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.]