The moment Ethan walked into the hospital room to meet his little brother for the first time, I began seeing him in a different light. Before Jackson's birth he was my baby, but the second Jackson had been extracted from my uterus, he obliviously became the oldest.
In that moment, he unknowingly gained the responsibilities that notoriously come along with being the eldest sibling. He now had to meet every one's expectations of being a leader, of being a protector and caretaker of the youngest. I immediately began to give him less grace. There was now someone smaller, more innocent among our family. Ethan...he should know better.
It all sounds so silly. He was only 26 months old at the time Jackson was born. Looking back at pictures and home videos I realize how young he really was to have such things projected on him. This seems to be a never ending thing with me. I can remember crying around his very first birthday "Oh, he is not a baby anymore. He is so big!". Now, all I can do is laugh at myself. He was still bald, chubby and wobbly. Did I really think he wasn't a baby anymore? And I'm sure in 6 more months, when I look back on pictures of the present day 33 month old Ethan whom I still expect so much of, I will laugh and think the same thing.
I'm in constant battle with myself. I want to rush him to the finish line, but in the very next second, I want to cry because another stage has passed and I feel the need to morn the fleeting moments of his littleness. That's the thing with the oldest. You want to check the box, you want to get to the next stage, but when you get there...you have the feeling that maybe, just maybe...you rushed it. You missed something. You didn't realize the preciousness of it until it had passed.
Most days, Ethan amazes me when I watch him with his little brother, but some days are less great than others. Some days I find myself expecting too much of him. Some days I find myself trying to fit him into the stereotypical oldest child role. And at the end of those days, when I look in on him at night all cuddled up to his blanket and lovie, I wonder if I'm being fair. If I'm forgetting how tiny he still is. If I'm remembering to give him enough grace. If I'm remembering to just let him be little.
I should know better. I know all too well the burdens and responsibilities of being the oldest because I am one. I'm not at all saying it's a bad position to have, but sometimes I wish I could have had a little more grace. A little more freedom to make mistakes. A few less responsibilities. A little less pressure to be more sensible.
I'm making it my mission to check myself from time to time and try my best to give Ethan the grace he needs. He only gets one childhood after all. This is his time to be little and I want to make sure I give that to him.
All images are property of Laura Sager unless otherwise noted.