I was standing at the sink, rinsing the lunch dishes and trying to decide if it was too hot for the playground, when out of nowhere a peanut butter sandwich slammed into my belly. A half-eaten peanut butter sandwich, to be specific, attached to a very little hand, which was rubbing jelly in under my shirt for good measure.
“Brother’s hungry,” E said. “I’m feeding him.”
I should be rejoicing that E is so interested in the new baby. Even my crushing anxieties about childbirth last time around don’t compare to the worries I have about how E will cope with her new sibling. But this newfound interest in the “baby in Mommy’s tummy” can sometimes be problematic. Not to mention messy.
Toddler behavior is a funny thing. Sometimes the misbehavior is so outrageous you can’t keep from laughing (and then they know they have you. Good luck with the discipline.) And sometimes, as with E and her love affair with “Brother,” it’s hard to decide whether correcting some less-than-desirable actions is worth the potential psychically damaging risks.
“Brother doesn’t talk,” E said. “And he didn’t eat his sandwich.”
“Yes, honey, that’s true. When he comes out, he’ll be just a little baby. It will take him a while to learn things,” I replied.
“That’s OK. I love him anyway.” (Big, sloppy kiss.) “MWAH!”
Of course she should love the new baby—isn’t this exactly what I’d been dreaming of? A peaceful, zen household full of brotherly love? But in there somewhere is a real live baby, and I don’t want to set E up for failure when she realizes she’s really obsessed with my oddly bulging stomach, and not necessarily the baby inside. Will the disappointment crush her when she figures it out?
I don’t want to discourage E’s interest in her favorite new plaything—her new pet bump. And on the one hand, it’s adorable that she wants to sing to him, show him her drawings, and make sure he’s well fed. Except my already-sparse maternity wardrobe is suffering from all sorts of stains—finger paint, ketchup, neon pink play dough—directly in front of my belly button. Ever tried to get a fistful of sand out from the “secret fit” (ha) belly of a pair of maternity jeans? I don’t recommend it. And the sensitive skin on my belly is getting rubbed raw from E’s frequent desire to “pet” her sibling-to-be.
I love that’s she affectionate. I love that she’s concerned about his nutrition, and I especially love that she’s learning to share. Sort of. “Brother” is easily E’s favorite person in the house right now, and I’d like to hold on that feeling as long as possible, since I have a pretty strong suspicion it won’t last for long.
So I’m walking a fine line between curbing the behavior, and still making E feel good about the relationship she has with her pet bump. I’m getting faster at dodging incoming “meals” and upturned sippy cups of milk. We’re trying to practice with her dolls instead. And I have to admit, maybe I’m sending the wrong message, but it melts my heart when she tries to care for #2 in her fumbly, toddler way. So mostly, I just let her have her bump—just in case she decides she wants to hang out with “Brother” on the outside, too.