When our first child, a boy, was born we couldn’t believe our luck. He was “that baby.” He slept anywhere no matter what was going on around him. He took to breastfeeding without any major glitches, and later, when on solids, wasn’t a fussy eater. He was always happy, smiling and could entertain himself with a teething ring for hours on end.
My husband and I fought over whose genetic makeup contributed to this easy going, laid back baby. We knew that he was a rarity, an anomaly, because we were surrounded by our friends and family’s children who didn’t necessarily possess these same angelic qualities. Life was good.
One day, my husband and I sat down and agreed that we wanted more children. Both of us had siblings and we knew we didn’t want him to be left on his own when we went to greener pastures. Besides, we obviously were very good at this baby thing. Just look at how the parenting world was treating us so far!
We did everything that the books told us to do to welcome a newborn baby into a house with an existing child. We prepared him with books on how exciting it was to welcome a new baby into the house. We bought him a big brother t-shirt and a medal with “best brother ever” adorned on it to wear around his neck proudly. We had purchased a giant toy truck for him and had it wrapped and waiting to go at home for when we returned from the hospital. It was going to be from his new baby sister, How ingenious, we thought.
When the big day arrived, my 2.5-year-old son had a special sleepover with Grandma. The next morning he was flooded with encouragement of how this day was going to be the greatest day ever. He was going to be meeting his new baby sister. When he got to the hospital, he was allowed to stop by the gift shop and pick out a new stuffed animal for his sister. Imagine that! Being allowed to pick out a new toy for someone he’s never met. He was paraded up the elevator to the maternity ward, and told to go in and meet the new baby — his future best friend.
And that’s when the shit hit the fan.
I will never forget the way my son looked at me when he entered that hospital room and saw me nursing his new baby sister. He had a look of sheer defeat. This “big brother” stuff was a load of horse shit.
The weeks following her arrival were, for a lack of a better word, “hell.” My daughter was doing what new babies do best — sleep. I continued to focus any energy that I had on my son, as the “experts” suggested, and made sure our routine was as normal to “pre-baby sister” times as possible. None of it worked.
Guests came to visit and were gracious enough to bring presents for him and his new role as “Big Brother.” His dad took him to the park and the zoo on weekends for some “father and son” time. He didn’t care. He wanted his mother to himself again.
He wanted to be the baby. His language had always been advanced for his age but he began to regress and insisted on speaking like a “baby” whenever the mood suited him. He had meltdown after meltdown. One meltdown was so bad that he refused to go back into the double stroller after leaving music class and the mailman had to carry him down the street for me so I could push my daughter safely home. He wanted to sleep with mommy and daddy at night. He spent his nap times screaming the house down, resulting in me finally relinquishing his naptime — a decision a mother with a newborn does not take lightly.
What had happened to our angelic little boy?! My husband and I were at our wits end and we briefly considered putting him into daycare while I stayed home with my daughter.
We soon began to “allow him” to behave like a baby, never correcting him to be the “big boy.” We laid off the “big brother” label and didn’t encourage him to help change the baby or bathe her. After all, why on earth would a toddler want to help change a dirty diaper?!
Then one day, about five months after she was born, my son came to an epiphany. Well, at least that’s what we assume. I am not sure if this epiphany was that his sister was actually not so bad, or if it was the realization that she wasn’t going anywhere, or if it was just him saying to himself “okay, there seems to be enough room for two babies in this family.” And that was it. He assumed his role as our first born “almost” angelic little boy again.
Life was good again. For awhile. Then two years later, we welcomed another little girl into our family. This time we laid off the “big sister, big brother” fanfare and our son adjusted to the new addition with ease. As for our daughter; that was a different story, we’re still paying the price for the arrival of her baby sister.