My brother Pete is nine years younger than me. It might embarrass him to know that he is the first baby I ever came in contact with.
When he was born, I was in Grade three. It was 1978. When they brought him home, it was in a bassinet. Commander Tom was on TV as I sat next to it. Elvis Costello was touring My Aim Is True, and there was a commercial on about him being the future of rock n’ roll.
And my brother was the first baby I ever held. I remember it vividly.
Flashforward to 2005. My brother is 27. He holds his niece for the first time, a little awkwardly, but not very. She is the first baby he’s ever held.
The Girl and I don’t see Pete that much. This is partially because he works nights, and has conflicting hours in general. But, when we’ve got together with him, especially recently, I’ve noticed that she is in love with her Uncle Pete.
I think this is true for a few reasons. First, it has to do with her. She has a fascination with her family, with who she’s connected to, those with whom she shares something of a history. Second, it has to do with him. He knows how to talk to her. And I don’t mean this in the sense that he has some stunning insight into the mind of a kid. He may well have that. But, that’s not the reason.
The real reason is this. He doesn’t talk down to her. He doesn’t ignore her questions. He’s willing to go along.
That’s more than most grown-ups allow themselves in the life of a child.