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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Unrequited Love

Edwin loves his little sister.  He really really loves Eleanor.  When Joseph was born Edwin wasn't even quite two years old and had no conception of babies and siblings all of the things that are part of being a family.  Two year olds, although quite cute and reasonably agreeable, are barely human.  They don't know of much beyond eating, playing, and attempting to get their own way.

But by the time Eleanor showed up, Edwin, at the ripe old age of four and half, was old enough to realize about babies and watch as his older sisters adored, cooed over, and practically smothered baby Eleanor with love and attention.  He and Joseph had a pretty rocky relationship at that point - two year old brothers are, after all, barely human - so Eleanor, who wasn't going to take his toys, blow raspberries at him, or land him in time out, looked like a pretty good alternative to Joseph.

I remember finding Edwin's favorite toy cars carefully tucked into Eleanor's crib one afternoon as she peacefully napped.  While I had been teaching the girls' school he had quietly snuck into her (my) room and given his tiny baby sister some of the things he liked best.  Joseph couldn't even look at the green monster truck without a jealous smack from Edwin, but Edwin's little sister could get even the most precious truck without having to even ask for it.

When Eleanor got big enough to sit up, Edwin would swoop down and shower her with kisses every time he passed her.  The girls enjoyed dressing baby Eleanor, bathing baby Eleanor, building thrones for baby Eleanor, and carrying her around in a custom laundry basket palanquin.  Eleanor was the best living baby doll ever.  But Edwin just liked Eleanor.  He didn't care what she was doing or what he could do to her, he just liked her.  Every boy needs a little sister to care for, love, and protect.  They also need a little brother to fight with.

Unfortunately for Edwin, Eleanor doesn't return his feelings.  After patiently enduring his smothering love for over a year, Eleanor finally had enough and let everyone know about it.  Any time Edwin would come near, she would screech at the top of her lungs and swing her tiny baby fists at his advancing face.  Edwin, undeterred, would kiss her more and Eleanor, angrier still, would wail louder.  I finally had to put a limit on his kisses - five - and teach Eleanor the phrases 'no screaming.' and 'no hitting.'

Even after Edwin learned to back off, Eleanor, scarred for a month or two, would screech horribly any time she even thought he might be looking at her.  Poor Edwin, confused as to why his favorite person in the whole wide world was screaming so much, would sneak in and steal unauthorized kisses while I wasn't looking.  This, of course, set off the wailing and hitting all over again.

Thankfully things have calmed down in the past month.  Edwin, after being reminded that he too likes personal space, has backed off (spending quite a bit of time in the corner probably didn't hurt either) and Eleanor has learned the meaning of 'no screaming' and 'no hitting.'  Our house is much quieter these days.

One day Eleanor will be much older, much taller, more attractive.  The boys will start calling and I'll stay up nights trying to figure out how to make 'no talking to any boys until you're 25' into a reasonable sounding policy.  She'll go off to school and I'll work overtime on how to enforce that rule from 7,000 miles away.  And then I'll be glad for Edwin.  He will take good care of his little sister and those boys will think twice before messing with Edwin's baby sister because they'll have to mess with Edwin too.  Eleanor will probably think about breaking the screaming and hitting rule again.  But in the end when all is said and done, she will be happy for her adoring older brother.  And I will too.

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