Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's a good thing big sister can't read

Early on in Ira's pregnancy, my older sister, who at the time had two and four year old boys (and now has added a third kid) gave us some good advice: "Be really careful of the books for older siblings. They are almost all extremely negative."

It turns out she was right. Leigh is so excited about being a big sister (and generally doing a fabulous job of it!) that she picks out any book from the library that has an older sibling (especially a sister) and a baby in it. Fortunately, she still hasn't figured out our propensity to change the words, so we can get away with liberal editing.

She picked out such a book last week, and when we sat down to read it, every single page was filled with how awful the big sister thought her new baby brother was and how mad she was at her parents (and now I've completely forgotten the title, and the book went back to the library, so I'll spare the author my wrath). Sure, there was a bit of a turn at the end where the sister decided maybe the baby was sort of OK, but 99.99% of the content was about how her brother's arrival ruined her life.

But as we're sitting there, and I'm trying to make up this or that nonsense story (it was truly unreadable), Leigh fortunately took over much of the reading. The book had absolutely beautiful pictures and she was exclaiming "Oh! Look how cute the baby is! He's yawning! That's a big sister just like me! She's going to take good care of the baby. She'll help put him for a nap and play with him and make him laugh..." She went on and on and every single word out of her mouth was about how great it is to be a big sister and how wonderful babies are. Now, you might say she was just buttering me up, but she could barely contain her excitement and was practically bubbling over with everything that's great about having a brother. I'm so glad that with my sister's warning, we mostly managed to avoid giving her a script ahead of time about how awful the baby was going to be.

There are a few other indications that she's pretty fond of our new family structure. The other day at dinner she said, out of nowhere, "It is really great to have a baby. Don't you like having a baby, Ima?" A few weeks ago, she was "reading" to me from a "letter" she "wrote" to me at daycare which said, "Dear Mama, I don't know if you are going to have another baby (author's note: unlikely), but if you do, Thank you."

I know we might be in the sweet spot right now. Ira isn't very mobile yet (he's a little mobile, but not fast!) so he can't take any of her things, but he's smiley and interactive, and clearly thinks she's the bee's knees. I know when he's a toddler it will be a whole new ballgame, but for now, we're grateful that Leigh has taken to big-sisterhood like a duck to water, at least for the first 6 1/2 months.

[PS: If you are looking for a good book for older siblings, we have two recommendations. Of course, neither of them is 100% perfect for queer families, but you can't have everything. The first is I'm a Big Sister by Joanna Cole. It's a simple book about having a new baby and is very positive. It also shows both mom and dad caring for children, which is a plus in my book. (The same author has written I'm a Big Brother which is likely similar.) The second book is Not Yet, Rose by Susanna Leonard Hill with illustrations by Nicole Rutten. This is a sweet story about a girl, Rose, anticipating the birth of a younger sibling. She eagerly anticipates the new baby, wondering whether she will have a brother or sister. She has a couple of fears, but they are introduced gently and Rose talks herself out of them. The end of the book when the baby comes is one of the sweeter moments I've seen in picture books about siblings. My only complaint is that the division of labor is overly gendered in this book, but otherwise it's a joy to read.]


N said...

Obviously, we'll just have to get on that sequel that she requested, where there's a big sister and baby brother!

So, so adorable. And yeah - take advantage of the sweet spot while you can. Says the big sister to the 2.5 years younger brother... ;-)

JenLF said...

I envy you guys. J ignored A for a long time, no interest at all in the baby - which was mostly a good thing, but I desperately wanted a photo of him "holding" her and he would barely go near her. I wonder how much of this is due to the different spacing between my kids and yours - if he had been Leigh's age when A was born, maybe he'd have been more interested.

Once she became mobile, which happened ridiculously quickly, he started to get more and more aggressive with her. He tolerates her, but can't stand her having any of his stuff (and sometimes her stuff!), and at least once a day, he knocks her down/hits her/pushes her/you name it.

She, however, lights up when he comes into the room. It just melts my heart when she smiles at him. And every once in a while, they are just adorably cute together.

Sigh. Here's hoping he gets over it someday!

Oh, and we had I'm a Big Brother, and also liked it. The only complaint I had about it is that there was only bottle-feeding, but I guess, since it was the dad doing the feeding, it could have been worse.

Lyn said...

JLF -- I think you are right about the spacing. At two, Leigh was still absolutely freaking out if either of us even touched a baby. We had originally hoped for two year spacing, but are now glad we missed it (for now anyway). I hear the closer spacing can be quite nice once they're a little bit bigger. A is also bigger than Ira, and I won't be surprised if we're dealing with our fair share of territory disputes momentarily.

Lex said...

I really think that having (little) big siblings around to enjoy the babies in the house makes having babies 100 times sweeter (not that it wasn't ridiculously sweet without the big siblings). I've loved enjoying our babies through their big brothers' eyes.

We haven't read many of the new baby/big sibling books, so I don't have much experience there, but I will say that I ADORE the "Charlie and Lola" series (books and short movies), namely for the fact that the two main characters--Charlie and Lola--have the most positive sibling relationship ever. And I really think that reading the books and watching the movies has impacted my big kids in the way they think about/interact with their younger siblings (especially once the younger sibling is a toddler).

I also highly recommend the book, "Siblings Without Rivalry." We have experienced our fair share of sibling discord with our twins, but have been thus far incredibly blessed with the big brother/little brother relationships. Lots of adoration on all sides.

And I'm with Leigh in voting for a baby #3 for your family ;-).

Anonymous said...

I'm thrilled she enjoys being a big sister and she sounds proud of her role too. She has wonderful mothers to help her feel positive about it as well and I know that makes a difference.

Ever considered writing your own books and having them bound? I have a friend who does this for her daughter and has them laminated and bound at kink0s. She is a talented artist but I don't think that matters as much as a story with pictures that a child can relate to.

Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

When I was pregnant with my daughter, we loved reading "My New Baby" to our son. It has pictures, but no words, so you can make up your own. It also shows breastfeeding and babywearing in the book.

Azlemed said...

I just found you guys and am loving reading about a family that is different to mine but similar too.... my eldest child just loves being a big sister, we never read books about it other than one which I cant remember the name of which was gorgeous, but all three older ones seem to love having baby 4 around, they look after her and miss 6 often says she loves having 2 sisters and a brother, possitve language leads to positive experiences