, and the endless refrain of “is she big enough yet, mama?”

tell me. tell me of brothers and sisters.