When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I realized nine months out was (approximately) my daughter's 5th birthday. So, when it was time for delivery, of course the baby wanted to arrive on his sister's big day because, why not start ruining her things right off the bat? I'm kidding, of course (sort of), but of all the things every toddler is thinking when they meet their baby sibling for the first time, I'm sure, "I'm excited to share a birthday with you for the rest of our lives," isn't one of them.
Of course, I couldn't manage to birth another baby on the exact same day again without some kind of witchy magic and, honestly, I thought it'd set them up for the kind of bond most siblings wish for (it didn't). Even still, my husband and I made sure our daughter was the first to hold her new baby — even before me — to ensure they got off on the right foot. Initially, all went well as we presented our daughter with a "big sister" book to read to the new baby and a birthday cake. When I look back at the pictures, she seemed happy and proud to hold the grand title of "protector to the tiny baby," and, for the rest of that day, she was.
I won't go into what their relationship turned into all these years later, only because it ruins the magic of that first innocent greeting. Instead I like to imagine what went through her mind as she looked at her brother for the first time, as I'm sure most toddlers would feel the very same.
"What Is This Thing?"
It's one thing to explain that a baby is on the way to an unsuspecting toddler. It's quite another thing when said baby arrives. They're all crinkled up and red, looking nothing like the cherubic playmate we'd been talking about during pregnancy. We prepared our daughter the best we could but, even after birth, she was really confused. She didn't imagine the baby being, you know, baby-sized, or that he wouldn't be able to do anything but lie there. She imagined him being more like her, which, to be honest, would've been a little easier.
"That's My Mom And Dad Over There"
Being an only child for exactly five years, I imagine having a sibling was jarring. Actually, having a younger brother myself, I know it is. While my daughter was excited for this new chapter, I'm sure she also felt a twinge of jealousy. It's only natural to want to hold claim to the parents that had been only hers for so long. Laying down the law right off the bat is totally something I'd have done.
"Do You Do Anything Other Than Cry And Poop?"
My daughter thought the baby would come out and be ready to play, I think. She didn't realize the scope of what baby's are capable of and, after that initial meeting, was bored with him.
"I Can Teach You Things"
By this time, my daughter had already been in dance, t-ball, and soccer. She was/is creative and smart and ready to pass all of that onto someone willing to learn. In the hospital when she held him, I remember how she looked at him for the longest time., both confused by and infatuated with this little person she couldn't wait to talk to. I'm sure, when I wasn't looking, she promised to show him all the things because now he knows all the things.
"Don't Touch My Stuff"
It was immediately clear my daughter would be ultra protective of her stuff because, well, it's hers! As she held her brother in her arms, she shielded a laminate she'd bought in the gift shop as if his little newborn fingers would grab at it. We had a lot of talks about the importance of her own space as well as sharing since then and I'm happy to report, nothing has changed.
"I Love You/Hate You"
Sibling relationships are complicated, even on the first day. My little girl didn't quite understand what was going on. She loved the idea of her baby brother but, once the newness wore off, it slowly progressed to indifference (or annoyance). Sure, she loves him but, as with most siblings, there's always a little bit of hate (that's a bit too strong, but you know what I mean) sprinkled in. Besides the fact that this baby was shaking up her world, stealing all the attention, and was cute on top of it, I'm sure she feared be left behind. Again, as the older sister myself, I get it.
"When Are You Going Back In The Tummy?"
After the warm and fuzzies are gone, every toddler surely wonders at some point when the baby is going away. Like, this whole birth thing was just for a fun few hours and once it's done, we'll all get back to our normal lives, right? It's been decades since my brother was born and I'm still wondering the same.
I'm joking. Mostly.