You are 11 months old. So close to a year. What I wouldn't have given to know you'd make it to the last day of the year. Even now saying that a day early feels like a risk.
I've tried very hard not to make your first year about your brother. I think I have managed it, by and large, though the first weeks were tough. I didn't want to make your life about his death. Perhaps you will forgive me if I indulge for a moment. As your first birthday looms, it is now so easy to see everything as it is, will be, must be. It is easy to see what we have and what we don't.
In my head, you and Freddie are opposites, you are fair where he was dark. You are Taylor where he was all Raymond. You are noise where he was silence. You are laughter where he was tears. You are growth where he is still, smiles where he was solemn, action where he was soul. You are perfect, as was he, but you are you and he was he. You do not replace, because no replacement was needed. You are whole and yourself and full of life and loved, so, so, so loved. Life before you, Benedict, seems so very improbable where only 11 months ago it felt unreal that you were here. It seemed there would always be six, then Freddie, then you but now we seem to have become some new, uncountable number with you both woven right through us.
It is as it is and it feels as it should be.
At nine months you crawled and within a day you could climb and stand. Now you are a marauding maelstrom who seeks and destroys, mainly iPads, remote controls will do, anything that someone else has is acceptable. Toys are so last month. Your sounds are increasing with b and p and g and t all coming along fast. You grew two top teeth, had a night in hospital and didn't die, learned to throw, push cars with a brimming noise, spit (not good), wail if told no, bash things and open christmas presents.
You have us all wrapped around your fingers tightly and you know just how to make us dance. And we don't mind at all.