Good JuJu

1.8.07: A Sibling Unrivaled


I am knocking on wood as I write this.

Julia has been the most gracious big sister. Will and I spent a good chunk of this pregnancy worrying about how she would handle having a new baby in the house. We had heard stories from friends who actually used the word "hate" to describe their oldest child's feelings toward the new baby. I had read somewhere that, for the older sibling, having a new baby in the house is sort of like having your husband come home one day and announce: "I'm getting a new wife. She's really cute and she's going to live with us. You're just going to love her. But don't worry, I'm still going to love you just the same as I always have—I'm just going to love both of you now." Well. When I thought about it that way, I really felt for our girl. So, we read up on how to prepare a sibling for the new baby, how to help her feel special and loved, and how to deal with the inevitable jealousy that surfaces.

When Julia came to the hospital to meet Charlie for the first time, Will and I were like two nervous ninnies preparing for her to walk in the room: "Ooh—I read that we should have the baby in the bassinet so we can have our arms free to hug Julia," I told Will. "Yes!" he agreed. "And let's give her the present right away." (On his way down the birth canal, Charlie took a short detour to pick up some Play-Doh for Julia.) Though we tried to set the stage for Julia to meet Charlie, when she finally did walk in, I was lying in the hospital bed nursing him. Julia walked straight up to us, crawled into the bed, said "AwwwÂ… he's so cute! Is he drinking your milkies, Mama?" as she gently stroked his cheek. She continued to gaze at him in awe for five minutes, when the buttons that make the hospital bed go up and down suddenly became a lot more interesting. I figured those five minutes would be the extent of her admiration for Charlie, at least in the short term. And, for the past month, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But, it hasn't. Don't get me wrong, we're having all the terrible two issues with Julia—power struggles, defiance, bossiness, potty training issues, sleep issues, you name it. But there's just not anything even remotely resembling hostility or jealousy towards Charlie. She has shown nothing but pure joy and love when it comes to her baby brother. And it's not like she hasn't had reason to be jealous. For instance, there was the morning when Julia told me, "Mama, I have a dance to show you!"

"I just need a minute, Juje," I replied. "I have to finish changing Charlie's diaper."

Julia waited patiently. "Actually, Mama, I have two dances to show you," she announced proudly, over Charlie's screams.

"I can't wait to see, Juje," I replied. "I just have to wash my hands first."

Julia waited as I ran to wash my hands in the kitchen, then noticed the milk that had spilled on the floor earlier and went to get a sponge to wipe that up when I noticed the dirty dishes still sitting in the sink, so I opened the dishwasher and realized that I had forgotten to unload it, so I started unloading the dishes, then realized that it was 1pm and I hadn't fed Julia lunch, so I started to try to scrounge some up when Charlie started screaming again. So I fed Charlie, burped Charlie, and walked around jiggling and patting a screaming Charlie on my shoulder. Then, the phone rang. On my way to get the phone, I noticed the pile of laundry still sitting by the basement stairs, so I ran downstairs to throw in a load of laundry and realized that I had another load to fold, and so on, and so on, until I was lying awake in bed at 3 a.m. having finally gotten Charlie to sleep and it hit me: I never did see Jujie's dance. I wanted to cry. I vowed to shower her with attention the next day.

You can probably guess what happened the next day, and the next. But, Julia has handled it like a champ. One morning, she came bounding into our bedroom at 7 a.m., all sunshine and smiles. She jumped up onto the bed, where I had just fallen asleep with Charlie after we'd been up all night, and she smothered him with kisses. In my groggy, cranky state, I snapped, "Julia! Don't! You're going to hurt him." And, then I instantly felt guilty for squashing her ebullient display of affection toward her brother. But, despite my snapping, she simply sighed dreamily and said: "Mama, I want to keep Charlie forever and for always."

I can tell that Julia and Charlie are going to be great friends. They already seem to have a secret language of their own. Last night, Charlie was squawking away, and Julia said: "I understand that."

"What did he say?" I asked.

"Oh, nothing, he just said hello to me."

When Charlie's screaming his head off, sometimes Julia will look annoyed and cover her ears with her hands, but then she'll say: "Mama! Our baby is crying!" She'll patiently wait her turn when she needs something. The other day, our babysitter was here while I was sitting on the couch nursing Charlie, and Julia said: "Wendy, Mama is feeding Charlie right now. Could you get me some syrup for my pancakes, please?"

Not only is Julia an amazing big sister, she also takes care of Charlie like a second mother—in the most considerate, thoughtful ways: "Mama, I feel like holding Charlie, so I'm going to go wash my hands with soap and water because I have boogies on my fingers." Or, "Mama, I'm putting this fit-up cloth on my shoulder in case Charlie fits up when I hold him, because I'm a mom, too." She'll run to rinse off his pacifier when it drops on the floor. She'll pat his back when I'm burping him, or smooth his hair when he cries. Or, she'll simply take off her shirt and walk around the house topless, "nursing" one of her baby dolls.

When I tell her what a good girl she is, she'll say: "I know. I'm such a big girl, Mama."

I don't know why any of this has surprised me. She's always been our good Juju.

Join's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.

Read the next entry: 1.15.07: Just Do It