Friday, May 16, 2008

Brotherly Love

Will's arrival was not the easiest development in the life of Andrew Cannon. We endured months of bouts of jealousy, instances of slapping, reversion to baby-like behavior (only really annoying) and clingyness with me. By Christmas, Andrew was pretty used to Will. I wouldn't say that he ignored the baby, because he did talk about him a lot and show concern for him ("Our baby is crying! Help him!"), and sometimes even affection ("He's a funny baby. I love you so much baby Will.") But I think we have turned a corner even still: Andrew now genuinely wants baby Will around.

I realized recently that I have simply expected my two boys to be best friends. If they are not close as they grow up, I know it will be one of the biggest disappointments of my life. I realize that isn't quite fair, but that is how I feel now. Hopefully the boys will sense my desires and, at minimum, feel guilted into closeness.

It should be easy and natural, though. They have so much in common. Will is like a tiny, skinny version of his big brother. I am saving a post on Will's Six Month Milestones to go into more detail, but he really is a mini Andrew (but a little bit of an easier nature insofar as sleeping and eating are concerned). I am hoping that he displays Andrew's AFV sense of humor. Next time I trip in Will's presence, I will have to be sure to gauge his reaction. At around Will's age, Andrew would go from crying to laughing at any of my misfortunes. Almost choking to death in the car (me) really lightened his mood one day and turned the shrieking from being trapped in a car seat into peals of joyful laughter. He couldn't even see me.

Anyway, but I want to relate the secret to getting my older son to love and want to be around my baby son. Andrew loves attention. Most of our life together has consisted of me narrating his activities as he engages in them. Sometimes a little bit tedious for me, but absolutely essential in his world. In the last 6 months, his toys have begun to participate in the narration, or at least talk to him. (Some of my body parts are likewise treated as separate talking entities, and my feet, for example, often have to carry on conversations with his feet, or admire his basketball games.) I realized that the way to Andrew's heart was through his ego. So I let Baby Will in on the dialouge, and Andrew cannot get enough.

Baby Will spends his whole day describing what Andrew is doing and exclaiming over how "awesome" and "amazing" his brother and the activity his brother is engaged in are. Baby Will speaks in a really high-pitched voice. Andrew refers to it as "A tiny, tiny baby voice," and if I leave Baby Will silent too long, Andrew will guide me: "Have Baby Will talk in his tiny, tiny voice and say . . . " and Andrew supplies the necessary praise in a really high pitched annoying voice which I sometimes can't understand. But I know basically what he wants, so I talk about how much Will loves him and how awesome Andrew is.

It has worked wonderfully. Andrew now hugs Baby Will, tries really hard to make Baby Will laugh, kisses him and tickles him. He tells him they will be best friends when he gets bigger, and promises to teach him how to play basketball and racing, again, when he is bigger. Today he promised to show him how to be so awesome . . . when he is bigger.

Inducting Baby Will into Andrew's vast fan club of puppets, cars and stuffed animals, all of whom speak through my voice, has totally changed their relationship. Because Will worships and adores Andrew, Andrew now sends those feelings right back. And the best part is that, while I am the one saying the words, it is obvious that Baby Will's feelings for Andrew are just as I describe. Nothing makes him smile and laugh and start flapping around more than the sight of his big brother (or maybe a balloon).

Hopefully this means that there will be no repeat of the incident of a few days ago. I left the room to get a glass of water and heard the normal sounds of playing. Then I heard Andrew's voice calling out urgently, "I'm sorry, Baby! I'm sorry! You're ok, baby Will! You are!" I rushed back into the room to find that everything was basically as I had left it. Curious, I asked Andrew why he was apologizing. "Because I hit Baby William," Andrew replied, highlighting one of Will's best qualities: he is really not a complainer.

As the years go by and the boys approximate each other in size, or at least in ability to fight back and defend themselves, and as they grow into genuine playmates, I will have to remember how it all began and let Will get a few free punches in.


Audrey said...

I'll have to try that technique. I haven't had the toys talk to O for over a year, but he used to love it. I'll see what he thinks of Will's admiration (coming through my voice). (Oh dear, if I start talking for WIll though, he might never talk!!)

Our new technique with helping O to show love and (not fight) is to ask himself "what would baby Will like?" Often he will stop to ask that question (after I have reminded him) and then follow up with some very kind and thoughtful act.

I fully expect my boys to be best friends too and will be devastated if they aren't!

Michelle said...

what a sweet post about your boys. I love that Andrew said he'll teach Will how to be awesome. That's so cute.

Birrd said...

You are such a wonderful mother!

Allie said...

I love to read the things you right. They inevitably make me laugh, because you describe motherhood so well. I also wish I could guilt my children into becoming best friends. You and your sisters are such great examples of how wonderful it is to have close bonds with siblings. Alicia and I will never forget Jessica's reminders that she couldn't do anything with us, because Missy was only home for "19 more days" and ALL of her time needed to be dedicated to Missy. Alicia and I felt shunned. My boys have a love hate relationship these days, and by that I mean they love to hate each other. I pray that it will pass, but mainly for my own sanity. I didn't think of speaking for the children soon enough. Now it is too late. Last night at dinner I told Andrew that Maddie thought he was great. She almost spit the milk she was drinking so that she could hurry and correct me and tell him that she "would NEVER say or think anything like that." You are genius to start this before they can talk and correct you.

Allie said...

Ooops... As much as I love to read the things you "right", I prefer to read the things you "write."

Tat said...

You are such a creative and attentive mom, Alexandra. Thanks for another peek into your life with your wonderful boys.

Paul & Sarah said...

How funny...I love how the bond between them has grown stronger from your baby narration. It's funny, I was just thinking about this earlier today (in imagining life with two). Benjamin was demanding our full attention over every little antic he did, and I commented to Paul that he'll probably love having a baby around, at least to have a constant audience. Though I will say his vast collection of stuffed animals work pretty well for now when we're busy. I'm looking forward to your six-month-old post!

Lauren said...

That is such a sweet story! When we were little we slept on pillows my mom made saying 'sisters are the best friends.' I constantly say this to my girls.

You have to start early!! Thanks for the reminder.

lynne said...

First, I love that Andrew is wearing a seersucker blazer. So cute!

Second, just to make you feel a little bit better about your mothering, take a moment to feel glad that your older child didn't come home from school proudly bearing a picture he'd laboriously produced during free time, the caption of which read: "Lily is fat". Love is truly spoken in the Millar home.