Our Teddy goes to sleep tonight an eleven year-old and will wake up tomorrow another year older.
I catch my breath when I realize how dangerously close we are to having a teenager under this roof.
But he’ll always be that freckled-faced carrot-topped sweet boy to his mamma. When I look in his face I still see the remnants of that little thumb-sucking toddler that changed our life forever.
He redefined love for us.
He taught us the meaning of true joy.
There have been so many firsts with this amazing kid, and, God willing, we will negotiate many more. But my favorite role that our firstborn has found his way through is that of big brother.
At 14 months, Teddy was our pride and joy. So when we found out we were expecting again, much fear and anxiety mingled with our excitement. I remember feeling a little sad that my attention would soon have to be divided. I distinctly remember wondering, “How can I love another child as much as this precious one?”
As we prepared our little boy for a new sibling, our hearts were being prepared as well. Our boys’ birthdays would be almost exactly two years apart. Life would never be the same.
We read book after book, trying desperately to prepare our young son for the emotional adjustments of a new baby. We moved him into his “big boy” bed early on in my pregnancy, so that he wouldn’t feel the baby had stolen his crib. We increased his “dad time” so he wouldn’t feel slighted so much by the amount of time mom would need to devote to the baby. We showed him ultrasound pictures and read stories about what it means to be a big brother. We even included him in our discussions about names for the baby. His suggestions were always interesting (“How ‘bout…Popsicle?”)
But perhaps one of the best things that happened in preparation did not come from a book or a magazine.
As the baby grew inside of me, I began to have conversations with him (for we did know by that time that we were having another boy). I played music for him and sang him songs.
As our little Teddy observed my interactions with his unborn brother, he began to imitate.
Teddy loved talking to his little brother. He shared many things with “Little Jeffy”.
Often, he would press his little ear up to my rounded belly and listen intently for any noise that would prove that there really was a little brother in there.
I imagined Jeffrey with his ear pressed up against the confines of my womb, listening to Teddy’s voice, just as Teddy listened for him from the outside. Then, my toddler would press his tiny lips against my swollen abdomen–all chubby cheeks and upturned nose–and speak loudly, his voice echoing into my body through walls of flesh and blood, traveling this journey to fall on that tiny ear that was still learning to make sense of sounds that traveled its way.
He told his unborn brother many things, like how to play ball, and cars and trucks, what his favorite foods and cartoons were, and all about his pet dog.
But one of his favorite things to say was simply, “Little Jeffy, come out of mommy’s belly!” He gave this command so assertively, that I often feared his brother would comply, sending me into an early labor.
It wasn’t long before he would change his mind about this, however.
Jeffrey was born after thirteen hours of labor. The moment I held him in my arms, all of my fears about loving him enough immediately disappeared. My friends had told me that this would happen, that our capacity to love increases exponentially with the birth of each child. But this was difficult to understand until I looked at that little face, yet still had an ache inside of me that was the absence of my Teddy.
I needed both of my children with me to feel whole.
Finally, Teddy came to the hospital to meet his little brother. We put him on the middle of the bed and gingerly placed Little Jeffrey beside him. Teddy cringed away from his brother and, taking one look at the wrinkly, squirmy infant said what would be his first face to face words to his little brother: “Little Jeffy, go back in mommy’s belly!”
When we finally made it home and got settled in, I’ll never forget another of Teddy’s lines to his little brother: “Little Jeffy, go back to the hospital!”
We never sent Little Jeffy back to the hospital, and Teddy eventually adjusted to having a little brother. In fact, today my boys are best friends. They do everything together. From day one, his older brother’s voice captivated my youngest son. Remnants of those pre-birth chats, no doubt. As I watch their relationship grow and mature, it gives me great joy to know that the start of their friendship began before Jeffrey even entered this world. I know that they will carry this bond with them throughout their lives.
The birth of an incredible friendship. That is what we celebrate this week, my friends.
Thanks for indulging. God is good.