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Brother's Keeper (And Sometimes Face-Sitter)

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My three-year-old wanted a doggy; he got a brother. 


Lisa's family

It is 3:45a.m., and after what seems like 54 feedings in the last 24 hours, we are both wide-awake. At three weeks old, he is a funny little thing, very new and tender with a Mohawk of spiky dark hair, and an astonishing repertoire of loud and incredibly rude noises. He is my Lenny Bruce of babies.

Zachariah (I’m still not sure whether I completely like the name) is a good baby, serene, easily soothed. I think he will be a kind child, self-aware and humorous. I also think he will be an early smile-er. As I look into his eyes, I wonder who he will be in a life that is now separate from mine, and I wonder what he will see.

Ezra, our silly, sunny, generous-hearted three-year-old whom we love more than life itself, simultaneously loves the baby calling him “the smartest baby, most beautiful baby in the world” (this, he must have gotten from my mother), and wants to get rid of him. “I have an idea,” Ezra suggests with great optimism and hope. “How about we go to the hospital tomorrow and the doctor will put the baby back in your tummy.”

Most of the time, though, he wants to play with the baby—“his” baby—jump over him and generally mess with him (run his cheek over the baby’s soft baby head, tickle his little baby feet, put a bag of avocados on his little squished-in baby face). Ezra croons to the baby in a high-pitched singsong voice, and wants to know what the baby is thinking, what he is looking at and when he can eat potato chips. Poor long-suffering baby.

In spare moments between nursing, changing diapers and pulling the older one off the younger one, I wonder whether there are any good statistics out there on the number of infants, say per 100,000, who are accidentally blinded, crushed or loved to death each year by older siblings.

My husband and I decided to have children for reasons that were oceans away from reality. By the time we got married, at age 37, children, babies, diapers, pre-school—all that was an abstraction to us. We knew what we would have to give up (basically our lives as we knew them); we had no idea what we would get in exchange. And what you get in exchange is something no one can explain. Perhaps, one day when it was too late, we rationalized, we would regret not having them. We were sure that we would regret not having grandchildren. I wanted someone to name after my father, to keep his memory alive. In part, I think that my husband felt that because he was already giving up his life as he knew it to get married, he might as well go whole hog.

And we have. And it has been a complete and utter joy and pleasure. Although we are woken up at an obscenely early hour just about every morning. Although we have curtailed just about every pursuit and activity that we once defined ourselves by. Although, we are on the verge of selling our house in the city and moving to the suburbs. Although. Although, Although… And yet. These boys have made mensches out of us. We are kinder, more patient, closer. Our lives are deeper and hold more love and meaning. We are a family.

Six months or so ago, when we told Ezra that he would have a little brother or sister, he was adamant: “No baby. Doggy!”  Now, he says we should buy the baby (and perhaps him, also) a doggy. Progress.

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