There’s a story about my younger brother and me that’s become a bit of a legend in my family. I would like to preface this story by saying that I find the attention a little unfair. Is the tale about the time I fearlessly protected him from a menacing neighborhood cat? (Granted, it was on the other side of a chain link fence, but it looked wily…not to be trusted.) No. Is the story about the times I selflessly agreed to play the “innocent prey” (his words, not mine) to his mountain lion/crocodile/animal obsession du jour as he ambushed me from the back of the couch? No.
The story is about the moment I realized he was ours. Not going anywhere. Sayonara, only-childom.
My grandparents came to stay with us right after my brother was born and help out (i.e. keep 20-month-old-me out of the way), and maybe they did their job a little too well, because when the time came for them to leave and I was called to tell everyone goodbye, I dutifully kissed everyone on the cheek in turn.
Bye-bye Grandma. Bye-bye Grandpa. Bye-bye Baby.
I was quickly told, “No, no – the baby is staying with us and not going home with Grandma and Grandpa! Yay!” What? Those three arrived at the same time, so it only makes sense that they would leave at the same time! This has been fun and all folks, but it’s time for the loud, bow-legged blob to go back from whence he came so things can get back to normal. I promptly copped quite an attitudinal look that did not leave my face for roughly the next two or three years.
Less than welcoming reactions like that of my almost 2-year-old self are the reason so very many children’s books have been written on this precise topic. As a matter of fact, we even have a ready-made list compiled, and the library’s selection is growing all the time. Some of my favorites from the last year or so include “The Baby Tree” by Sophie Blackall, in which a youngster doggedly pursues where exactly this baby his parents say is coming is going to come from. After receiving some pretty comical answers, he finally asks Mom and Dad who provide him with an age appropriate, barest bones but accurate explanation that satisfies our protagonist and perhaps your own youngsters if they are of the inquisitive sort. A similar book is “What’s In There” by Robie Harris, which keeps a child-friendly schedule of sorts that follows the development of the baby and growth of mommy, like when the baby is growing hair, is the size of a pencil eraser, begins sucking her thumb and other fun tidbits. This approach is a great introduction for children who do best when they feel involved and like they know what is going on; it can even begin fostering a sense of kinship with the baby before he or she is born.
“How to Be a Baby: By Me, the Big Sister” also promotes kinship and the importance of the role of an older sibling. It’s told in the charming “lesson” format of an older sister telling a new baby all of the fun things they will not be able to do yet, but she can, until it melts into a softer explanation about what is great about being a baby, what she, as big sister, will do to help and how she looks forward to when they will both be big enough to be able to play together.
Last, I love “Don’t Eat the Baby” by Amy Young. A well-used paradigm for new baby stories is made humorous, because what makes young Tom turn from annoyed to protective and scared for his baby brother’s welfare is all of the cannibalistic things the relatives keep saying. “I could just eat him up!” and “Look at those plump, juicy thighs!” also serve as a lesson in idioms and sayings.