Change is Here: Telling Our Daughter
How do you tell a toddler for whom the concept of time is elusive and really just a permanent state of Veruca Salt’s “I want it now!” syndrome that their life is about to change for-ev-ER in…9 months? I’m still not sure I know the answer, but I am sure I was overly and unnecessarily terrified that the way in which we told our daughter about the new baby would potentially cause her undue psychological damage.
Like the serial worrier that I am, before we told her, I looked to the infinite source of wisdom for some answers, Google. Lo and behold, I didn’t yield anything that promised to be the foolproof antithesis of psychological damage technique. I did read that at her age of 2, I should not expect it to resonate with her or even garner a response.
To our advantage, she does love herself a baby…for .03 seconds, long enough to say in an adorably sickening high pitched voice, “a baby, oh it’s sooooo sweet” before she’s off jumping on couches or pretending she’s John Smith from Disney’s Pocahontas.
Prepared for anything, I figured the best route was to just talk first to her about babies. With unpredictability being the name of the game we proceeded with caution but excitement and my astute parenting mantra: “let’s just wing it.”
Our exchange proceeded a little something like this:
Me: H, how do you hold a baby? (She proceeds to cradle her baby doll, albeit at an arm’s length but with tenderness).
Me: How do you burp a baby? (She does her best attempt at a sweet burp on the back of the baby’s neck).
Me: How do you hug a baby? (Cue her affectionate death squeeze).
Me: Are babies so sweet? (Cue her sickeningly sweet baby voice).
And here’s where it happened. I told her a new baby was going to join our family and she was going to be a big sister. And with her head at a tilt and a thoughtful pause, she looked at me and my husband and said, “I don’t want to scare her.”
Come again? Scare her? What kind of MONSTER are we raising? What does that mean? Quick internal worry meter, analyze that.
I gave some reassuring response that I winged of course, and then she asked, “Who’s coming tomorrow?” Ah, poor, sweet thing, the concept of time is a rough one. Even now, when people ask her what’s in my belly she’ll just rattle off what I had for lunch.
And finally, she asked, “Who’s going to hold her?”
I remembered what Google said to make it inclusive and say “EVERYONE,” especially her, and not to emphasize me in the new baby situation.
Satisfied, she switched the subject, we did the rest of our nightly routine and off to bed she went. As I jotted down her responses I came back to “I don’t want to scare her.”
Despite my initial panic, in retrospect, I think this is the highest compliment a toddler can give. There are few outside stresses, worries or fears in toddler-hood. They do not know the adult world of anxiety and excessive worry yet. The thing toddlers do know is the immediacy of being scared. They can be scared of the garbage truck, blenders, vacuums, pooping, a pesky fly, the wind, or whatever strikes their toddler nerve that day. But their worries are usually immediate or anticipatory, and rarely long term.
In reality, it seems her assertion that “she’s not going to scare her” is the toddler equivalent of protection, love, and devotion. It is how I hope she views us as her parents, people who won’t scare her but will always love and protect her even as our family grows and changes.
With my “wing it” method earning another gold star and my mother chest puffed with pride, I feel certain our little girl will be an excellent, loving, overbearing big sister.