The Gift Of A Sibling
I remember the day as if it were just yesterday. I woke up bright and early with all of the hope that goes along with the trials and tribulations of attempting to conceive a child. Like most endeavors I tackle in life, I was organized. There was a plan: a plan to try for a child, a plan for when to try, and a plan to increase our odds and make the possibility that much more probable. I was prepared: the ovulation sticks, the notes on all things relating to "my cycle", and the calendar with the exact day circled where I could first test for a possible positive. The indication that there was life growing inside of me just as life was growing outside of me. I took the test alone in our first house and waited with cautious optimism. When I saw the test read positive I burst into tears of joy! I wanted to surprise Dano, so before Maelle's dance class we went to Carter's (a child's clothing store) and purchased a shirt that had "This is what an amazing sister looks like" scrawled across it.
We got back after her class and walked into an empty house. Dano was outside helping to build our fence with the neighbours so I rushed to get the shirt on Maelle before he came in. Well, this is when her usual upbeat self, turned into a raging tiny human. She said she didn't like the shirt and didn't want to change. She was upset and didn't understand why I was asking her to swap tops when she already had a perfectly good outfit on. As Dano made his way towards the house I quickly forced the shirt on as she struggled to get it off through tears and sweat. Daniel walked into her lying on the ground, flailing about in an attempt to remove her clothes. He didn't even notice the shirt because of the chaos that had abruptly stolen his attention. I told him to read what was written across our daughter's chest and his confusion turned into happiness as we took the shirt off of Maelle, relieving her of the agony that was an unfashionable t-shirt.
This was the first time that I had thoughts of how much of an impact this new sibling was going to have on her life. How, from the moment we knew of his conception, she would be forced to bend and change in order to accommodate a new plan that not only included him but at times would also revolve around him. Over the course of the rest of my pregnancy, I had more of these moments where I saw the change that was imminent unfolding in front of me. From having her wait patiently in the ultrasound room as we watched this new little being flip inside of me, to having her pose for pictures for our gender reveal, right up until the moment we took off to the hospital at the drop of a hat, as we changed not only our plans for that day but also her life forever. It was impossible not to let doubt settle in and make us question what we once thought was so perfectly simple. Was she going to adjust? Would there be jealousy? How would she handle being an older sister? Did we give her enough time and attention as an only child?
Like we so often do as parents, I allowed guilt to wash over me as these questions grew in weight and magnitude. The fear that somehow my daughter would be less, having to share attention, love, and resources all while also fearing that somehow our son would be less, never not having to share attention, love, and resources. The contradiction was both ludicrous and crippling all at the same time.
But then he arrived and like the perfect puzzle piece to our family, Linden slid into place with such ease that all of my doubts were laid to rest. Maelle took to her role as a big sister with such effortlessness that I don't believe she even remembers life before Linden. She takes pride in being a big sister, showing him off to anyone who takes even the slightest interest in him. She asks to go into his room when he wakes up from naps and play with him in his crib before I come and get him. She wants to help me push the stroller, draws pictures for him, grabs diapers and wipes when I ask. Linden has made Maelle better in every aspect of being. She is less egocentric, she is more patient, she is more loving, she is more understanding, and she is more able to empathize.
Although he is only 16 months, I can already see the love Linden has for Maelle too. The way he laughs when she does something silly, how he climbs onto her bed every night to give her a goodnight kiss, and how he actively searches for her in any room or situation. And just as he has taught her new things, she is teaching him daily. She helps teach him his body parts, how to kick a ball, and even how to scream in a high pitched voice while in the car to get the maximum rise out of Mom and Dad. She has taught him the importance of determination, fighting for what you want, and giving in when it's needed. One day she will help encourage him through momentous milestones like potty training and riding a bike and maybe even comfort him when he fails a test or guide him through his first lesson in heartbreak. Either way, they are learning from one another in different but equally meaningful ways. Their bond is one that is and will hopefully always be mutually beneficial. I know that they are just now on the precipice of becoming real friends and they don't yet realize how lucky they are to have each other. I am also not so naive as to believe that their relationship won't go through its fair share of hardships. They will fight, say things they don't mean, and do things they wish they could take back, but I know that the bonds of siblingship run deep and no challenge is so big that it can't be overcome.
Adding another child definitely increases the workload. It increases the number of humans drawing your attention at any given time, it increases the mess, it increases the laundry, it increases the length of your bedtime routine. It increases the number of mouths you feed and money you spend to do it. It increases the amount of energy used daily and thus increases the amount of caffeine you consume to make it all work. But, at the same time, it also increases the amount of love in your home and in your heart. The most amazing thing about having another child is your capacity to love. The way your heart finds space that wasn't there before to allow for new depths of happiness. I remember wondering if I would love Maelle less; if some of my love for her would somehow become love for our new child as if love had limits and a maximum capacity that I was somehow nearing. I can confirm, happily, it does not.
As you think about adding to your family, you will undoubtedly question everything and wonder if you are making the right choice. But remind yourself that siblings are gifts to each other. The transition isn't always as smooth as ours was, but that inevitable increase in love is what you do it for. The gifts of a sibling are endless. Beyond friendship, they provide lessons in life that will challenge them to be better as individuals. Sibling bonds (and rivalry) naturally teach the things that we spend so much time trying to instill in our children like how to share, be kind, give forgiveness, put others before yourself, and the social norms that are the basis of all interactions.
I don't know what Maelle and Linden's future has in store but I hope that they nurture their relationship so that it outlasts the tests that life will inescapably throw at them. I can only hope that one day they have what my sister and I have. A love so strong that, in spite of the bickering that we like to partake in, I know that if I ever needed her she would drop everything to be by my side no questions asked. And I would do the same for her.