For Baby Brothers and the Big Sisters Who Own Them
When we learned that I was miraculously pregnant for the second time, we wondered how to begin broaching the subject with my daughter who was 3 1/2. She ruled the household with an iron fist in a petite, velvet glove and I worried how she might view this invasion of her territory.
As we were driving home from a play date with one of her friends who had a new baby sister, I delicately broached the subject, "Do you ever think that you would you like to have a brother or sister?"
"No," she said succinctly, sucking on her juice box straw staring out the window.
Taken aback, I tried again. "Well, if you HAD to have a brother or sister, which would you like to have?"
(In hindsight, a stupid question as I had no control over which it might be but, hey that's what hindsight's for!)
"Well," she sighed, humoring me as usual, "if I HAD to have one, I would like a big brother that can play games with me."
Uh Oh, I thought to myself...maybe I better leave this conversation for her Dad!
In it up to my neck, I bravely persisted, "Well, since you're already born, it would have to be a little baby brother or sister. You would get to be the big sister."
Disgusted by this revelation, she crinkled up her whole face and said, "I guess I would pick a little brother."
I wasn't sure what I had accomplished in this first volley but I was to find out soon enough. The next time I picked my daughter up from her playdate, my friend met me at the door and said, "I had nothing to do with it!"
Uh Oh, I thought to myself...what exactly might that mean?
My tiny daughter with the serious brown eyes looked up at me and said, "The baby's name is Fisher."
Oh how cute! I thought to myself with relief.
When my husband got home from work that night, the daughter that just cleared his knee cap looked up at him and said, "The baby's name is Fisher."
"Oh, how cute," my husband said as he picked her up and put her in her high chair for dinner.
She looked at him sternly and said, "It is Daddy. I know it."
It became less cute when she would angrily interrupt any discussion of name selections and repeat loudly and firmly as if we were addled or going deaf in some way that she just couldn't fathom, "THE BABY'S NAME IS FISHER!"
We had no idea where this name came from...Fisher Price? Jeremy Fisher? Go Fish??
Finally, worried there might be some psychic connection that we shouldn't mess with, and to let her feel she was a part of the process - strongly recommended by some inane parenting book I read - we finally compromised, and the baby's middle name became Fisher.
To this day, most people don't know his first name...
...because he goes by Fisher.
In his first days home, she asked that classic "when do we take him back" question. I told her, "No, he's ours to keep. He belongs to us."
"Really?" she said, eyes opening wide in amazement. "He belongs to ME?"
Uh Oh.... "To US!" I said frantically.
She was no longer listening to me as she skipped away with a big smile to gaze benevolently upon her newly acquired personal slave, pondering how best to raise a devout worshipper.
She began to take great interest in his daily routines. She would supervise all his needs and instruct me when I should feed him, what he was in the mood to eat, when he should go to bed, what clothes he should wear, and when he needed to be changed.
One of the first times she observed a diaper change, she pointed at his umbilical cord and asked what it was. I explained that it was going to fall off soon and then he would have a belly button just like hers.
She excitedly awaited the day his belly button would appear. When it did, she did a little dance around the room.
She ran back over to the changing table and pointed between his little legs. "When does that fall off?" she asked excitedly, wondering what additional miracle might be revealed.
When I told her it wouldn't, she narrowed her eyes and in typical eldest child fashion said, "Then I want one."
Our first discussion of the difference between little boys and girls ensued. She wasn't satisfied. Many months later, when she saw the convenience of being able to stand instead of sit on the potty, or the advantage of going behind a tree instead of having to run in the house, she would still demand one from time to time.
One day when the kids were older, they had come in from playing in our wading pool and I had them take their wet things off on the porch.
My daughter looked at her little brother and said, “I still wish I had a penis. I wish I could pee standing up.”
He replied, “It’s not as easy as it looks. You have to aim.”
Undeterred, she said, “I still wish I had one.”
Exasperated, he said, “It’s not so easy to control a penis!”
Ah, have truer words ever been spoken?
My daughter is now 14 and my son is 10. This Christmas I was given the gift of really noticing that they are such good friends that it makes my heart ache in a good way when I see them laughing and hanging out together. Even when they squabble, it's never mean. They each just argue their point of view like the lawyers they might one day be.
All in all, I think she's been a pretty awesome little brother owner. She's certainly been the best boss I've ever had!
I hear her calling me.