I was an only child for the first six years of my life. My parents had struggled with infertility for nine years by the time I joined them, and I think everyone assumed that our family was complete at three. Even after my brother was adopted and subsequently another brother was born, I continued to feel like an only child in a way.
My brothers were so close in age- only 18 months apart- and they were, well, boys. I was knee-deep into elementary school by the time they could walk and talk and throw Matchbox cars at the windows of my dollhouse.
I regret that I’ve never been very sisterly. I’ve been motherly and daughterly and friendly and counselorly but the sister role has not been my strength. Other factors have affected this dynamic, things like serious mental illness and family issues and distance, but the bottom line is that I need to do a better job.
One of the great surprises of motherhood is this: your children become the experts at how to be better. How to be kinder. More patient. How to love without asking much in return.
They’ve taught me how to be a better sibling.
A moment from my week: My daughter, now three, was having a difficult day. She knew I would be leaving her with the babysitter and she was anxious about our time apart. Her oldest brother, nine (tomorrow!), calmed her quietly. “When you feel like you’re about to cry, just go to the bathroom until you feel better. Come out when you’re ready. That’s what I do.”
And another, from today: My oldest is visiting a friend at his farm. He called while the other children were at the gym with my husband. In telling them of their brother’s call my middle son’s face grew long, bottom lip curling into a pout. “I’m glad he’s having fun, but I’m sad I didn’t get to talk to him.”
As strange as it sounds, when I was pregnant I didn’t give much thought to the idea of cultivating a sibling bond. We talked about the baby who was on the way, of course. How life would change. But these chats were always much more about logistics than love. They were about the nitty-gritty housekeeping of life, not the big-picture stuff of family dynamics.
When the baby comes, we’ll have to learn to be quiet. Babies need a lot of sleep.
When your sister is born, she’ll need your old crib, but you won’t mind. You’re a big boy now!
I prepared the house, scrubbed the baseboards clean. I froze weeks worth of meals and laundered tiny onesies in special soap. But in all of that planning there was one thing I couldn’t plan for: the automatic creation of siblings when the new child was born.
My children share an amazing bond, one that I’m in no way responsible for cultivating. They’ve done it on their own, these three.
They’re a self-appointed committee.
A citizen-assembled gathering.
Three points of light in the night sky that I had no part in creating. From where I stand, though, I’m so happy to watch them shine.
How did/do you prepare your children for the arrival of a new baby?