I love Eleanor. Brandon loves Eleanor, Kathleen loves Eleanor, Edwin really loves Eleanor, and even Joseph occasionally takes the time to enjoy his little sister's company.
It's pretty hard not to love a wispy-haired baby that toddles around the house babbling to herself all day long. Sometimes she gets on our nerves when she wants something desperately and can't tell us what it is, but most of the time she's just adorably cute.
All of the other children were just as cute when they were Eleanor's age, but they aren't the baby anymore and so they're no longer cute. Which, of course, makes Eleanor the Cutest Child, the Most Beloved Baby, and The One That Everyone Wants to Love On.
It's really hard to resist the sweetly lisped syllables asking for 'mo' milk' or 'hi five!' or 'choc'lat' when they're coming out of a button mouth surrounded by chubby, pinchable baby cheeks. My favorite is when she asks for 'up' and then nestles her little head into my shoulder for some mommy cuddles (after carefully clearing away any hair that might be on my shoulder).
To the girls, Eleanor is their living baby doll. They dress her up, wed her to Joseph (he's the prince and she's the princess), make her box houses and thrones, take her for carriage rides, and read her stories. At the end of Eleanor's nap, the girls vie for whose turn it is to get the baby up. Sophia usually gets her ready for bed each night, reading her a story and tucking her in.
My little brother was like this too, acting as baby doll, mascot, Most Favorite Brother (there were only two, so it's wasn't that hard), and pet. "We don't need a puppy," we'd say, "we've got Mikey!" I'm not sure how my brother felt about this, but we thought it was great fun.
One afternoon, Joseph showed up with his backpack, a handful of sticks, and his blanket. He took Eleanor by the hand, sweetly beckoning in his high little boy's voice, "Come on baby, come with me! Come to my room and I'll take you camping! We can build a tent together and have a fire! Then we can roast marshmallows!" I let them go, of course, because what mother can resist a big brother teaching his little sister about the pure joy of roasted marshmallows?
Eleanor is my little companion, busily making messes each night while I cook dinner. Her favorite spot is the plastic dishes cupboard where she will pull all the cups, bowls and plates out before toddling over to the dry goods cupboard and dish herself a tasty dish of dry black beans. The beans will go back and forth between the bowls and inevitably get spilled, but it keeps her happy and lets me cook dinner with some cheerful company.
Every morning when Brandon leaves for work, Eleanor climbs into the tall window next to our front door and beats on the window while he pulls out of the gate. She beats and waves frantically, yelling "see ya! see ya!" until he is out of sight, and then toddles off to her own baby work or exploring and making messes.
I know that one day she'll turn three and the clash of wills will begin and years will pass before we can be friends again, but for now she's my sweet adorable baby. I've always been happy when the others have grown up, less trouble and more help, but now I have plenty of help and Eleanor isn't that much trouble and so I'd be pretty okay with keeping her a baby quite a bit longer.
But of course, she gets the exact same length of babyhood that the other children had, and then it will be gone forever. I'm not the type to mourn things passed, but I think for Eleanor, I will be a little sad.