Big Brother, Little Brother
These two. They are the best of friends one minute and the worst of enemies the next. The other morning they were playing happily together at the train table. I snuck out of the room to clean up the kitchen, only to hear a big crash followed by screaming. I ran into the room to see David on top of his big brother with his mouth poised to bite him on the arm. That time I was able to intervene before anyone was hurt, but unfortunately that is not always the case. I see the same thing happen over and over with these feisty boys. Noah grabs a toy from his little brother. David overreacts by screaming often coupled with a hit, bite or tackle. Then after the dispute is resolved, they are back to playing together like nothing happened or snuggling up next to each other on the couch while I read them a book.
These two are also partners in crime. I turn my back for one second and they’re on the kitchen table, laughing hysterically. I can’t leave my phone anywhere within reach or it’s dumped into the recycle bin or stuffed under a couch cushion. Sometimes I’ll see the two of them huddled together frantically pushing buttons trying to crack my password. They also like to gang up on me while we’re out, like running in opposite directions while screaming...in the library. It’s probably equal parts hilarious and annoying to people watching, but for me it’s equal parts frustrating and embarrassing.
Despite the fighting and the mischievousness, they are still pretty sweet. Noah is right there ready to comfort David when he gets hurt. Often the first thing David says when he wakes up from his nap is “oh-ah pay”, which is “Noah play” in toddler language. Noah always signs “baby” for David and motions him over when he wants him to join in an activity.
They are two years apart, but in a lot of ways they seem much closer. I constantly get asked if they are twins. Not only are they almost the same size, but they are both working on some of the same developmental milestones.
I knew the day would come when David would surpass Noah in some areas developmentally, yet it still catches me off guard. Noah has a speech therapist who comes to our home a couple times a week. David usually does a great job of sitting on the couch with either me or our nanny and observing. The therapist will prompt Noah to say “ball” and Noah will respond by saying “bah”. Then David pipes up from the couch with a clear, perfectly pronounced “ball” and claps for himself. It’s so very bittersweet. Of course I am proud of David’s ability to communicate and growing vocabulary, but at the same time a part of me aches for Noah knowing how much harder things are for him.
It just seems unfair. David is acquiring words at such a rapid pace so naturally. He hears a word, attempts to repeat it, keeps repeating it until he's got it, and that's that. Noah, on the other hand, has to work incredibly hard to say anything. He has to overcome the low muscle tone that goes along with Down syndrome and the motor planning difficulties due to apraxia. It makes me sad and sometimes angry. “It’s not fair!” I want to yell. “Why should Noah have to struggle when others have it so easy? Why does it have to be so hard?” Then I realize I sound exactly like my six year old when something doesn’t go his way. While I don’t have the answers to those questions that bubble up when I’m frustrated, I do know that many of Noah’s challenges are paired with some incredible strengths.
Noah loves without condition, forgives easily, and can often tell me more in a single expression than many kids can in a full sentence. His excitement is contagious and his joy for the small things is refreshing. His compassion is evident as he is quick to run to anyone’s side and give them a hug if they are crying. He has many amazing strengths and I have to remind myself of this when I feel sorrow about the areas he struggles with.
So even though it is hard to watch David pass Noah up in speech and fine motor skills, I choose to focus on the positive. These brothers will learn from each other. They will benefit from each other’s strengths and help encourage each other in challenges. I hope they come to recognize this as they age and I pray that all three of my boys will always be the best of friends.