This morning at 7, just as I'd been since 4:30, I was lying on the sofa in the den, blanket pulled up to my chin, baby's head lodged in my armpit. At his last feeding, Ben had eaten peaceably enough and dropped into sleep immediately after, but that sleep had been punctuated by lamblike "enhnhnh"s that occurred just frequently enough to jerk me awake every time I'd come close to sleep myself.
And I heard Charlie wake up, and while two months ago I would have gone to his room and greeted him happily, today my only thought was, Damn it. Lately mornings are tough around here. I'm at my unshowered, pre-coffee worst when Charlie is at his most energetic; after these nights of broken sleep I stall as long as I can, trying to summon some good cheer or, failing that, barest civility. So this morning I lay on the sofa and hoped he'd head for our bedroom first, rousing Paul instead of me.
No such freakish luck. I heard him dance down the hall toward the den, enter the room, and stop in front of me. Still hoping for a few more minutes' respite, I played possum. In fact, I played possum-hit-by-a-car. I played whole-nest-of-possums-wiped-out-by-a-goddamn-convoy. But because he's three, he didn't care, and spoke without modulation. And here is what he said:
"Ben's big brother is here!"
It's like that.
Since Ben was born, Charlie has been wonderful, and I say that without qualification. He's been accommodating, tolerant, and touchingly eager to be with Ben. He's been helpful, tirelessly fetching and carrying, old enough to be of real assistance. He's been generous, inviting Ben to lie on his big boy bed: "He can sleep with me because my bed has rails and he won't fall out." He's been concerned, reassuringly telling a squalling Ben, "I'm right here" and stroking his fuzzy head with what passes at three for great gentleness. He's been smitten just like I have, earnestly informing me, "When I get bigger, Ben and I are going to have a wedding." When I ask for clarification — "Are you and Ben going to get married to each other?" — he tells me yes, "because we love each other so much." (I'm going to need your help in wording the invitations, because Emily Post is maddeningly silent about such an unorthodox union.)
I've been grateful and impressed by how well Charlie's handled the disruption. But I may be speaking too soon. The other blinky Stride Rite could still drop anytime. So far he hasn't really been challenged yet. There hasn't been anything he wanted to do, for example, that was impossible because of Ben's limitations; we go everywhere we always did, as Ben is in the highly portable stages of early infanthood when a baby can sleep through a 21-gun salute. (In fact Ben did, at last week's Labor Day parade, though I swear I still hear ringing.) Since Paul and I are usually both on hand, Charlie has continued to get a great deal of one-on-one time with each of us. And Ben's needs for now are quite simple, requiring little real attention, diverting almost none from Charlie. So I know this all could change. But for now he is managing it beautifully; if Charlie's acted out at all, it's been indistinguishable in kind and quantity from the same kind of almost-four bullshit he occasionally pulled out before Ben's birth. (That is, like the mornings, harder to handle than it used to be, but that's my problem, not his.)
We lay the praise on thickly, not only directly, but telling anyone who will listen what a good helper he is, how glad we are to have two amazing boys, how lucky Ben is to have such a fine big brother. Our friends and family have helped, including gifts for Charlie when they give one to Ben, making much of the big kid first before cooing over the baby. I'm pleased to say Charlie deserves it. All absolutely true: He is good. We are glad. They are amazing. Ben is lucky. We all are.