Tag Archives: sisters

Bee Stings and Toddler Vengeance

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m pretty fond of my kids and of being a mom, overall. Maybe it’s the whole dedicated-parenting-blog-thing that gave it away, or how I kind of flipped out on the anti-child childfree folks a while back…

But I have to admit that I’m a bigger fan of kids than I am of babies. Don’t get me wrong… I loved my babies to pieces and they’re incredibly fun (whenever they aren’t waking you up every 47 minutes for nights on end or irrationally screaming whenever you venture into public space) except they don’t really do much.

No… for me, the really fun part happens at the latter stages of three, working up through five or more, after kids start really grasping the English language and expressing all the raw, unbridled notions in their heads. You can see how humans think when they still believe magic is possible and before they’ve been properly socialized or learned how to fake being “normal.”

Take, for example, what happened a couple days ago when Bridget (3) was stung by a bee in a bush in our front yard right before our family took our evening walk and then her sister Brontë (5), being a kid herself, figured out the best way to comfort her…

Bidgie: BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Me: OW! It’s okay…

Bidgie (bright red and screaming): BWAAAAAAA! WAAAAAAAAAH!

Me (grabbing her arm in concern): Show me!

(I see a welt around a red spot and try to compare the two arms for swelling. I secretly worry about whether my kid has a bee sting allergy and quietly check her face and throat for signs that she’s right about to dangerously swell up while trying to cover up my secret panic… as Bridget nonstop screams)

Bidgie: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

(Neighbors start looking over with concern)

John (after picking out the stinger): It’s all red. Let’s get you some ice to make it feel better. Daddy has been stung by lots of bees and hornets and jellyfish and it will feel better really soon…

Bidgie (furiously clawing the air in her rage): BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Brontë: You know what? That bee is gonna die for stinging you.

Bidgie (raising her eyebrows): Yeah?

bee.jpgHer sister’s comments cut the screaming short so fast, I could almost hear a record screeching in the background. We took Bidgie inside to put a bag of frozen peas on her arm and she was 100 percent better, ten minutes later.

Turns out, she isn’t allergic to bees (whew) and Brontë was obviously paying attention to the bee nature videos I had rented from the library.

You see, Brontë had a deathly fear of bees herself, so I’d grabbed a bee video, wondering whether increased knowledge would help her conquer fears of the frightening unknown (as it does with me) and I ended up being started by the unblinking fascination she held for the life of bees.

“They die when they sting you?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I told her. “The stinger falls out in your skin and they die.”

She nodded solemnly, contemplating the cosmic balancing scales, tucking away this newly-discovered fact for an opportune moment… such as when comforting her baby sister after just being stung by a bee.

See… the fact that Bridget would scream, nonstop, despite all of her parents’ attempts at comfort, would make one think that the pain itself was prompting hysterics. Except she quit the very second her sister revealed that the culprit would die…

Which means that Bridget’s screaming was less about the pain than a general feeling of gross injustice: here she was, minding her own business when this furry insect flies over and painfully stings her in an unprompted show of aggression…

And the moment her sister explained that this lunatic would be sentenced to death, Bridget calmed down and mustered the internal fortitude to carry on with toddler dignity.

It’s a primitive justice, to be sure. Most adults would consider how the animal was just protecting itself and consider celebrating its death to be somewhat macabre.

But it demonstrates how one’s sense of justice is wired early on. Convince a kid that something is “fair,” and they’ll get surprisingly reasonable.

We ate honey on our toast the next morning.

 

 

 

 

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How ‘Bout Them Bapples? and Other Assorted Toddler Rebellions

It’s been interesting to check out the kind of advertising they’ve been running on my site lately. Expecting something more along the lines of Legos or diaper deals, I’ve been shocked by all the ads for MBA degrees and thousand-dollar Polyvore skirts.

(Was this because I made fun of Gwyneth Paltrow a while back? I’ll just assume their

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Says the woman with a pizza-stove in her backyard

algorithm can’t detect sarcasm.)

Or maybe it has more to do with my audience; in which case, you guys are classy folks.

In other news, Bridget, my 3-year-old, has been eating one bite of every apple we own.

Or strawberries, or bananas, or chips, or what-have-you: any grouping of like food substances in a bowl has been vulnerable. It’s the toddler equivalent of grownups who take a small chunk out of every chocolate in the box until they finally find a filling they deem acceptable.

Except in this case, they’re all the same. So why, toddlers, why? Are you trying to find the best one? Are you claiming all the apples for later use? Is it just because you’re not supposed to do it?

She loves to beg for “bapples” then scream “DONE!” after taking one taste. Or burritos, or tacos, or whatever else she catches anyone eating and therefore wants. It’s baffling.

But this toddler phenomenon is hardly news to other parents. A more compelling development has been her 5-year-old sister Brontë becoming the house’s new Apple Sheriff.

After observing the drama enough times, she decided to climb onboard my ongoing Bridget projects by coaching her on everything from potty-training to putting dirty clothes in the hamper to not finishing apples. What’s more, I just figured out that she’s been taping these coaching sessions on the iPad her grandparents bought her, which is hilarious:

 

Of course, Brontë never accounted for how much more fun eating one bite of an apple would become after Bridget realized how much it would torture her big sister. It’s like Brontë just handed her a big, red, sister-freakout button and then begged her not press it.

I do appreciate Brontë’s efforts, though 🙂

My Kids Advance to Higher Level Tantrums

Generally speaking, Brontë and Bridget are much easier to manage now that they’re five and three. Gone are the days of three-hour fits and grocery store tantrums. Consistent refusal to reward bad behavior slowly winnowed them out.

Or of Brontë’s poop-mural experiments, which went on for months. Making her clean them up, by the way, was what finally did the trick.

Or of Bridget ruthlessly tackling the cat. We let the cat sort that one out himself.

We’ve finally moved on to more advanced kid skills, like not constantly interrupting people and getting through meals like civilized people. Occasionally, they’ll try snotty attitudes on for size, experimenting with the social ramifications, or check to see how much leverage they’ll get from being tragic.

Like the other day, when Bridget fell into some gravel and scraped her knee.  Viking that she is, she handled it by punching everything around her, including the air, which made her fall over and over again, growing ever angrier.

I raced over to help her with her bloody leg and she responded by boxing my legs like a violent leprechaun. This didn’t go over very well, because mommy is not a punching-bag. Even if you’re sick or injured.

Which pretty much set off a cascade of bad behavior for the next few hours, during which time her sister Brontë was the perfect, model child: holding mommy’s hand, cheerfully doing everything she was supposed to, and giving heart-melting monologues about how much she loves her family.

Because I don’t know if this is typical, but my kids like to take turns acting out. I think that one of them acting like a hooligan gives the other the perfect opportunity to look angelic by comparison, and they relish the opportunity to rub their good behavior and all of its associated privileges in their sister’s face.

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This smiling cherub would NEVER act like that. 

But, growing bored with their good cop/bad cop routine, they changed places yesterday. While Bridget was snuggling mommy and bringing her flowers, Brontë was accidentally spilling huge glasses of chocolate milk and then later wouldn’t shut up about the “giant turd she’d been wrestling” during lunch because Brontë has picked up that mommy’s weakness is finding your bad behavior hilarious.

Yesterday was the day when Brontë forgot how to put on shoes, after years of doing it correctly, and suddenly found the request outrageous. She wouldn’t quit pushing around her sister either, grabbing toys out of her hands on account of her possessing such a “stinky butt,” which probably made sense to her wound-up toddler brain.

At any rate, it all culminated in last night’s dinner episode. Bridget was quietly eating her taco while Brontë somehow hovered in a blur about the air pockets around her seat as my husband and I desperately tried to have a conversation:

John: So then I went to the manager meeting, and

Brontë: I’M THE QUEEN OF JELLYFISH.

John: I went to the managers’ meeting where they were talking about…

Brontë: I HAVE A BURRITO. MY EYES ARE BLUE. I WANT TO GO IN THE POOL.

Me: Stop interrupting, Brontë. Wait until your dad finishes what he’s saying.

Brontë keeps jabbering on for the next few minutes while John and I try ignoring her until it stops. Bridget keeps eating her taco, watching the whole thing play out. Finally, John looks over…

John: Okay, Brontë. What were you saying?

Brontë: I WANT TO GO SWIMMING AT MIDNIGHT WITH THE POOL LIGHT ON.

John: Not tonight, because you’re going to bed on time. Maybe this weekend we can go swimming when it’s dark outside.

Brontë (stomping away): I’m EXCUSED!

John: Come BACK here and sit down. We didn’t excuse you.

Brontë (making a face): HMPH!

John: Go to your room.

Brontë screams down the hallway before slamming the door. The room gets quiet. Bridget takes another bite of taco, her tiny legs swinging under her chair.

Bridget: Psh… Brontë childish.

 

 

 

 

 

Sibling Torture Tactics: Psychological Warfare

My two-year-old daughter Bridget has been trying really hard to talk lately. She goes on long monologues at the dinner table, flinging her arms around and shaking her fist to emphasize her point.

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Maybe this was it

Frankly, I have no idea what she’s talking about. Whatever it is, she feels very passionate about it. Something about tacos and cats, which are apparently vital issues within the baby community.

I’m so glad she’s finally learning to talk, though, because she’s been at a major disadvantage when dealing with her big sister Brontë, who is four. Brontë literally talks nonstop from the crack of dawn until I’m tucking her into bed, which must be so intimidating.

Two years is a huge advantage in toddler time. Brontë is bigger and stronger and can reach more, say more, and knows more things. She constantly bosses Bridget around and muscles away her toys whenever my back is turned.

All Bridget can do in response is scream uncontrollably or hit Brontë in the head with a nearby object. And BOTH get her in trouble.

Brontë’s got the home field advantage. She’s even been convincing Bridget she can read. She grabs the bedtime story book when I’m finished and convincingly pretends to read every page to her sister, making up a story while pointing to words.

I didn’t fully grasp her motivations until last week, when Brontë grabbed my clock radio instructions, unfolded them, then walked over to Bridget.

“It says here,” Brontë began, while staring intently at the giant instruction square, “That the bedroom is Brontë’s and Bidgie is just allowed to sleep over.”

Bidgie blinked.

“And number 2,” Brontë pretended to read, “The toys are Brontë’s and Bidgie is not allowed to take them. Number 3 says Bidgie can’t close the door.”

“Psh,” said Bridget.

“I dunno, Bidgie. That’s what it says.”

But Bidgie’s not rolling over without a fight. What she lacks in verbiage, she more than makes up for in sheer bravada.

When Brontë dazzles everyone with adorable stories, for example, Bridget will stun the audience by picking up a bottle of hot sauce and drinking it.

Or, Bridget will aggravate her big sister by wreaking havoc on her pretend world. Like the other day, when Brontë took  Princess Pink Ballerina and the Handsome Prince out for a joyride in the  fantasy pink ballerina car.

The moment Brontë ran away, distracted by something or other, Bridget crept up to the car and replaced the prince with a giant green dinosaur:

dinosaur.jpg
It’s hard to drive with super-short arms

And you’d be surprised by how much attitude Bridget can work into two- or three-word sentences. Yesterday, she had the following conversation with her sister:

Bidgie is sitting in the bathtub when Brontë wanders up…

Brontë: Hi, can I get some candy please?

Bridget (handing her pretend candy): Here!

Brontë: Thank you! This isn’t enough candy though. I come here all the time. Can I get more candy?

Bridget: Buh-bye

Brontë: Can I get some strawberry ice cream?

Bridget: Here.

Brontë: Thanks! Do you have any chocolate ice cream?

Bridget: NO.

Brontë: Can you make some?

Bridget (crossing arms): Buh-bye.

Honestly, I was a little relieved when this conversation ended. I thought it might take a turn down “around the corner fudge is made” street.

That’s such a likely scenario with my kids, I can only assume Bridget didn’t have the goods.

My Daughter Resorts to Shapeshifting to Get My Attention

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Carseat sticker wars

Since my husband and I were both only children, we knew we were entering a brave new world by having two kids. We did our best to give them both attention and encourage them to be nice to each other.

And they DO love each other… most of the time.

But we’ve learned that no matter how much you encourage siblings to get along, they’re going to bicker and vie for your attention. Whenever I’m holding Brontë (my three-year-old) on my lap, for example, Bridget will ask to be held too. I’ll plop her on the opposite leg where, without fail, she will s l o w l e y inch over in tiny increments until Brontë is effectively smeared off the other side.

It’s both touching and frustrating to watch your kids fight for your cuddles, but then again, they also fight over toys, snack, cats, cardboard boxes, and take pleasure in annoying each other on principle.

Because that is what siblings do and I’m starting to think that’s Nature’s intention.

Why? Well, it’s a sort of rivalry that stirs up competition and what is life without some friendly competition? We’ve been doing it ever since the first fish managed some flip legs, said “see ya, suckers,” and crawled onto the shore to found the amphibians.

IMG_1919
Still buddies, despite all the bickering

And I can’t help noticing how this competition is sparking creative leaps and bounds in my kids, so maybe it’s not all bad.

Ever since they’ve wrapped their minds around the idea that direct aggression, AKA might-makes-right maneuvers, are forbidden in this house, they’ve had to evolve from punching each other in the face to far more subtle tactics.

For example, Bridget has figured out that big sister likes to do things by the book, even when those things are silly.

Case in point: When I’m driving them around, whenever we drive through a tunnel or long overpass, I start yelling, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!’ The kids picked up on this early and like to do it too.

Why? Because it’s fun, that’s why. One great thing about kids is how they don’t question mommy’s bizarre behavior. “Because it’s fun” makes perfect sense to them and they see no reason to question it further.

But even silliness needs to follow the rules, in Brontë’s book, so it didn’t take long for Bidgie to figure out that yelling thirty seconds BEFORE you enter the tunnel will drive sister up the wall.

So as soon as a tunnel is within sight, Bidgie will start yelling, which drives Brontë into flailing hysterics. “NO! NOT YET SISTER! NOT YET, BRIDGE-JIT,” Brontë screams as baby sister giggles maniacally and yells as loudly as she can.

Then, the moment we enter the tunnel, Bidgie goes dead silent, making Brontë throw up her arms and scream, “NOW, SISTER! WE YELL NOW!” Bridget clamps her lips together with true conviction as big sister flips around, demanding that everyone scream.

Brontë doesn’t forget these indignities, of course, and pays her sister back every morning.  Brontë is what people call a “morning person,” popping out of bed at the crack of dawn like an over-caffinated meadowlark.

Bridget, on the other hand, takes after me… not a morning person by anyone’s definition.

So when I say it’s time to wake up Bridget, Brontë lights up and wants to go too. As soon as I open the door to the girls’ room, Brontë races over to the crib, throws back her head, and screams “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING BABY SISTER!” at the top of her lungs while Bidgie winces.

“TIME TO WAKE UP!” Brontë yells, giggling as she reaches through the crib bars to poke at her groaning sister. Bridget always scowls, though she is somewhat comforted by the knowledge that she will be tormenting her sister throughout the evening by flipping lights on and off (after figuring out that Brontë is scared of the dark, Bridget learned how to work the light switch real quick).

This has all been incredibly entertaining to watch, but while I’ve been impressed by both of my daughters’ creativity, this week’s prize for manipulative genius must go to Brontë…

Whenever I’m in the middle of doing something with Bridget (changing her diaper, feeding her, etc), Brontë suddenly has an “emergency” that needs attention. Maybe she suddenly wants to go use the potty, or “accidentally” trips and hurts herself.

Tired of Brontë lighting fires whenever I was in the middle of something, I started telling her she needs to wait her turn, that I was dealing with Bridget at the moment and she needs to be patient.

But kids are nothing if not quick character studies, and Brontë has figured out that making momma laugh is one of her most effective tools.

IMG_1661
Next time don’t blink

So when I was holding Bridget the other day, I heard screams coming from my bathroom…

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Brontë yelled at the top of her lungs. I raced in to see what the problem was:

Brontë: MOMMA, HELP! I’m turning into a mermaid!

Me: A mermaid? You have a tail instead of legs?

Brontë: No, I’m a kid again. You missed it.

 

Good show, Brontë… Good show.

Sibling Torture Tactics

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My husband John and I were both only children, so by having two kids, we knew we were setting forth into a brave new world.

Both of us, like many only children, always dreamed about having a sibling we could pal around with. Of course, these were imaginary siblings, the pinky-swearing, truce-keeping pretend siblings who were so much better than the teddy bears we dressed up and had conversations with.

Actual siblings, if our friends’ siblings were anything to go by, tend to take your stuff and tell on you, whenever they aren’t busy punching you in the stomach. We witnessed plenty of that too, while growing up.

So when we had two kids of our own, we did our best to encourage a good relationship between them. We took pains to give our older daughter Brontë plenty of attention after baby Bridget was born, hand out toys and snuggles in even doses, and reward them for treating each other nicely.

One thing we’re quickly discovering, however, is that siblings fight, no matter how hard you try to prevent it. Now that Bridget is walking and talking, we’ve had to lay down a couple of rules: no hitting and no calling each other bad names.

Aaaaaaand… it has been fascinating to see our kids come up with workarounds.

  • Bridget Tactic #1: Holds something big and whacks her sister in the head with it, then immediately gives her an “I’m sorry” hug, before whacking her again.

Poor Brontë keeps falling for it. It sounds a lot like this: “Aww, her being nice now… OW!”

  • Bridget Tactic #2: Flails her arms around wildly while walking closer and closer to Brontë until Brontë *happens* to run into her arms.
  • Bridget Tactic #3: She has figured out that Brontë is so afraid of the dark, she’ll flip out if you switch the lights off during daytime. So, game over…. all Bridget has to do is run around flipping switches and her sister is a quivering mass of panic.

But Big Sister is developing her own strategies.

  • Brontë Tactic #1: “Not” calling Bridget names. It sounds like this: “SISTER! You are NOT a poo-poo head and you are NOT a stupid-head!”
  • Brontë Tactic #2: Rolling into a sobbing ball whenever Bridget bumps into her while yelling, “OW, I’M HURT! SISTER HURT ME!” Sometimes she has to purposefully walk into Bridget’s path to get bumped.
  • Brontë Tactic #3: Shoving her little sister into the bathroom, shutting the lights off, and closing the door. This one is very effective, as Bridget will immediately scream bloody murder.

Clearly, these kids are motivated to fight, and sometimes it’s hard to not laugh at their creativity.

But just as I was wringing my hands in parental despair, I witnessed an incident that reassured me that deep down, the girls actually do love each other:

We were recently all at the Children’s Museum in Sacramento, a fun place for kids with lots of toys. Bridget was playing with a big train set while Brontë was across the room, playing with blocks. There was a little boy building a giant wall out of cushioned blocks, a wall as tall as he was. Brontë decided it looked fun and tried to get in on his game.

Brontë walked over to him and smiled, saying, “HI! I’m Brontë!” The little boy scowled.

Brontë picked up a cushioned block and put it on his wall.

The little boy grabbed her block and chucked it as far as he could, saying “GO AWAY!”

Brontë looked hurt, but decided to give it another shot. She walked up to the boy, smiling, and asked, “Friends?”

IMG_2484
This baby is about to rain down vengeance

The boy put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her to the ground, barking “GO AWAY!” I jumped up to intervene, but before I could, I caught sight of Bridget stomping across the room.

Bridget was livid. Fixing the boy with a cold, hard stare, she kicked a hole in his wall with her tiny foot. Then, like a Baby Godzilla, she kept kicking his masterpiece into rubble.

The boy thrashed and screamed, but what could he do? It was a baby.

When every last cushioned block was scattered to the floor, Bridget swirled around and smiled at Brontë before walking back to the train set.

Brontë watched her for a moment. Then, looking at me, said, “Her a good baby.”

Ah, siblings… it’s a complicated relationship, yes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birth Order, Only Children, and Sibling Warfare

IMG_1794 (1)Once a month, the cooperative preschool we take our daughter to requires parents to attend a three-hour meeting, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. My daughter had woken me up at the crack of dawn, to share her fascinating discovery of having two feet, and I had been running on fumes since midday.

Sheesh, THREE HOURS? Would it really run until ten at night? Picturing myself squirming in my seat as parents discussed scheduling minutiae and debated the hot issue of bringing snacks whose ingredients once shook hands with a tree nut, I grabbed a pen and notebook.

I figured having something to doodle into might keep me from melting into a drooling pile on my metal chair as everyone droned on. Asking my husband to keep an eye on the kids while I took one for the team, I headed out to my first meeting.

And I was pleasantly surprised. Turns out, the bulk of these meetings are spent discussing parenting theory, which is fine by me since I’d far rather meander through academic abstractions than do anything smacking of practicality. The topic for the evening was birth order, which Freud apparently believed is the most important element of personality development.

First, they asked for a show of hands for all the Firstborn attendees, and many of the about six hundred hands proudly shot into the air.

Next, they wanted to see all of the Middle Children. Another wave of hands flew up before the Youngest Kids had their turn.

Finally, they asked to see how many Only Children were in the audience, and I was surprised to see only three other hands besides mine in the air. They told us to break into groups according to birth order for the next exercise, advising the Only Children to decide amongst ourselves whether to merge with the Firstborns or the Youngs.

Finding my group, I smiled to see Jimmy, a friend from my section, along with two women from other sections. After briefly debating whether only children are more like firstborns or the babies of the family, I started pushing to keep our group separate.

“You know they are going to treat us differently, “ I said. “So why shouldn’t we keep our own group?”

Everyone smiled, knowing nothing further needed to be said regarding any potential merger. We were Onlies, damn it, and for once, we were going to own it.

Being an only child is hardly a source of pride in this country. People have nothing good to say about us and we’ve heard it all a million times: we’re spoiled and self-centered. We get all of our parents’ attention and never had to share our toys. We are bad team players and socially retarded.

When people ask you if you have brothers or sisters and you respond that you’re an only child, you can count on responses as seamlessly automatic as hearing about French people eating rich food or no one sleeping once babies are born: “Ah, you never had to share.”

People react as though you personally made sure your parents never had more children. Part of you longs to point out that you’re not the one fantasizing about trading siblings for extra toys, but witty retorts like that wouldn’t improve our PR, now would they?

So when we were given the task of writing down everything we would bring on a fun camping trip, the Only Children immediately jumped to figuring out how our answers could potentially be used against us.

“We should say ‘our kids,’” Jimmy suggested. “At the end of this, they might say ‘Notice how you forgot to bring your kids’ and then the whole point becomes how self-centered we are.”

“Well, why don’t we just save everyone time and write ‘a bunch of selfish crap’ instead?” I offered. “ Let’s give the people what they want.”

The Onlies went into hysterics. We had nothing to lose, so we just started giggling and joking around. We wrote things like “Cool Ranch Doritos” and “baby wipes” to clean our fingers after Dorito-eating. We bonded over our black sheep birth order status, having what seemed to be a much better, and sillier, time than any of the other groups.

Returning to our seats afterwards, one of the Firstborns pointed out that we had only filled up a single page, whereas they had two. Freakin’ know-it-all firstborns…

Group leaders were called to the front to read off their lists. Youngest children tried to make everyone laugh by including alcohol and condoms on their list, the middle kids were vague, and the firstborns were practical.

The lecture went on to describe birth order qualities. Firstborns are supposed to be responsible, competitive, and have trouble lightening up. Middle children are the best team players because they receive, and later require, the least amount of individual attention. Youngest children are supposed to be the most charismatic, but also the least likely to follow rules, and parents are supposed to make more of an effort to keep them in line for their own future good. Only children were said to be mature for their age (since they socialize more around adults than peers) and the most accepting of authority.

We then broke into a group discussion about birth order, during which only children were predictably targeted. One dad raised his hand to talk about how only children have no empathy, since one of his only-child cousins used to play too rough, and another talked about how only children don’t play well with others.

It’s interesting, really, how much weight we give to theories like these. General patterns can be useful, but they hardly tell the whole story. My husband and I were both only children, for example, but behaved very differently growing up.

John was a rebel, and I was a good girl. He ran around getting into trouble with his friends and making his teachers wring their hands at his untapped potential, whereas I was the straight-A student always cutting the class curve and collecting awards. And ironically, John grew up to firmly support a solid hierarchy and the strict adherence to rules, whereas I am now suspicious of all authority and arbitrary procedure.

And because we were both only children, we wanted to have another child after our first was born. Both of us wanted a brother or sister when we were growing up. I’ve never met another only child who didn’t.

Because being an only child means feeling alone. You’re one powerless, flawed kid against two Titans.

The closest thing I ever had to a sibling was my cousin, who was roughly my same age. We spent a lot of time together growing up, sometimes playing together and sometimes fighting viciously, as siblings are said to do.

Our relationship was a bit like countries throughout the Middle East: we fought amongst ourselves until joining in solidarity when threatened by an outsider. No matter what arguments we were having, once our grandmother stomped forth to paddle us with an orange plastic pancake-flipper, we’d start holding hands and scheming.

There is great intensity to being an only child: yes, you receive all the toys and attention, but also all of the expectations. If something goes wrong, there is no one else to blame it on. If you’re in parental crosshairs, there’s no one else to take the heat, or provide any distraction.

No one gets born to chill out your nervous, first-time parents, and the weight of all of their ambitions rests squarely on your shoulders. You’re their only shot, and if you don’t turn out well, you’re burying all of their hopes and dreams. It’s a lot of pressure.

So we dream of sharing the responsibility: of having an older sibling to protect us, or a younger one to look up to us… someone to make silly faces at while our parents are trying to be serious, someone who might come to our defense in the jungle brutality of the schoolyard. Someone who occasionally screws up, so don’t always feel like the weakest link in the household chain.

And of course, these are fantasies, the dream version of what having a sibling is really like. In these fantasies, we are best friends forever, pinky-swearing a private truce against adult authority and keeping each other’s secrets against all odds. I’m sure these visions are as unrealistic as the pretend version of onliness, the world of nonstop validation and ponies.

If siblings are so awesome, then everyone wouldn’t be jealous of only children, right? I don’t know… I’m inclined to think it’s all yet another example of the grass being greener in someone else’s yard.

I suppose my husband and I are about to find out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddies, Babies, and The March Toward Siblings

This family is tired.
This family is tired.

With advancing pregnancy, it’s getting harder and harder to do much of anything. Standing or walking too long makes my hips ache. Going over a bump while driving makes me feel kicked in the crotch, as does taking too hard a step. Spontaneous waves of mind-numbing fatigue, the kind that make you wonder what was in your drink, smack me facedown on an hourly basis.

As a result, I’m spending more and more time off my feet. The first time around, I was reading book upon books about childrearing, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (which needs to be shot, by the way, or at least renamed “If You’re Not Suffering, You’re Wrong”).  I even read “Queen Bees and Wannabes” after finding out I was having a girl, hoping it would help me arm my girl against future mean girl schoolyard toughs.

Ah, those were the days of scary first time parenting. The second time around, I’m filling endless hours dealing with a crazy banshee toddler, hoping she doesn’t figure out that I can’t bend over, and contemplating how we’re going to pull off this newborn + toddler thing.

John is being a saint. He helping me with laundry and tying my shoes now, because of the aforementioned bending-over issues. If I inadvertently drop something, it’s dead to me now.  I can’t pick up all the messes Brontë leaves anymore, so clutter is piling up our floors and I try to see around my feet to avoid tripping on it as I waddle back and forth until John comes home and pushes it all aside like one of those ice-smoothing machines at ice skating rinks. He is doing most of the cooking now, after a hard day’s work, which means we are all eating a lot of spaghetti and pizza (but I’m hardly complaining!). I think Brontë wishes her dad always cooked.

All you single moms out there? I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know what I would do without my husband to help out, whether it’s putting dinner on the table, or taking a nighttime feeding shift so I can get a couple hours more sleep, or just being there to hold my hand when I’ve had a rough day. Partly, he is a great daddy and a wonderful husband who is excited to have another baby and wants to help out the best he can. Partly, he figured out after the first pregnancy that I am way too hormonal and scary to argue with when pregnant and right now it’s best for him to just agree with me , offer me food, and back out of the room slowly without baring any teeth…

We are having another girl, yay! That means cute little sisters and bunkbeds and well-attended tea parties. Having a boy would have been cool too, of course, because then I would have one of each. John seems happy to be getting girls. I think it’s because he put his own parents through twenty shades of hell growing up and is afraid of having to parent a little version of himself. On the other hand, he doesn’t know what it’s like to grow up as a girl; he has the Hallmark cute version running through his head while I’m suddenly panicking about how to protect them from catty schoolmates (girls can be MEAN!), body-image nightmares, and push-up bras marketed to 10-year-olds.

Now that we are getting so close to the new baby’s arrival, my husband and I are strategizing about how to best handle it with Brontë. We were both only children, so we had a Hallmark fantasy about how cool it would be to have a brother or sister growing up (complete with holding hands, pinkie-swears, and unshakeable loyalty). From people who ACTUALLY had siblings, however, we have heard all kinds of horror stories about sibling rivalry, feelings of abandonment and replacement, and are trying to figure out how to minimize conflict. Brontë is used to loads of attention and will be, though sheer circumstance, not getting the standard amount very soon.

The first thing we have done is move Brontë into her own room. Our pediatrician stressed the importance of doing this at six months, but we ignored that, since Brontë loves to sleep in a crib in our room. We set up a new room for her and talked all about her new “big girl” bed, and John slept on a mattress in her room for a couple weeks to ease her into the change. We wanted to do this before the baby was here because we didn’t want her to associate being moved out with the new baby coming in. So far, this is working out…

I have also explained to Brontë that there will be a new baby. She is growing in my belly, I told her, and my belly is getting bigger and bigger as the baby gets bigger and one day I will squeeze her out and bring her home. I think she gets it, since she points at my belly whenever she hears about babies. I told Brontë that she is getting a baby sister that she can teach things to and be friends with. I explained that the baby would cry a lot, because that’s what babies do, but she would grow up and play with her in time. Brontë seems concerned sometimes, but often excited about the prospect.

Many times while growing up, my mother talked about how traumatic it was when her little sister was born. She was sent to stay with her grandparents for a couple weeks when the new baby arrived, and felt “pushed out” by a new rival. Bearing this in mind, John and I have been scratching our heads about how to handle that newborn stage, when the baby is up all hours of the night and I am recovering from childbirth. We decided that Brontë feeling “replaced” was a bigger concern than her getting enough sleep, and are planning to move a mattress into our room and all sleep in the same room, so she feels included.

Brontë might have wonky sleep for a while and John and I might be more exhausted, but feeling replaced left such a lasting impression on my own mother that I think it’s best to stay communal, despite the difficulties. She will stay with my parents while we are in the hospital, but come home as soon as we do. I’m picturing a lot of take-out food, cartoons and round-the-clock naps.

We are crossing our fingers and hoping for the best…