Adjusting to life with baby sister
Our son James stepped back and looked across the wooden floor of our living room with a sense of pride.
His giant dinosaur puzzle was complete. He had spent the past 15 minutes wiggling pieces of the puzzle around until he found the right spots.
It was now time to brag about his latest accomplishment.
But then he heard the sound of rolling wheels. Tiny feet began to pound on the floor. A few short giggles echoed through the house.
James was helpless as he watched the scene unfold.
His little sister Elsie approached him at full speed in her new walker. Trying so hard to get to him, she ran the bulky plastic walker into his puzzle, which was helpless on the floor.
The scene of dinosaurs sipping water from a lake now looked like a tornado ripped through it. The piece showing T-Rex’s face slid under the couch. The piece that had a small plant eater catching some sun flew across the room onto the carpet. To this day, he has never found the missing piece showcasing the giant rock.
“Baby Elsie...no,” he said, grabbing what pieces he could. “You messed my puzzle up.”
As James tried to pick up the pieces, Elsie kept ramming him with her walker. She just wanted to touch her big brother. She kept making noises to get his attention. She even tried to grab his hair so that he would look at her.
As James made his way into the kitchen, I could see the disappointment on his face.
“It will be OK,” I said to him. “She’s just a baby. She doesn’t know what she is doing.”
James is quickly learning what it means to have a baby sister now. He didn’t mind it so much when she was an infant who couldn’t move.
He would talk to her as she got a bath. He would rub her head during her diaper changes. He would bring her a blanket or stuffed animal when she was upset.
But now Elsie is beginning to move around more, and big brother is often receiving her attention.
Her face lights up when James enters the room. She will spend all afternoon, gazing up at him and making noises. They can now both play together on the floor, and she cries when he leaves her side.
She loves her big brother to death.
But James is having to adjust to taking on that role.
We have a lot of hand-me-downs in the Patterson home. James has to watch helplessly as his walker, bouncy seat, highchair and other toys are given to Elsie.
“But that was mine first,” he said, as we placed Elsie in his walker.
He doesn’t really get mad about it. But he got stuck in the walker yesterday when he attempted to get back into it.
And he’s not used to sharing his toys. This is a kid who has had endless toys to himself for the past three years.
Elsie likes to chew on a small stuffed fish that he discarded over a year ago. All of a sudden, he has taken a liking to it again.
The biggest adjustment James has these days is getting used to the destructive habits of a baby. He doesn’t understand that Elsie is a baby and is simply exploring new things. Her clumsy and often odd behavior is not intended to hurt his feelings.
But James is not liking Elsie’s “curious stage.”
“Why does she have to eat everything,” he asked me, holding up a toy covered in drool.
I grinned as I wiped the spit off the toy cow.
“She is just trying to figure stuff out,” I replied. “Plus, she has a tooth coming in, and she is chewing on everything.”
“If she doesn’t have teeth that means she eats plants,” he said, refering to his dinosaur book. “Toys aren’t plants.”
With his lip poked out, he stomped away.
When I returned home the other night from working late, my husband Jason pointed to a book he placed high on a shelf.
“Elsie tried to eat James’ book earlier,” he said. “I came in here, and she had the book in her mouth. Just take a look at it. It can’t be fixed.”
It looked normal on the outside, but when I flipped the book open, it looked like something from the movie Jaws. Entire pages were ripped out. Some of the pages were still moist with baby spit.
“Why does baby Elsie do that,” James asked, staring at his beloved book.
I wanted to laugh, but I kept it inside.
There will come a time when James will protect his little sister on outdoor adventures, at school, on the playground. He may even defend her when Jason (well, probably me) disciplines her at home.
Sure, there will be times when she aggravates him, follows him around and bugs him and his friends. But, to James, I am sure she will always be “baby Elsie.”
Until then, James will have to be patient.
And as I made my way to the kitchen to get supper started the other night, I hid behind the corner and watched Elsie grab another puzzle piece.
After she shoved it in her mouth, James softly took it out and handed her a pacifier.
With drool hanging off her lip, she smiled up at him. And, wiping off his puzzle, he smiled back.