My kids fight sometimes. Of course they do. But I have long thought that well-meaning parents actually cause much of the sibling rivalry that worries them so. Most parenting magazines, sooner or later, run an article for parents expecting baby #2, explaining how to guide the usurped older child through the horror and the devastation of bringing a new baby into the home.
Now, I don’t mean to be a pollyanna about what really happens. Sometimes it’s not pretty. Overall, it’s about 98% good for older kids to have another sibling join the family. But that other 2% of the time can be a little bloody. Many’s the time I’ve had to intervene when the toddler starts out patting the baby gently, and somehow, without really meaning to, ends up rhythmically whacking the baby as hard as he can. Nice baby, nice baby, nice baby, Nice!!! Baby!!! Nice!!! Baby!!!
So there are any number of books and articles about how to prepare the older kids for the newest arrival. You should explain in detail what to expect (newborn brothers can’t learn to play football right away), you remind them of how they’re allowed to eat ice cream and poor silly baby can’t, you make a fuss over them, you let them have private time with mom and dad, etc.
This is all fine, but I do think it goes overboard a little bit. Angelina Ballerina, for instance, is a good example of a kid who is just being a jerk about it, and needs to be taken down a peg or two. She trashes her room, as I recall, and firebombs Mrs. Hodgepodge’s potting shed. Or something. To make it up to her, they name her sister of the year and buy her a private island. Or something. I hate that mouse.
Anyway, the foregone conclusion in these ostensibly helpful books is that, by having a baby, you are wrecking your original kid’s world, and your main job now is to make atonement, and help them put back together the tatters of their former, only-childish happiness.
Naturally, kids pick up on this attitude. If you are very afraid they will react badly, then they usually will. I have found it much more helpful to be very matter-of-fact about the new baby. Of course you keep a close eye on the older kid’s reactions, and are kind, patient and understanding. But don’t get carried away.
What is much more disturbing, however, is a new trend I’ve noticed in children’s books: the “how to help your pet deal with the new baby” genre. I’ve seen two or three in the last few weeks, and I don’t get it.
Okay, I understand that you love your pup, and you don’t want him to be unhappy. He’s been an Only Dog for many years, and this will be an adjustment. Also, you want to avoid any revenge pooping, and you don’t want him to eat the new baby, either. So it makes practical sense for there to be some guidance on how to prepare your pet for the new baby.
But … why are there children’s books about it? Who are they for? I do not understand. I suppose these books are not necessarily instructive manuals, and it might be interesting for a child to read a story from a dog’s point of view. And story books reflect whatever happens to be going on in the culture at large. It’s become more common for couples to have a pet in the family for many years, and then, after long deliberation, they take the big leap and go ahead and buy a baby. So, people write about what they know, and this is why there are books about it.
Echh, I don’t know, it still gives me the creeps. I have the terrible suspicion that these picture books are for parents, who harbor some kind of resentment toward their own child, and want reassurance that everything will be okay, but don’t want to admit to anyone that they’re scared of their own newborn.
Or, or, are the adults reading these books to their dogs? Am I making too much of this? Just what is going on here? Anyone?
(Cross-posted yesterday, due to me being not used to getting up this early, at The Anchoress)