Posted by: Hallie Levine | July 25, 2011

Teddy Turns Two!

Guess who turned two on Friday!

Teddy is obsessed with birthdays. For months after Jo Jo’s birthday, he kept talking about Jo Jo’s party and cake and wandered around the house singing Happy Birthday to her. For weeks, I told him his birthday was coming up, but I don’t think he quite realized last Friday was the actual big day. And while he loved the party on Saturday and our musical entertainment and the Elmo decorations, I don’t think he figured out right away that all the guests were there for him.

But when he saw his birthday cake, complete with Thomas the train, he broke out into a huge grin and I could tell it had finally clicked that all the celebrations and fanfare were for his benefit.

It was a great moment.

Every time one of my children has a birthday, I flash back to the day they were born. I remember so vividly lying in bed in the labor and delivery room the night before Teddy’s birth. It had taken forever to get the epidural, and when it finally came somehow the medication wasn’t completely numbing my right side. I’d still get these sharp flashes of pain, which prevented me from sleeping, but in a perverse way I welcomed it. I felt that the pain was keeping me grounded, and as I lay there hearing the whir of all the monitors and the sound of Jamie’s loud snoring a million and one thoughts crowded my mind. I wondered if Teddy would grow up resenting us for having another child when we already had one with a disability. I wondered if he would feel angry about time taken away from him to help Jo Jo. I wondered if it would be a mistake having the two of them so close together, if I’d be able to devote enough time and energy to each of them if they were only seventeen months apart.

Two years later, it turns out nothing is further than the truth.

Teddy adores his Jo Jo, and every day as he gets older he seems to step more and more into the role of big brother and protector.

 

When Jo Jo cries or complains, somehow instinctively he seems to know exactly what she wants. When we’re out together, he’s never far from her side, especially if other kids are around. One day at the play area at the mall, a little boy pushed Jo Jo and she started to cry. Within seconds, Teddy—who had been on the other side of the room—ran over and was at her side, standing in front of her protectively. The message was crystal clear: no one messes with my Jo Jo.

Sometimes I worry that Teddy, as the middle child, will get lost in the shuffle, that in between taking care of my oldest with special needs and my baby, Teddy’s own needs will get overlooked. Then I watch him, patiently trying to show Jo Jo how to build a block tower or kissing the top of baby Geoffrey’s head during tummy time, and I realize he knows how to find his own way.

He’s the little guardian angel of our family, watching over everyone.

Teddy’s full name is Theodore Wolf. He was named after Wolf Szmuness, my mother’s great uncle, who discovered the hepatitis B vaccine in the late 1970s. Wolf had an amazing life—he escaped the Nazis, he survived a Soviet labor camp, and he managed to emigrate with his family to the United States, where he went from becoming a janitor to running his own epidemiology center at Columbia.

It’s a big name to live up to, but if any toddler can do it, Teddy can.

Although Wolf passed away almost twenty years ago, I know if he could meet his namesake he’d be proud.

Happy birthday, my little Bear. I love you.

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