It was not love at first sight. It was more along the lines of extreme distrust on first sight, but that’s far less catchy. My two year old boy, his legs and arms still chubby and his rosebud mouth set in a grim line, looked at his new-born sister and gestured roughly ‘Move dat.’ Only then would he approach the hospital bed to see me. In hindsight, it could have been worse.
I felt ripped, wanting to be with my son and knowing my new daughter needed me. I cried at night, holding him and whispering ‘I’m sorry!’ Later, I cried with my girl, stroking her soft hair and drinking her in, I couldn’t give her the time she needed either.
At home, my eldest spent days walking in wide circles around the small pink thing on the floor, casually commenting ‘the baby got fingers!’ but shaking his head ‘nooooooo!’ upon invitation to inspect said fingers more closely. The first time he held her we rallied around, nervous and excited at this, the first real proper contact!
Surely, our two beautiful children would recognise their bond. ‘The baby got mouth!’ he exclaimed before putting his hand inside it. The subsequent screaming of his parents and his baby sister did not help matters. I would even go so far to say as it might have scarred him, just a little.
I consulted my friends, and the internet. One friend said things like ‘the sadness you feel at losing the bond with your first child is only matched by the joy you feel as you watch them bond with their sibling.’ This sounded good. I liked it. Helpful Internet People said ‘Just wait, it will happen.’ So I waited. Then, I waited again. After that I did some waiting. Then, just to mix it up, I waited. I also told my friend her advice was crap.
Excruciatingly slowly, my son accepted the baby’s position in the house. He understood that she was part of our family and would defend to the hilt her right to equal biscuits offered by grandparents. Then he would run away with the goodies and eat them. But, at least he appreciated her value in his life. She became part of the routine – he loved announcing the fact that most of the food placed onto her tray was chucked onto the floor: ‘She THREW it! HA!’ and he was a willing participant in ‘Lets find her a nappy before she wee’s on Mummy, ok?’
It was really afternoon nap/co-sleeping that brought us all together though. I would lie in bed, the baby in-between us while I fed her, singing songs and reaching over to run my fingers through his hair. I would see his fragility again. He was still so little and his world had changed so very much. In the space of days he had gone from being the center of the universe to an outlier for a sister whose contribution so far was possessing body parts and being held all day. He was doing his best, and so was I. We would breathe together, my children and I. Deep, even breaths and slowly, hesitatingly, he would place his chubby baby arm around his even chubbier and babier sister’s arm and they would sleep while I watched them. My children, together. And no-one was screaming.
Now they scream. They scream far more frequently than I thought humanly possible, or pleasant. However it’s generally with laughter as they destroy the couch, spoon feed the cats, or as they play any number of games that end up just looking like ‘chase each other around madly yelling.’ They get super offended if you point that out though.
If they have a rough day where they can’t negotiate and can’t get along, then it’s always just before bedtime when they remember they love each other. Or maybe they realise that we’ll let them stay up because being adorable is a sure fire way to get an extra fifteen minutes of playtime.
In the bath they play outrageous games like ‘wash each other’s hair’ and ‘brush each other’s teeth’ and I know, I KNOW it’s going to end in tears; but it’s just so close to actual hygiene that I don’t care. The boy gets up in the middle of the night for a snack/to grab a toy/complete rituals of an unknown nature and sometimes he crawls into his sleeping sister’s bed. We find them in the morning, their babyness again accentuated by sleep, limbs thrown over each other with careless abandon and probably some jealous claiming of their part of the bed.
We waited for them to realise they loved each other, and we may have waited a long time, but it was worth it.