Siblings without rivalry?

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“Okay, let’s cut this baby up!” I grunted as I hoisted a 20 pound watermelon up onto the kitchen counter.

“No Mommy! Nooooo!” My two year quickly dove over our new baby, who was happily nestled in a bouncy chair on the floor, like a hero dives over a grenade to save his troop. “No Mommy! Don’t hurt the baby! Don’t hurt the baaaby!!” 

It took me a minute to realize what she was so freaked out about. Then understanding flashed. “Oh, honey… When I said ‘Cut this baby up,’ I was talking about the watermelon, not our baby.” 

I’m still laughing about the misunderstanding, but deep down I’m touched that her protective instincts over her wee little brother are alive and strong.

When people ask me about the new baby, how is he sleeping at night, etc…They often lower their brows and ask in hushed tones, “And how’s she taking it?” They mean Her Highness. The princess in all her two-ness getting dethroned. Surely no reigning monarch welcomes a coup d’etat. Who wants to go from ruling the roost to being down graded to rank and file regular kid? They naturally assume jealously and hatred to be part of the equation.

And while I can say my two year old makes my days very interesting between her clamors for more attention (read the book again!) and her new found freedom while mom is otherwise occupied with the new baby (Hmm. It’s quiet…too quiet.) she genuinely loves the baby.

All my two year olds have loved the babies who have succeeded them. I can’t say I’ve done anything special or unique to stamp out feelings of jealously and foster feelings of love other than to simply not automatically assume they will want to send the baby back like a cold bowl of soup.

I know every kid is different and feelings need to be acknowledge and validated, but I’m a big believer in both children and babies alike being heavily influenced by the general feelings and attitudes of the household. I firmly believe Her Highness is retaining her crown with grace and confidence because my four year old loves the new baby, as does the seven year old, as does the nine year old and the eleven year old too. It’s “cool” to love the new baby, so she does.

I personally don’t care for all the children’s books out there depicting stories of “dethroned” siblings who nurse fantasies of awful things happening to their new babies. I believe these books are intended to normalize and give voice to the jealous beast within all in the humorous and safe environment of a story. 

But to my mind, they open up possibilities and options that were up to that first reading, not on the table or even part of their consciousness. In our desire to strike preemptively against sibling rivalry, maybe we help create it? I believe Master Oogway said it best, “One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.”

By no means am I trying to say our home is sibling rivalry free. Maybe my children love the new baby so freely because their beefs with each other are over much more substantive matters, like who took my Lego guy (an ongoing hotbed of controversy over here) and how come he got three cookies and I only got two. The baby doesn’t play with Legos and he has no teeth with which to eat any cookies, so he is easy to love. 

Hey, I just realized how to discover who this Lego guy really belongs to that I have here in my pocket after yet another struggle. King Solomen-like, I’ll grab the kitchen shears and threaten to cut it up! Then the true builder’s feelings will be revealed.

 

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