Sometimes I watch Charlie and Izzy play together in quiet amazement. In the past 4-6 months they've become playmates, partners in crime, each other's constant laugh track. They have a humor all their own and I doubt I will every understand what makes them laugh so hard. And that's OK. I don't mind being outside the joke. I love that they have inside jokes and don't need anyone else to join their fun.
I remember worrying before Izzy was born about how they would get along (I'm a worrier, it's what I do). I read a few blog posts about how you can try to foster love between siblings, I guess some brothers and sisters never connect. I needn't have worried.
When Izzy was first born, Charlie didn't pay her much attention - she didn't do much but eat, sleep and cry - not very interesting to a two-year old. It was easy to spend time with Charlie alone during her multiple naps and things didn't change too drastically for him.
Once Izzy got to be about one, mobile, and demanding more attention, I remember some tension. Charlie didn't like it if I had to carry Izzy around, and he didn't like her to move in on his blocks or trains. But that phase didn't last long. Charlie quickly figured out that Izzy was the one person in his life that he could boss around and tell what to do. For awhile I heard "C'mon Izzy" all the time and would see him leading her out of the room by the hand. Uh-oh. He knew how to find a way to get her into trouble.
For awhile we had to encourage Charlie to be gentle with Izzy, before she could defend herself (she does that very well now). There was a phase where he wanted whatever toy she had at the moment. We made up a rule that if he wanted her toy, he had to offer her something else in return. He would offer a broken, discarded toy that he never plays with and she would gladly trade. One time I witnessed him trade her a solar powered calculator for my iphone. And that's the thing about their relationship, she is usually happy to do whatever Charlie asks of her. She watches everything he does, she wants to be wherever he is.
They are so very different - he is hard charging energy, loud and insistent. She is gentle and relaxed, content. She can be stubborn and she can get loud - and it is usually Charlie that can bring this out of her - no one makes her laugh harder.
Sometime after the practice of making sure he traded toys with Izzy, Charlie just started looking out for her in general. Maybe it was because he knew he was more likely to get a piece of candy if he made sure she had one, too, but it is now second nature for him to think of her.
If he asks me for a piece of gum, he tells me Izzy wants one, too. She can only have a small fraction of a piece and he will tear it off for her, putting the rest back.
If he has raisins or small pieces of candy, he will share with her but on his terms. He makes her open her mouth to show him she has safely eaten the previous pieces before he gives her more (the numerous times I've watched this, I always think she is going to revolt and insist on having her own share of candy to hold. But she dutifully accepts them and opens her mouth as asked, and the sharing continues.)
Sometimes he will lean in to talk to her, with his hands on his knees, "Izzy, do you want to go play in the snow? You have to put on your hat and gloves."
Sometimes he leads her on, just because he can, "Izzy, do you want some ice cream?? Some chocolate?" He will say this without having access to ice cream, or chocolate. But she doesn't know that.
She hates to hold hands to cross the street or walk through a parking lot, but if Charlie offers his hand - she always takes it.
It isn't always so sweet -they have their toddler moments for sure. There is a certain Mexican restaurant that we can never go back to after Charlie bit Izzy on the shoulder and both kids screamed for what felt like forever. And I've witnessed Izzy pull Charlie's hair with a strength I didn't think a not yet two-year old girl could possess. There are times she doesn't want to do what he says. They don't share books very well.
But more and more, they are allies, not enemies, a united toddler front. Charlie gives her unprompted kisses, and if Charlie cries Izzy will attempt to give him a hug. It makes me smile to think of all the moments they will share together. Their experience as siblings will be unlike anything else they go through in life. I would envy them, except that my brother and I are almost the same difference in age, and I already have what they have.
This is my favorite picture of my children, taken the first time they met. I just love the expression on Charlie's face - so serious and solemn. I think his face expresses some concern about what this little person will change about his two-year old world. But I also see worry in those eyes for this great big responsibility to protect something so small and helpless. I think I knew from the very first time Charlie held Izzy that he would love her and that she was in good hands.