"Noah hurt-ed me!"
"Ikey TOOK. MY. TOY!"
"Mo-o-om, make Ezra stop looking at me, okay?"
"You're not NICE, Noah!"
*assorted frenzied shrieking*
They fight over toys, they vie for position and space. They kick each other under the table and careen around the house like out-of-control bumper cars. They want what HE has, until they get it. We have to keep track over who got out of the bath first last time, who got to sit next to the faucet, who got to choose the night's TV show, even though it doesn't really matter: whoever's turn it isn't that night will inevitably protest that it's NOT FAIR. Everything's a race, even when it totally isn't. Even hugs will eventually give way to tumbles and shrieks and accusations of injury. Ike's learned how to hit, thanks to his brothers, and yet they turn to me with shock and fury when it happens, as if I'm the one at fault. Did I not SEE THAT? Am I not going to DO SOMETHING?
I wonder what their relationships will be like when they're older. If they'll be close or strained or just so fundamentally different or geographically scattered that a distance will form, nobody's fault, but it is what it is. Will they remember the fighting or the unfairness of who got to sit next to the faucet; will they view each other as spoiled or favored or mean?
I hope they will be friends, obviously. I hope they will be close and be there for each other, especially when I can't.
In between the squabbles and the HE TOUCHED MEs, I can see it — a strong yet gentle loyalty that unites them, occasionally against me, occasionally just because they are being quiet enough to let the affection bubble to the surface. I catch Noah reading them a story, or getting everyone a snack, patiently opening wrappers and inserting straws into juice boxes. Ezra and Ike staging elaborate picnic after picnic in the playroom. Everyone huddled under a throw blanket to watch a movie, or sharing their dessert with someone who lost that privilege, silently, without a word.
And Ezra, at the window, every afternoon, waiting for Noah to come home.