Your bed makes it's indescribable squeak as you lift your growing body from the car and truck covered sheets. I hear your footsteps as you run down the hall. I pause from the book I am reading to listen, expecting to hear your step on the stairs. Only I don't. You don't show back up in the living room, like you so often do. No, tonight you head the other way down the hall, to your little brother's room. The footsteps stop and I hear the small wooden chair being dragged across the tiny toddler's room. "What are you up to?", I wonder. Are you going to spring your little brother from his crib? Are you going to stand on the chair so that you can drop something into his crib?
I hear your little voices, whispering in the darkness. "Way to go, Alex, you sunk my battleship!", I hear you say. I smile. The tiny toddler had been watching Curious George videos on my phone before you snuck into his room- now you must be playing Battleship. "Look, Alex, you already have a hit here, so you want to fire right here." You patiently explain the game to your tired little brother, who has never played before. "That was a decoy! Do you know what a decoy is, Alex?" You go on with your tiny patient voice, explaining, very correctly, just what exactly a decoy is.
Moments later I pick the baby monitor up again and hold it to my ear.
"You have to pay attention in school, Alex. I know you say you don't like your new preschool but you have to learn." More whispers I can't hear. There are tears in my eyes. You will turn 6 years old next weekend and here you are, already such a good big brother.
"This is President Obama. And this is George Bush. His dad was a president too." You must be showing your brother your library book about Presidents. The tears are flowing now.
You don't know it, my big five year old, but this is what every parent wants - for the children to like each other, to rely on each other, to always be there for each other. Tonight I could picture teenage boys, one with spiky black hair and bright almond eyes and one with a crooked smile and serious eyes, hanging out in one of their bedroom's; the tall Chinese boy draped over the chair while the smaller Russian boy curled up in the bed. I could picture talks about school, teachers, girls, parents. My only hope for you and your brother is that you be happy. I don't worry so much about you. You are smart and funny and sensitive. But I worry that your brother will not be happy. I worry that his life will be so much harder than yours, that he will have to work ten times harder than you. And maybe he will. But hopefully you will have built such a strong brotherhood with him that it won't matter. That when it comes to you and him, you will always be brothers.
I know I should go upstairs and break up your late night whispers. I know that you have school tomorrow and that you need your sleep. But I don't. This is life happening up there in the tiny toddler's room. This is you growing into a big brother.
I hold the baby monitor to my ear again. I hear no whispers, only the calm rhythmic breathing of the tiny toddler. Have you fallen asleep on your brother's floor? Did you sneak back to your own bed?
Earlier tonight you were laying spreadeagled on the kitchen floor, under my feet. I marveled at how big you have grown. Your body is growing, that is for sure. Tonight, amid the whispers and giggles from your brother's room, I heard your heart and soul growing too.