My boys are 20 months apart. Though it sounds crazy to some, I always wanted to have my kids close together so they would develop a bond early on and always be there for each other. I envisioned them playing happily together, giving endless kisses and hugs to each other, and sharing laughs from the moment they met. I figured they’d be instant and lifelong best friends.
I was wrong about the whole “instant” thing.
My older son just turned 2, and my baby is 4 months old. After observing their relationship’s development in real-time, almost every minute of every day, I’ve witnessed quite the evolution in their love — from one extreme to the other in four short months.
When my then 1-year-old visited us in the hospital after his brother was first born, I was so excited for my boys to meet: I pictured my toddler kissing the baby and talking about him, saying his name and giggling when the baby made a funny noise or face. And I thought I was well prepared — I made sure my arms were empty and ready to embrace my toddler when he walked through the door, and we had a gift “from the baby” ready to give to him soon after he arrived. But it only took seconds to realize that my picture of immediate sibling love was just not happening that day.
We cheerfully introduced big brother to baby brother and encouraged him to touch, kiss, or even “hold” the baby (and we handed over the Elmo bubble maker the baby “gave” him), but my toddler was more interested in playing with my hospital bed and the water pitcher on my side table than giving his brother any inkling of attention.
The next day was no better. Trying to breastfeed the newborn at home with my toddler in the room was simply impossible, and I often had to change locations in the house to keep the baby safe. Older brother would pull the Boppy out from under the baby, declaring, “All done!” to me and telling me to get up to go play with him. And occasionally, if I was daydreaming in my sleepless delirium for a brief second or two, I failed to stop my toddler’s hands as they aimed for the baby’s head/tummy/feet.
But in quieter moments, I would catch a nanosecond-long glimpse he would throw to the baby as he quickly moved on to his next activity. These glimpses, though subtle, began to multiply throughout the days as the baby became more alert and aware of his surroundings.
As several weeks passed and we started to ease more into our daily life as a family with two children under 2, my toddler began to call the baby “baby.” He wouldn’t say his name, but my husband and I thought this was a small victory and a move toward that sibling love we had hoped for.
Then one day — seemingly out of the blue — I heard my baby laughing while he was in his swing. I turned to find my toddler playing peek-a-boo with him. Soon after, my older son came up with a nickname for his sibling — “Gogi” — derived from the baby’s real name — Logan — and started paying more attention to him. Soon, he was asking about Gogi all the time and telling strangers that his own name was Gogi.
Now, when we go somewhere and leave his brother home with my husband or other family members, or when I’m putting him to bed, my toddler always asks where his brother is. When we talk about fun activities we’ve been doing or are planning to do, he makes sure his brother is included. He shares his beloved lovey “Pup” with his brother when he thinks he needs something soft to hold. He is constantly trying to kiss his baby brother, or put his fingers in his mouth, or touch his head. Sometimes it’s a bit too rough, but it’s all out of love.
We still do have occasional moments — particularly during overtired times — when some of that initial roughness comes back. The laughter and smiles are replaced with tears and lots of crying by both kids, and this can change at the drop of a hat, several times within a minute. Usually a nap will cure this, and I’m getting better at preventing it from happening before it begins.
And for the majority of the time now, my toddler is his baby brother’s whole world. I love looking at my baby’s face when big brother enters the room — he breaks into a huge grin and starts babbling and laughing as soon as he sees his best friend. It’s like they have a magical connection that only they understand. While having two babies so close in age has been a bit of a roller coaster ride so far, watching their love develop and grow from one extreme to the other has made so many motherhood moments more memorable than I could have ever imagined.