A friend of ours came over one evening last week. She is a long time friend of Trudy’s and mine from our college days and she’s always had a sort of special relationship with each of us. As Eitan has gotten older, he’s grown to love her as well. She can match his energy and enthusiasm on a consistent basis, which us a big reason for his affection for her. The other reason is that she’s never afraid to get down to his level, whether they’re doing puzzles or dancing or fighting with light-sabers.
As we sat down to eat dinner, Eitan started telling the three of us something that I can’t remember, although it was clearly very important to him at the time. It might have been about his day or about his friends or about the television show he wanted to watch with us later that evening.1 Either way, he was articulate and thoughtful as he spoke. He had a clear message that he wanted to convey and he did so perfectly. When he finished, Trudy voiced the exact words that I had been thinking.
“God, when did he get so old?”
Our friend laughed and said, “Honey, he’s been old for a while now.”
We hosted the second Passover Seder at our apartment. There were twenty of us, so it was a little tight, but everyone was mostly comfortable and had a good time. Three of our guests were two other college friends of ours and their 8-month-old son. Eitan spent most of the night playing with his older cousins but there was a span of a half hour or so where he was in his room with our college friend and her baby. Our friend had gone into the room to nurse and to try to get her son to fall asleep. Eitan apparently read a few of his books to the baby, helped to rock the baby to sleep and covered the baby with a blanket. Eventually, our friend had to ask Eitan to leave because, as helpful as he was, her son was so captivated by him that he wouldn’t fall asleep.
Trudy and I have been trying to take advantage of opportunities to spend time with Eitan as often as we can because we know everything is going to be changing soon. I think we’ve prepared Eitan pretty well for the upcoming addition to our family but we’ve still been trying to find ways to help Eitan feel valued as an individual, not just as “the big brother” or as our helper once the baby comes. It’s why Trudy made such efforts to spend one-on-one time with him while he was off from school last week and why he and I went miniature golfing on Saturday.2
Despite the lengths to which we’ve gone to help ensure that Eitan is aware that our love for him as a person will never be diminished, no matter how much our family changes, he has taken on the mantle of big brother with barely any hesitation. He knows there is a baby coming and he’s excited. “Mommy,” he says, “when the baby comes I’m going to share my toys with her and help to feed her and take her into the backyard and play soccer with her.”3 When Trudy told him that the baby probably wouldn’t be able to play much at the beginning, Eitan said, “That’s okay, I’ll just hold her then.”
Then, this past Sunday, Eitan, Trudy and I were getting ready to go out for a family dinner to close out our long weekend. Eitan was going to be back at school the next morning after his week off and Trudy and I had gotten our apartment about as ready as possible for the new baby, so dinner out was going to be sort of a last chance to spend some time together in our current family structure. Which is why, when Eitan asked me if the four of us were going to dinner together, I said, “What do you mean? There are only three of us.”
Eitan gave me a look like I was the dumbest person alive (the first of many, I’m sure).
“No, Daddy. You and me and Mommy and the baby. That makes four.”
Eitan is extremely proud of his big brother shirts and brags about his plans to show the baby how to play with toys. We’ve been talking about how things will change and reading books about kids becoming big brothers, but I would bet that the biggest help has been that a few of his classmates and other friends have gotten new siblings over the past few months. Eitan has gotten to meet the new babies and he seems to understand more of what to expect every day. We may have been worried about how Eitan will adjust to having a new person invading his territory but, if his recent behavior is any indication, he’s going to be just fine.
1. Chopped Junior. Eitan loves all of the cooking shows with kids as contestants.↩
2. Related: Eitan made a legitimate hole in one on the 13th hole of the course. Add golf to the list of sports for which he’s going to get college scholarship offers.↩
3. We haven’t found out the sex of the baby but Eitan has said it will be a girl from the very beginning. Even when he’s acknowledged that it might be a boy, he’s always used female pronouns.↩