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Fatherhood | To My Son, On Becoming a Big Brother

Jake and Dog Food

Jake and Dog Food


Dear Jake,

As you and I sit at the kitchen table, listening to the Muppet Movie soundtrack, munching on Cheerios, your mother is upstairs in bed, timing contractions. You have no idea what that means, nor do you understand why your play yard, full of toys in the living room, has been moved to the corner to make room for a birthing tub. By the time you’re old enough to read this, and to fully understand, we will all know whether or not today (October 27, 2012) is your baby sister’s birthday.

 As a man who loves his baby sister dearly, I need to tell you a few things:

You’re about to give up the position of being “the baby” but you’re trading it for something important—being “the big brother.”

Girls who are lucky enough to have big brothers always have a source of protection, inspiration, education and support.  You need to figure out, moment-to-moment how to be these things for her.  Sometimes it’s a tough job, but you’ll be glad that you invested the time and energy.  My baby sister is a nearly forty year old police detective.  You might think she doesn’t need her big brother anymore but ask her, she will tell you that having a big brother still comes in handy from time to time.

You need to teach her things.

Right now, I can’t tell you what those things will be.  You’ll have to watch her, grow with her and watch for opportunities to teach her.  Also, be careful about what you teach.  I potty-trained my baby sister.  However, when a little boy teaches a little girl how to pee standing up, the results aren’t usually good and the embarrassing stories that result last for generations!

Never bully her.

For a long time you will probably be stronger and a few steps ahead of her in your development.  That will present many opportunities to bully her and use your age-related advantage to your favor.  Don’t do that.  With great power comes great responsibility.  You are a strong and intelligent boy.  In your little world, use your strength to protect her.  Later in life, when she carries a gun and has the power to put you in jail, you’ll be glad you made this choice.

Don’t eat dog food.

This one has nothing to do with being a big brother, but four times while I was writing this article, I had to jump up to stop you from stuffing a handful of Winston’s kibble into your mouth.  That’s just never a good idea.

In a moment you and I are going to head upstairs to check on your mother and see if those contractions are progressing.  Within the next few days or hours your world is about to change.  You will always associate that change with the name Nellie.  At first you may feel a little bit like she’s taking away some of the attention that now belongs to you.  Before long, though, you won’t remember life without her.  If you’re lucky like me, years from now, she will be one of your best friends and you won’t be able to imagine life without her in it.

Wade is the father of a fifteen-year-old, a one-year-old and is expecting another baby very soon. He is the host of the "Fathers Over Forty" podcast. A former long-distance cyclist, weight loss guru and master gardener, Wade is sport-challenged, television-averse and constantly worried that his Man Cave pass might be revoked. When not at his full time job doing assistive technology for people with disabilities, he's reading, cooking, or spending time outdoors with his kids and his beautiful wife, Jenny. Connect with Wade at: or on Twitter at: @FOForty


  1. Crystal Paschal

    October 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Love it! My son was about Jake’s age when his baby brother came into the world. Now that they are three and two, my oldest will often tell me he doesn’t like his brother and wants a new one. But he’s also the first to tell me “Leave my brother alone!” when baby brother is being scolded. They will have an amazing bond, and it will be so much fun for you guys to see it develop.

  2. J. Todd Wilson

    October 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    From one big brother to another, this an awesome post & a very insightful retrospect on what being a big brother really should be. Well done & congrats on the new family addition (whenever she gets here!) Jake is a lucky boy.

  3. Wade

    October 30, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Awww… thanks for the kind words. No baby yet. We thought that day WAS going to be the day–all the signs were there but, alas, she’s not quite ready yet. Soon…. and very soon….

  4. Prime Parents Club

    October 30, 2012 at 8:49 am

    This post TOTALLY made me cry! Your love for your son and your family comes through loud and clear in this post. Your entire family will treasure this post always.

    Is the new baby here?!

    Thanks for sharing this! /jackie

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