I was really worried about what would happen when Dash met his new sibling. Some kids take to babies really well, but I was worried he’d play too rough, or that he’d take a page from the same book as my niece, K. When K was a couple weeks past two years old, along came her sweet baby sister, A. One day when the baby was about a week or two old, my sister laid baby A on a blanket on the floor of the living room, where she could see her from the kitchen while she was doing dishes. She glanced down for a moment to scrub a particularly difficult bit of food from a pan, and when she glanced up, the blanket baby A was lying on had moved. Only the bare edge was still visible, and as she watched that edge slipped out of view as well. She quickly dried her hands and followed, and saw that sweet little K was pulling the blanket down the hall toward the bathroom. Baby A was just riding along, quietly watching the (probably very blurry) room slide by. My sister asked, “What are you doing?” K calmly informed her, “Go flush the baby.” Alarmed, my sister scooped up A and had a long talk about how we never flush people down the toilet. K wasn’t too keen on having a sibling around, and she didn’t get what the big deal was, but A lived through infancy and beyond so the message must have stuck: don’t kill your sister. Maybe it also had something to do with the fact that my sister watched her like a hawk after she made her plans to get rid of her sister known. Same thing, right?
With that in mind, I was determined to make Dash understand that the baby was frail and that we had to take care of him and be extra nice to him. I bought children’s books about expecting a new baby, or about how to deal with one once it arrived. One was even a pop-up that showed several guesses as to what could be growing in that giant tummy, ending by showing a baby. I spent a lot of time trying to help him to comprehend the idea of the baby in my stomach, and he definitely got that I claimed there was a baby in my stomach.
One day Dash tried to feed the baby “bites” by holding a yogurt raisin up to my stomach. When the baby was unresponsive, he tried to shove it into my belly button. The way his mind worked cracked me up; like the baby was just sitting on the other side, waiting for a snack. He also started occasionally singing to the belly and “reading” it stories. However, if I looked away, he’d yell “Stop it!” and grab my face to turn it back toward him. So obviously, this was being done for my benefit, and not because he wanted to show the baby something. I showed him a drawn picture of a baby at the 8 month mark inside of a woman’s stomach, all curled up. He said, “Oh no! Stuck!” When I tried to tell him the baby was nice and cozy, he pointed to my belly and said “Baby in there.” I said, “Yes.” and he sat there for a second, patting my stomach, then put his mouth down to my belly button and yelled, “Oh, no! Baby! Get out!” I’m not sure what he expected, but after a moment or two of waiting, he lost interest and went to play with some blocks. Those were the moments when I realized he was just playing along as if it was me being silly, like when I “talked” to him with his stuffed animals. It was as if he just couldn’t imagine having another person coming to live with us. he was only about 20 months old and couldn’t use grammatically correct sentences yet; I don’t know why I thought I was going to get the concept of human reproduction through to him.
When Ozzie finally arrived, he seemed unimpressed. In the hospital, I held Dash on my lap, then we set Ozzie in his arms. He let us take a picture, but the moment the flash was done he started to slide his arms out from under his brother and tried to nudge him away. Only a couple of days after we brought Ozzie home, Dash started asking me, “When is baby going home?” The baby was okay, but his stay was going to be over soon, right?
All of my prep work was basically useless, although he never seemed to have any malice toward Ozzie. He just seemed mildly annoyed at having to share our attention. , but it’s not like I ever thought he’d try to take him out. I mean, this shot below doesn’t look like he’s sizing him up, does it?
We put child locks on the bathroom doors, just in case.