On several occasions Jay and Wally have had their diapers changed side-by-side: the two of them on their backs on the bed with their bare legs up in the air as Caroline and I work with wipes on their similar behinds. The first time this happened, in Maine just before a trip to the beach, Jay turned his head towards Wally and said, “Two boys!” I like to think of that as the moment he realized he has a brother.
It’s been a month since I last wrote about Jay and Wally’s relationship. Then I had the grim news to report that just that morning Jay had dive-bombed Wally’s bassinet with a basketball. (To Wally’s eternal luck, he was on the bed nursing at the time.) Since then, however, Wally has risen in Jay’s eyes. This afternoon Jay brought his plastic fire truck over to Wally who was lying on a blanket. “Dis a fire truck,” Jay told his little brother as he tried to pry open Wally’s fingers so they could grasp the truck. When Wally’s fingers wouldn’t comply, Jay settled for placing the truck on Wally’s stomach, where he left it as he went off in search of his sippy cup.
Jay’s initiatives as a big brother are an entertaining combination of affection, limited understanding, and unintended consequences. Last night Wally was fussing on our bed and Jay decided to clamber up to soothe him.
“It’s okay Wally, I coming,” Jay said as he used the duvet cover to pull himself onto the bed. Once on top, he put his face right down next to Wally’s and repeated his reassurance in a loud voice. “IT’S OKAY WALLY, I COMING.” Wally did in fact seem to be comforted by this. Jay, feeling his job was complete, kissed Wally clumsily on the head and climbed down to play with his cars.
No sooner had Jay left, though, then Wally started to fuss again. Jay dropped his toys and climbed back up the duvet. “WALLY, I COME BACK,” he yelled as he searched for a foothold in the crevice between the box spring and the mattress. Panting, he arrived back atop the bed and placed his face down close to Wally’s again. “WALLY, I COME BACK,” he said, with a little growl creeping into his voice. Wally’s eyes widened and his arms and legs went rigid. Whether he was terrified or comforted I don’t know, but either way, Wally quieted again and Jay climbed down.
This sequence repeated once more, though by his third ascent Jay’s calming influence had waned: No matter how many times he told his brother “I COME BACK” and no matter how close he got to his face, there was no soothing Wally anymore. Caroline, who’d been closely chaperoning the entire drama, moved in and picked Wally off the bed. “It’s okay,” she told a clearly disappointed Jay. “Wally’s just a little tired right now.” For a moment Jay looked at his mom, trying to assess, maybe, whether he’d failed or not as a big brother. Then, assured by Caroline’s smile that he had not, he slid back down the duvet to his Matchbox cars, to the land where there’s no such thing as brothers.