Like most parents-to-be, my husband and I had a lot of anxieties before our daughter Erinn was born last month.
|The three amigos|
Will she be healthy?
Are we up to the challenge of a newborn in the house?
Where are we going to put all her stuff?
Having three other kids already in the house, one of our biggest anxieties was the way the new baby would affect her older siblings. We anticipated some jealousy, acting out and some regression on the two-year-old’s potty training. We braced ourselves for it and made peace with the fact that it was all a part of the “bringing home baby” process.
Then something strange happened.
The three kids came to meet their baby sister at the hospital and within five minutes, they were asking for my Kindle because they wanted to play Angry Birds.
“But don’t you want to hold your baby sister again?”
“This is your sister. You know, the one that you’ve been asking about for nearly ten months?”
Their little faces seemed to be asking: Is this a trick question?
When we brought Erinn home from the hospital, I wondered what the dynamic shift would mean in the attitudes of our kids on their own turf. They greeted us at the door and then started playing grocery store in the living room. I sat on the couch with the newborn, trying to be part of their fun and include the littlest one too.
We might as well have been back at the hospital. The grocery store game was a three-person game, apparently, and the participants were content without any new additions.
In the weeks that followed, none of the worrisome behavior we anticipated ever surfaced. The two-year-old started telling us when she needed to go potty. The two older kids could be found smiling and looking through books together. The normal fighting and bickering between all of them still happened but it was no worse than it had been pre-baby sister.
I excused myself to my bedroom on several occasions to feed Erinn and no one cared. The oldest, my five-year-old stepson Ferris, was excited when I walked out of my room with a well-fed baby and it was the most interest he had shown in either of us for days.
“Hey Katie! Are you done feeding the baby in there?”
My heart warmed.
“Yes. We are. Were you waiting for us?”
“Yep. Daddy said I couldn’t go in your room and play the Wii until you and the baby came out.”
And he rushed past me to play Mario Kart.
A strange realization rushed over me. Perhaps my husband and I had flattered ourselves. Our kids weren’t jealous of the baby and the attention we were showing her. The three olders still had each other. Nothing had changed in their world.
I started to watch them interact more than I ever had before. Somewhere during my pregnancy, while I was fretting over how the new baby would surely hurt their feelings, the three of them had become a unit. They were no longer three kids forced to make nice because their parents had decided to get married. They had become siblings, so strong in their relationship with each other that my husband and I had been left in the dust.
They still have their moments when each one wants some one-on-one time with daddy, mommy, or stepmommy. Two-year-old London has shown the most interest in the baby and she takes breaks from playing with the others to sit with us. She likes to “help” me change Erinn’s diapers. She kisses her baby sister on the top of the head several times each day. She received her own baby doll with accessories as an early birthday present and she named the toy “Erinn.”
She harbors no visible feelings of resentment or angst when it comes to the 10-pound competition for my attention, or the affection of her father. London is no longer the baby. And she’s happy about it.
My biological daughter Emilia has no problem sharing our former “just the two of us” days with Erinn. Emilia usually runs off to play all of the games that she plays on the days her step siblings are there. The only time she usually talks to me is to ask when they are coming back. She sits with Erinn and I and makes funny faces at her little sister on the rare occasion that I set her down to use the bathroom or cook something on the stove. Emilia is unfazed when Erinn cries even louder at each googly-eyed gesture. She knows that she will win her over one day and make her laugh uncontrollably like the other two do.
Ferris likes to touch Erinn’s tiny feet and pat her on the head. His dad told him that Erinn could start sleeping in his room when she turns one, so Ferris asks me regularly how long it is until her first birthday. He wants to have a roommate, since Emilia and London share a room.
Ferris, Emilia and London have formed a family within our family. They have their own inside jokes, their own activities that they share and a routine that they have created. This is what I hoped for when I got married and moved from a household of two to a household of five (and now six). I guess I’m just surprised that it happened without a whole lot of effort on my part, or without years of family therapy. It just happened.
When I was busy making other plans.
I think of my own siblings and the bond that we share. Even though I am separated by over 1,000 miles from my younger brothers, I think of them often. We understand each other in a way that our parents and significant others do not. We shared a childhood and now we share the joys and struggles of adulthood, parenthood and careers. I’m thankful that my kids will always have each other.
Once Erinn is big enough to run around with her siblings, I know that they will make a place for her in their inner circle.
My husband and I will have to be satisfied with a spot on the outside and count our blessings (1, 2, 3, 4) that our kids have got each other.
You can contact Katie by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.