I got a call from my step-mom yesterday. My step-brother and his wife had a baby girl Monday night. The little one is 5 pounds, 11 oz -- tiny! She is healthy, and mom and baby are expected home from the hospital today, I believe.
Her older brother (age 2 1/2) doesn't yet "get" what it means to have a baby sister. He doesn't know that his world is about to be turned upside down, that he will no longer be the center of mom and dad's universe... or that he will be the center of his baby sister's universe someday soon, and that he may or may not like that on any particular day.
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It brought back memories.
First, the memories of my own daughter's birth. She was 5 pounds, 2 ounces at birth. Very tiny. And she has stayed tiny. When she first started walking, her eyes barely peeked above the coffee table, and she could walk right under the dining room table. Then one day, she was sitting under the dining room table playing, and she stood up and hit her head on the underside of the table. It shocked us both! She was "tall" all of a sudden! ("Tall" being a relative term, of course. Now that she is in 5th grade, she is finally taller than most of the kids in 2nd grade....).
I'll never forget holding her for the first time. Her eyes were so bright and she was so alert -- just taking it all in. It must be a strange experience, after months living in darkness, to emerge into the light and to experience a new sensation: sight!! And she seemed to be genuinely enjoying this new sensation. When my husband or I spoke, she would turn her head toward us and just stare, as if she were trying to memorize the faces that went with the voices she already recognized.
Then, the memories of my son's birth. He, too, was alert and happy and amazed at all he could see in this new world.
My daughter had begged me to have a baby for about two years. She said she wanted a baby brother *and* a baby sister. I wanted another child, too, and finally we decided to have one. It turned out to be my daughter's first big life lesson: "be careful what you wish for, you might get it!"
At first, she was enamored of the little guy. He was quite a bit bigger at birth than she had been -- a rather average 7 1/2 pounds. And he grew quickly. She was amazed and excited at how big he was. But she quickly became annoyed because no matter how fast he grew, he still couldn't play with her. Turns out she had wanted a brother and sister just so she'd have someone to play with at the playground. But it would be at least a year before he could even walk, and even longer until he could run and play with her. She was annoyed at his "slow" progress.
And then when he did get big enough to play a bit, he didn't play "right." First, he was too young and uncoordinated to swing on the big-kid swings and climb the monkey bars with her. Then, he turned out to have "boy interests" like playing Superhero fantasy games. She was just *not* impressed.
I had expected a certain amount of jealousy and rivalry from my daughter. I knew she might feel displaced or sad about the fact that I would have less time available for her. And she did have some of those feelings, but mostly she just accepted the fact that her brother had arrived in the world. She may not like him all the time, and she sometimes gets annoyed with him when he takes her toys or won't leave her alone, but she isn't as jealous of my time and attention as I thought she might be.
What I didn't expect, though, was the jealousy from my son. After all, he was born into a world in which his big sister already existed. One would think it would register in his brain as a fact of life, much like Dad exists and Mom exists and the dog exists, and that he would experience my dealings with her as "normal." But in fact, he was more jealous of her than she has ever been of him. If he was playing happily with some toys and I sat down to read her a story, he would crawl over and wedge himself between us. If I was playing with him and she came into the room to ask me a question, he would make loud noises or cry, and pull at me, as if trying to make sure there would be no way for me to pay any attention to her at all. If he awoke from a nap and heard me talking or playing with her, he would immediately start crying loudly. To this day, if he thinks she is getting attention from me that he is not going to get, he whines and pouts and fusses about it ... at least until I tell him to stop.
I'm making it sound awful. It really isn't, though. Because between the bouts of jealousy and whining and fussing (from both of the kids), there are whole hours and days and even weeks when they truly love each other. When she takes pride in reading him a story or helping him learn a new skill. When they each take turns patiently playing some "stupid game" the other one wants to play, just so they can enjoy some time playing together. When we all ride our bikes someplace together as a family, and you can see his pride in his sister's ability to ride so fast and bounce up and down the curbs on the sidewalk. When they hit softballs together in the back yard and she cheers his ability to smack the ball over the fence.
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So, little baby girl, welcome to the world. I hope you and your older brother will have many happy times together, in between the inevitable personality clashes and bouts of jealousy. I know you will be well-loved by your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I wish you a lifetime of happiness! And whether you grow much taller, or stay tiny as my daughter has done, I hope you will feel, as my daughter does, that your size is "just right," and that you will go forward in the world with a "can-do" attitude and a love of adventure.
Welcome to the world, little baby girl, welcome to the world.