Evan went on his annual trip to spend time with his grandparents this past week. I used to relish these trips because they gave us a break, and then we had Zach. Well, Zach is just too young to go away like that, so for the past couple of years, this time has left us with only one child. And it always goes the same way, each and every time: at first the peace and quiet is nice. I forgot how quiet it can be just having a baby or toddler in the house. But then? Well, then the dust settles and I miss Evan terribly. Palpably. There is a massive void that only Ev could fill. And I start to ponder my relationship with my oldest child. He is challenging-oh, so challenging–but he is mine. He is a part of this home. An integral part that cannot ever be replaced. And then I realize that, while he may be a challenge, I am as bonded to that child as anyone could ever be. He is a part of me. But this year? Well, this year brought a different reaction.
I can remember when I discovered I was pregnant with Zach. My immediate thoughts revolved around our life and how Evan, having been an only-child for eight years, would handle a sibling after all of that time. Evan is a good kid, a kind kid. But Evan is also over-indulged. Everything we had ever done was about him. The toys he wanted, the resttaurants he preferred, the activities he wanted to do. Extra money? Hmmm, what to buy Evan? Suddenly, some of that was over. No warning, as we had none. And then we had Zach, and I wondered and worried some more. How were the two of them going to relate to one another when I had them so far apart? I ensured that they will never have anything in common with the age gap of eight plus years between them. Well, amazing child that he is, Evan stunned me. He loves his baby brother. He looks out for him. He will start endless campaigns to get Zach new toys if he feels Zach would love them. He almost tries to parent Zachary. He is his Big Brother, and he took to the role like he was made for it all along. But suddenly, the summer trips were not about just a break or us missing him. This past trip has been a little difficult. Sweet and heart-breaking, too.
It started in the car. We met John’s mom and step-dad at the halfway point, each of us driving 2 hours. We all ate lunch together. And then it was time to go. We distracted Zach while Evan got in the car and buckled his seatbelt. And then Zach saw him in the car and the whimpers started. “Bubby?”, blended with the sound of little tears. And As we drove off, the crying got a little worse until he finally fell asleep. I thought that would be the end of it, until he woke about an hour later with he same little whimper. Bubby was gone, had gone “Bye-bye in the car”, and no nap could make that go away. He got to where he was eventually okay, but it took a little while. Then the week without Evan started. He came back here to this house with the children’s photos all over the place. And everyday this week, he has awakened and run to the window to look for Bubby to return in the car. And at night, when we make our nightly call to Evan to tell him we love and miss him, to hear about all of the fun things he is getting to do (“A waterpark?”, “Just how big was that fish you caught?”), to remind him to behave, to wear his sunscreen, and not let Grandma forget his medicine, we can hear it in his voice: the tears, always, when he gets to the part where he tells Zach that he loves him.
When I had my kids, I got kind of selfish. They are mine. Nobody can love them the way I do. The primary relationship is with me, their mother. The hand that rocks the cradle and all of that. But I forget. I didn’t create children. I created lives. Lives that are rich with others who love them also. And this week has shown me that all of the worrying I did about the age gap between children was for nothing. These boys are as bonded together as I am with each of them. I created brothers. They are in it together, and while they may be too far apart to enjoy the same things, they know each other. Zach, in Evan’s absence, would get excited when the shows Evan likes would come on the television. Evan would call me to tell me that “Bubble Guppies” (the one and only show Zachy watches and enjoys) was about to come on. Evan saw something in a store down there that Zach would like, and up here, at the weekly trip to the grocery store, Zach expected us to pick up the things Evan likes. It seems that the topic, all week long, has been Zach’s Bubby.
So I am going to leave you with this: Zach latched on to a photo of Evan and carried it around most of the week. He wouldn’t give it up. I would have to sneak it from him at times when he would not be supervised, since the frame had glass in it. But that was Zachy’s way of keeping his Bubby with him all week.