I was 36 and pregnant with my third child, as excited and nervous as I’d been in my 20’s.
Neil was nine and had being a big brother down pat. I was worried about Evan, though.
He would barely be four when the baby came and I wanted the addition of another Horibe to go smoothly.
I dug through the boxes in the basement until I found my very old, worn Dr. Spock baby book and reread the chapter on siblings.
His advice was to introduce the new child as “your baby, too”.
Easy enough. I said things like, “When your baby is born” and “This will be your baby’s bed”.
Evan would nod, his face serious. He had only been with me for three and a half years and I was still getting to know him.
For instance, it turned out that he was prone to take things literally, not figuratively.
When Andrew arrived, Evan was very involved. And critical.
“I think my baby is hungry.”
“My baby is tired.”
“Mom, you need to stop what you’re doing and pick up my baby. He’s crying.”
We had a conversation about boundaries.
Still, the relationship was set. Evan loved his baby. And Andrew loved him back.
A few months later Nobu and I were trying to get dinner on the table. Neil was in the family room watching TV and Andrew played on a blanket next to him.
Evan strongly disagreed with the Dinner Before Dessert rule, so he collapsed on the tiny patch of linoleum in our little kitchen, howling, kicking his feet and chanting “cookies–cookies” in between sobs.
This wasn’t the first time Evan had pitched a fit before mealtime. Nobu and I took our accustomed route over and around Evan, putting plates on the table, food into bowls.
Suddenly I noticed an unfamiliar movement near my feet.
Andrew was too young to crawl, but had somehow managed to drag himself across the floor. He was next to Evan, stroking his brother’s tear stained cheek.
I don’t know what surprised me more. That Andrew could cover so much ground, or that he was capable of feeling so much compassion for his big brother.
A couple of years later Andrew was mastering the art of walking. He would toddle from one part of the house to another, stiff legged with a perpetual smile on his face.
I was in the kitchen and Evan was in a time-out on the stairs for who knows what he did this time.
Andrew lurched by his brother, and for absolutely no reason, Evan stuck his foot out and tripped him.
Andrew tumbled to the ground, his forehead missing the treacherous wooden corner of the bottom stair by an inch.
(I often thought that as the youngest of three boys, Andrew had more near-death experiences than a man with a heart condition. I was sure if he could talk he’d be able to tell us what The Other Side looked like.)
I checked Andrew to make sure he was okay then turned my wrath onto Evan.
“You could have killed your brother! What were you thinking? ”
I was in no mood to wait for an answer and stomped back to the kitchen.
Evan burst into tears. Andrew stayed at the bottom of the stairs, still dazed.
Evan reached out his arms for his brother and Andrew climbed until he was wrapped in Evan’s embrace.
They were both crying now, rocking back and forth, wailing and distraught.
Andrew caught his breath and whimpered, “Mommy, when can we get up?”
“I’m trying to save your life. Why are you crying?”
“Please can’t we get up. We promise to be good.”
Evan said, “Yes, we promise.”
“Fine. Get up and go play.”
The two boys stood up, arm in arm, off together.
Over the years, that is how they’ve stayed. Arm in arm.