One of the main reasons that we wanted to have a second child was to give Arran a sibling. Now that she's here, of course, we love and value her for her own precious self most of all, but I can't deny that it makes me unbelievably happy to see my children together.
There are just two years between Arran and Mouse, and whilst this means that I can now slide my hand into the gap where my tummy muscles used to meet at the front, it also means that they are currently at quite a similar stage of life and get on pretty well.
We're not talking about The Waltons or anything here - they do fight and scrap pretty much every day. Always over something vital of course - just a few hours ago, Mouse came crying to me because Arran said 'bleh' to her, and then later it was his turn to cry as he told me the tale that, during the course of farm play, Mouse had said that her horsie was not going to be best friends with his cow ever, ever again. Then there's plenty of snatching, squabbling, ALWAYS wanting the thing that the other one has (even if that thing happens to be a bit of plastic that they found on the ground), discretely bashing each other when a grownup is not watching and taking delight in repeating everything the other one says and watching them get wound up to the point of doing the bashing in full view of a grownup.
What I am talking about, though, is a brother who, whilst prepared to squabble with his little sister, is outraged if any other child says anything even vaguely amiss to his sister. The other day another child (probably copying something they'd heard Arran say in the past!) told Mouse that she was not allowed to play with them. Arran swiftly told them off for being unkind, took Mouse's hand and promised that he would play with her so she needn't worry.
Mouse loves her big boy brother. She always wants to get involved in whatever he is doing, joins in all his games, copies the things that he says (which can lead to some very mature cheekiness from a 2 year old!) and wants to be with him all the time. I can put him in time out for unkind behaviour towards her and he'll say affably, 'OK - want to come with me Eilidh?' and off they'll trot to sit on the step together. If I insist he must go and sit by himself for being unkind to her, she'll busy herself finding toys to take to him until he's allowed to come and play again.
She calls him 'brubba' and he calls her 'sister', which makes me feel like I am living in a little religious convent sometimes. She insists, by the way, that Arran is her big sister and that his name is brubba, which is all very confusing. Arran understands the difference between names and relationships, and says that he is my brother and daddy is his son.
The squabbling, although regular, represents about 10% of their interactions. The other 90% involves them playing together so amazingly. I could - and do - watch them for hours. I love seeing the imaginative games that they play and the little worlds that they go into. They are so good for each other - gentle Eilidh brings nurture and warmth to their games, as they play being 'Daddy and Mummy', pack a suitcase of clothes for baby, pop baby in the boot of the car (nurture only goes so far) and head off on holiday. Energetic Arran has made his sister brave, bold, excitable and loud, charging around the garden, making friends and screeching at the top of their voices.
At this unselfconscious age, they tell each other, 'I love you Eilidh, give me a kiss and a cuddle'. 'I really missed you today Arran', 'I missed you too'. When Mouse has a new toy, dress or piece of news, Arran is the first one she goes to, the approval that matters the most, and he takes this role seriously, giving her warm feedback and affirmation all the time. When he has made a picture at nursery, he gives it to her, telling her about how he made it and basking in the way she looks up to him. He settles down with books and reads stories to her with all the proprietorial air of a daddy with his little girl.
And the laughter... Since Mouse was a baby, nobody could make her erupt into a tummy-shaking laugh like her brother. Now that she's two, and completely barking mad, it's her turn to keep her brother giggling all day long. When something starts them off, they giggle away together endlessly, and it's honestly the best sound in the world.
In September, Arran goes to school. I am already so aware of how much I'm going to miss him - I can't imagine being without him for most of the day, five days a week. My baby boy. I've started to realise, though, how much Mouse is going to miss him too. She's also going to be harder to entertain without her ready-made companion.
I know he's going to love school and thrive there, and he's SO ready, but I hope that no matter how many best friends he makes or what he learns or how he grows, that a vital part of his day is still the little brown haired, blue eyed girl waiting for him at the school gates.