Josiah is a total extrovert – an extremely social kid who absolutely craves interactions with others, especially other kids. We do what we can to give him appropriate social outlets and, more importantly, teach him the social skills he needs to be successful in those social outlets. We have friends with kids his age (include a set of boys who are about 18 months older and younger than Josiah) and also attend a weekly park play day with a group of homeschooling families. But Josiah has always wanted a brother.
For a couple of years he had been asking for a brother. I remember one particular conversation we had in the car that went something like this:
Josiah: Mom, can we stop at the store and get me a brother?
Me: It doesn’t work that way, sweetheart. They don’t sell brothers at the store. The only way to get a brother is to ask God to send us one.
Josiah: (eyes closed, head bowed) Jesus, please send us a brother. (pregnant pause, pun intended) Mom, nothing’s happening!
Me: Well, honey, even if God answers your prayer, it will take a long time for your brother to come, and he’ll be a baby when he first gets here.
For the next few weeks, I saw him noticing babies with their older siblings and making the connections in his brain about how it would all work. And only a few weeks later we discovered we were pregnant with our 2nd baby.
Josiah was convinced from the very beginning that we were having a boy – after all, it was a brother he had prayed for, not a sister. When the ultrasound told us it was in fact a boy, he said, in a tone that questioned why I would doubt his wisdom, “Mom, I told you our baby was going to be a boy.”
Throughout the pregnancy, Josiah was so excited and already such a fantastic big brother. He was so patient when I wasn’t feeling well, bringing me toys and stories and tucking me into bed to give me rest and help me feel better. He loved to talk to the baby, rub my belly and give him cuddles and kisses – anytime he greeted me hello or goodbye, he included a greeting for the baby.
Despite his excitement and compassion so far, I admit I was a little nervous about how it would all go once the baby actually arrived. After all, it’s one thing to think you’ll enjoy a baby and whole other to deal with having one living in the house (and taking up lots of mom’s attention and time). We talked a lot about what babies are like, read books on having a new baby brother, and practiced reading to the baby and playing peek-a-boo. His biggest fear was that he would somehow miss the baby’s birth: “Are you sure Grandma will bring me to see the baby? Did you tell her how to get there? Don’t let her forget!”
Malachi arrived quickly one early Tuesday morning, before Josiah was awake. My mom let us tell Josiah over the phone that the baby had been born and I’ll never forget the excited squeal “He’s really here? Oh I’m so excited!” She fed him breakfast brought him straight down to the birth center. Josiah got to help weight the baby and measure him, helped dress him in the coming-home outfit that he had picked out for the baby to wear (the same outfit, in fact, that he had worn home when he was born – he wanted little brother to wear the same thing!) and even got to pick out baby’s first hat. And for weeks, he told everyone we saw (from friends and neighbors to strangers at the grocery store) about “our new baby brother.” He was so proud and protective already!
From the moment he arrived (and even before), Josiah has been fascinated with the baby. We can’t even change a dirty diaper without big brother looking over our shoulder to see what’s going on. There have certainly been challenges – some that I’m sure are common in all big brother situations and some that may be specific to Josiah’s sensory issues – but all in all, it’s been so great! Malachi has been “colicky” and spent a lot of time crying, especially in the car – not only does that mean lost attention , it is also a challenge to Josiah’s auditory system. We had to get creative with headphones in the car to help Josiah manage all the extra noise! Josiah often gets too loud or moves too fast and startles little Malachi, and we have to keep a close eye that he doesn’t squish him with his full-body hugs or bonk him when trying to keep his face too close or squeeze him too tight while he’s playing with him. But there are times that Malachi’s biggest smiles are reserved for big brother, and Josiah is always listening for baby to cry out, rushing to his side to comfort or cheer him up.
I can hardly wait to see how their relationship grows. There will be struggles, I’m sure, as both boys manage Josiah’s SPD issues (and Malachi’s personality develops) – but for now, I couldn’t ask for a better outcome. Fiercely protective and loyal, intensely proud and fascinated, Josiah has been an amazing big brother!