Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If I Could Do it All Again

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being invited to speak to a class of college students studying to get their early childhood education diplomas. To be able to share my thoughts on parenting a child with a mental illness with people who will be working with children like Bear was extremely exciting. At the end of the presentation one student asked if we would have had Stitch if we had known how difficult it would be to raise Bear. That got me thinking...

The answer, obviously, is a resounding yes. For one thing, I just can't imagine life without my baby boy. Stitch is the happiest, silliest, cutest baby EVER! Well, other than Bear when he was a baby. But of all the children who are currently babies, there is no happier, sillier, cuter baby. (I don't care how cute yours is, mine's cuter.)

See? Look how cute he is!

Stitch will, quite literally, leave you in stitches. At 22 months old, he's an absolute riot. He's destined to be the family comedian and the class clown, but it just comes to him naturally.

Once upon a time I thought that Stitch was my special gift from God to help me deal with Bear. He was such a silly, happy baby that he could cut right through my frustration and anger with one toothless smile. One giggle from Stitch and my patience suddenly grew exponentially, which was handy when having a bad day with Bear.

Then one day something happened, and I realized I had it all wrong. Little Stitch tripped over his own feet when he was just learning to walk, and he took such a tumble that he nearly did a somersault. Thankfully, this was in our living room, so no major damage occurred. I was about 20 feet away and jumped up to make a mad dash over to scoop him up, but there was no point. Before I was even on my feet, Bear had dropped to his knees beside Stitch and started rocking him back and forth, crooning reassuring words to him. They stayed that way, Stitch with his head on Bear's shoulder, Bear comforting him, until Stitch stopped crying.

I stayed where I was because I could tell I wasn't needed. Bear had it under control, and Stitch was happy with his big brother. It was then that it hit me: Stitch wasn't God's gift to me, he was God's gift to Bear. Little Stitch loves Bear unconditionally, and that's a great gift for a little a boy who gets into a lot of trouble. TheODDDad and I obviously love him unconditionally too, but since our job is to teach him and discipline him, Bear might not always think it's unconditional. And I get that.

But Stitch...well...Stitch expects nothing from Bear. Nothing except for Bear to be Bear. And Bear has blossomed in his role as big brother. Stitch will grab at Bear as Bear walks by. "Hug!" he'll demand. Bear isn't exactly a boy who gives in to demands, especially for hugs and kisses...unless they're from Stitch. Stitch always gets his hug.

Stitch has an ever-vigilant protector who says things like "I love my baby brother. We were meant for each other." Today I scolded Stitch for throwing the dog's food in her water dish, and I was rewarded with the "whah whah" of a toddler who isn't getting his own way. Bear dashed over, hugged him, cooed in his ear, and glared at me over his head. "What?" I asked. "Why did you make him cry!?" Bear demanded of me in a tone of voice that told me full well what he thought of me.

On the other side, Bear has an ever-adoring fan who mimics every move and sound he makes. If Bear runs down the hall, Stitch runs down the hall. If Bear makes a silly noise, Stitch makes a silly noise. When we go pick up Bear at school, Stitch calls out his name and stomps his feet with impatience the moment he spots him coming. (For the record, I'm Bear's second hug -- Stitch always gets the first one.)

In Stitch's eyes, no one compares to Bear, and it's beautiful to watch.


  1. That is too cute.
    It's amazing how the older siblings become the protectors...I was an older sibling ;)
    Although there were times when we got really angry and fought often, if you messed with one of my siblings, you had the "Mama Sis" to deal with.

  2. OK I need to come over and watch that. I love a good cute overload. Clearly God gave both of them to you so that you could watch them interact. That is worth more than any movie!

  3. That's so beautiful, I said, reaching for a tissue...

  4. I am still working my way backwards, and have to tell you I am in years over this one. This reminds me so much of my son and his baby sister. I can't tell you how often he will tattle to one parent that the other is " being mean to the baby." I love to watch them together. But didn't think about it until I read it here, that it is probably because she loves him no matter what. Just like you said we are the ones with rules and grounding, and she just loves him.