Since being pregnant with our second child I have to admit I’ve not given too much thought to whether or not this will be some kind of traumatic event for our as of yet only-child. I am keenly aware of what an adjustment this will be for all of us, I am expecting that she will have some feelings of frustration or sadness when the reality of the new baby invades her world and my arms, but I’m not worried that we are somehow taking something from her. I expect to have guilt over one thing or another for the rest of my days because that seems to be a piece of motherhood I cannot shake, but this is mercifully not one of the things I am fretting about. Dave and I have siblings who are cornerstones of our lives and I hope that V and whoever-is-in-there will feel the same way someday.
Unlike so many people, I have the luxury of actually remembering when my sister was born. I was so excited. So happy. Slightly disappointed that she wasn’t more animated from the get-go, but overall pleased with the addition to our family. V will likely remember nothing of the day she meets her brother or sister, but any resulting trauma of being dethroned will probably fade with time and possibly therapy.
I was talking to my mom the other day about how things changed when my sister came, and she was very casual about it as she tends to be when talking to me about her experiences of early motherhood. I think 30 years of perspective really helps calm all that panic at ‘am I screwing her up for life?’ self-talk. She probably watches my sister and I now and sometimes thinks ‘yes, I did’ and other times (I hope) she pats herself on the back and goes ‘the world is filled with tons of useless morons and I managed to make, birth, and raise these fine specimens.’
My mom reminded me about the special things we still did together after I had a sister. There was a while in the early 90’s when Designing Women and Murphy Brown were on TV back to back. I was a pre-teen transitioning to teen in those days, and she probably knew the time I would voluntarily spend with her was likely to wane in the coming years. Every Monday I would go to bed in order to set an example for my sister (who has always struggled with ‘bedtimes’ and ‘going to sleep without making a huge situation out of it’), she would reluctantly follow suit, and as soon as my mom came in to give me the thumbs up, I’d sneak out of bed and down the hall to watch these shows with her. In retrospect I have no idea where my dad was, probably standing in front of the downstairs TV eating peanuts compulsively while watching a Western at an incredible volume. He is probably still doing that right now. Regardless, it was great to have that time with her, just us, together with our blankets and our laughs. These shows were about strong, funny women with families and careers and sassy comebacks and I see now that I was probably being taught some life lessons with this choice of programming, but mostly I just loved this sneaky ritual we had. Meanwhile all sorts of dirty feminist messages and innuendos were creeping into my brain. Well played, mom.
A few times my sister went into my room on those Monday nights (she’d often verify that I was in bed to insure she wasn’t being made to do something I wasn’t), found me absent and lost her shit. So we took to putting a mannequin head with a wig on my pillow and tucking it in. Either she believed that was me or believed she had discovered that I turn into a mannequin at night, she never bothered us again.
I’m sure my mom and my sister had similar rituals throughout the years. Things that were just for them, moments spent alone while I read books about wizards or orphans in my room and my dad did the thing with the peanuts and the loud TV. She wasn’t doing this unintentionally, she was making a point to make time with each of us. And she was a very busy woman. I can do this, right?
And before my dad gets mad about this post (not about the peanuts/loud TV thing, he knows that is the truest thing written on the internet in years), I should add that he too, made this effort. Starting when I was finishing elementary school and all the way until I drove myself to school, he would take me out to breakfast at Hardee’s every Friday morning. We’d leave early, I’d devour cinnamon raisin buns and we’d chat like two old men in a diner. And though he offered this ritual to my sister when her time came, her reaction was something like ‘So you want me to get up EARLIER and do something BEFORE school? No thanks dad.’ Can’t say he never tried.