In 2 short months we will have another child. Eleanor will be in our arms and everything will change...again. Now that we've gotten parenthood figured out for one baby, we move to two under two. Easy, I'm sure. Through all of our prepping, Abby's nesting, and our wondering how we'll pull this off, I can't help but be reminded that my dear son, Oliver, has a lot to prep for as well. Here he is, 18-months old, and just getting the hang of life outside of the womb. Little does he know, change is coming.
As someone who enjoys the benefits of a blended family now and who grew up as a middle-child (AKA the best child, Dad's favorite, Mom's favorite, the breath of fresh air, the mature one, the silent guardian, the watchful protector, the Dark Knight), I have both created for my brother and been a victim/beneficiary of the changes that come with a new sibling in the house. My experiences as a big brother to a SISTER, however, are those that have been brought to the surface as we all prepare for Eleanor Lee. These revelations, which came as both an unexpected storm and a lifelong training course to me, are the ones which I now pen for Oliver. My hope is that he may learn these lessons more quickly and, thus, rise above me in brotherhood. Since lists seem to be an easy read for all these days, here begins a letter to my son entitled "10 Things Little Ryan Would Tell Little Oliver About Little Sisters."
1. There Will Be Noise. I'm not sure how else to say it, Oliver. For you, I know this seems exciting as you have recently "found your voice" in new ways and would probably assume this means shouting for joy together all day. Maybe some times. There will be other times, however, especially at the beginning, when the high-pitch noises coming from Nora will not be pleasant to your ears, no matter how hard you try to kindly listen. The noises will be different than yours, they won't always come when you wants, and they won't stop just because you ask them to. Brace yourself. I've learned that clear expectations help diffuse frustrations. Oh, and even if your Mama and I ever say, "she's not hurting you," with her noise, you and I will both know that's not true. It hurts. I've been there and I'm here for you now.
2. You're not the only kid now. I'm sorry, Bub Bub, but our attentions will be split between you and sister, and not always equally. This can be tough. You've been able to ask and be granted attention, food, play, and consolation whenever. That won't come as easily now, but it doesn't mean you aren't still our top priority. You and your sister hold incredible value to Mama and I, and we'll trust Holy Spirit to lead us as you mature and as sister learns this world.
3. Sharing is Caring. At first, Eleanor will most likely just eat, sleep, and poop. She won't even move much. You'll be so pumped to see her, and we'll surely have to hold you back and remind you to be gentle when around her, but your stuff will still be all yours. In a few months, however, she'll begin to crawl and eventually play. It is at this juncture that you'll suddenly feel a deep attachment to those toys you haven't touched since you were 8-months old as she begins to throw them and put them in her mouth. It's a bummer at first, but God created you to be a giver like Him. I know you'll figure it out sooner than later. It is more blessed to give than to receive.
4. She's very different from you. I don't remember much from my first few years, but I am guessing that this will be immediately noticeable for us all, including you. God is an expert designer and created men and women (boys and girls) to be different to show the world His goodness. That may not be so clear to you at first, or for many years, but I know that Holy Spirit will teach you. Her emotions will work differently, you'll need to be gentle, and she might understand certain things way more easily than you do. That's ok. Your differences are awesome and you'll learn to celebrate them.
5. She is not the enemy. At this point, Ollie, you may be getting the impression that having a little sister is like a catastrophic event. This is not the case. Please, be at peace. Your sister, just as you did, is joining the Cirkles family which was birthed out of God's heart to show compassion, love, and His power to the world. She's on your team! Get her jersey ready. What number do you think she will like?
6. Playtime just multiplied! With all of this cautioning, I haven't gotten to mention how much FUN YOU'LL HAVE! You now have a friend around all of the time. I can't imagine what a blessing it was to Uncle Tony when I showed up. Not only do you have an added playmate in the house, but she can actually keep up with you AND gets you on levels Mama and Dada just miss it. Yes, you'll have frustrations and have to learn as you go, but you guys are going to discover your passions together and see your talents come to life!
7. She has eyeballs. I'm so happy you know what and where eyes are, Ollie Boy, because your sister will have them. First, don't poke them. Gentle with Baby, just like we practiced. Second, she is ALWAYS watching you. Everything that you do now has the consequence of leading her. You have a responsibility now as a leader. Did you ask for it? No. Is it fair? I'm not sure. It is, however, a gracious gift from God your Father to be able to be a good example of kindness, obedience, forgiveness, and patience. We will ask you to be a leader and it might not always feel good. Please speak up when it doesn't. You won't get out of it, but we'll be glad to listen to your heart.
8. You get a cape. Whether she ever says it or not, you are your sister's hero. She looks up to you. She thinks you're so cool (COOOOH). Even when you miss the mark and you say something unkind, she still thinks you're the best brother ever. She'll probably even want to be like you in a lot of ways. This is a BLESSING. She won't say it, but trust me. She loves you so much. You're one of the biggest parts of her world. Don't take it as too much pressure, but at the same time don't be nonchalant with your relationship. It's serious business being a big brother, after all. She cares about you, and even if she cries when you get hurt (whyyyyyyy?), take it all as a compliment.
9. You're the first boy she'll know. Oliver David, you are a kind, strong, compassionate, caring, and understanding man...young man...boy. God created you to help show His image to the world. Sister is your first assignment. You get to show her that she is a blessing to you, not a burden. You'll remind her that she's pretty, even to a brother. You'll be patient when she's emotional, even when it makes ZERO sense. You'll help Mama and Dada protect her and speak identity over her. As you value her, she'll learn the value that God has put on her. You'll be her standard. Set it high, handsome boy.
10. You're stuck as siblings, but you can choose to be friends. Mama and I will never let you two separate, but you can have EVEN BETTER than just being stuck in the same family. I look forward to seeing you both enjoy the richness of friendship that grows not just from experiential closeness, but from shared beliefs, chief of all your belief that Jesus Christ is Lord and that all things are possible. Take trips, do things together, perform concerts in your room, build amazing things, or just go for a walk. God gave you to each other. He must know something good is coming. Just look at all of the fun Aunt Hannah and I have!
Oliver, I'm not sure you'll read this, but as we've learned so far about you, I think you have managed to bless others in this letter. A shoutout to Tony for being my big brother and teaching/protecting me, to Hannah for giving me so much to learn about little sisters, to Hayden and Joby for being my bonus siblings and putting up with teenage Ryan, and to Dad, Mom, and my bonus-mom Samantha for keeping us all alive and helping us to grow into amazing adults. Oliver, you've got a good support team.
Go get 'em, Ollie Boy!
Dada ***Don't Forget... The Cirkles are cheering you on.
P.S - Thanks to Andrew and Peter for being stellar big bros to Abigail. I learned a lot of this from you guys too.