My wife and I recently took our two sons, Antonio (5) and Nate (3), to the furniture store to pick out the bedding for their baby sister's room. Until that point, it had been difficult to get a real sense of how the boys felt about their forthcoming new sibling. But at least for my older son, the message became quite clear that day: He was really f***ing excited. He ran excitedly up to each bedding display, gushing with the uncanned enthusiasm of a first-time grandma.
"Ohhhh, look at the cute little dolly!" he exclaimed as he picked up the plastic baby and gawked at its adorableness. Antonio was getting more into this process than this cop grooving to Taylor Swift.
He took the life-sized baby doll and cradled it in his arms, singing a lullaby, staring sweetly into its creepily-shut eyelids. He had obviously been training in his spare time to be the most attentive big brother imaginable. We were amazed at the maturity and adoration he was showing for what symbolically was his soon-to-be sister.
Then he (and we) remembered he was five.
He began dragging the doll around the store by its ankle, putting it down for naps...inside of dresser drawers, tossing it to his little brother, Nate, from across the room. It was in that moment that I decided to address the situation formally, knowing I had to start thinking about how my first two children were going to react to the birth of my third.
So I wrote a letter...that I plan to read to them...verbatim.
Dear Antonio and Nate,
First of all, I don't want either of you to think that by having a third child, I would somehow love you less. If you think about it, although a common fear, it makes absolutely no sense. Let's take the Harry Potter movies, for instance. If I were to love the first two films, would loving the third film have any real bearing on my love for the ones that preceded it? None at all. So don't worry. The early stuff is typically better, anyway. (Don't tell your sister I said that.)
Now, you may notice that having a girl in the house will change the landscape a bit, maybe even a lot. There will probably be Queen Elsa dolls having tea parties with your Incredible Hulk. And sometimes, instead of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, you will have to watch Sofia the First. It's only fair that your sister gets the same chance to watch her shows as you do. And you definitely like Frozen and Sofia the First, anyway, so let's stop pretending you don't.
There are going to be times when the whole family is out at a restaurant, and your sister (when she's old enough to order for herself) takes upwards of 20 full minutes to decide what she wants to eat. This is a product of the culinary indecisiveness gene that I'm sure she will get passed from your mother. Be proactive and bring a book to occupy your time during this process. It'll take a while.
Although I certainly have a role in this myself, you boys are going to be your sister's first real, tangible example of what boys are like. So, treat her with respect, include her in your plans, and exhibit the kind of traits your sister looks for in a man, should she choose to someday pursue one. I know that sounds kind of creepy, but there's truth in it. Trust me.
No, your sister does not have a penis. Please stop asking me. It's getting really, really old.
There will likely come a time when you have a crush on one of your sister's friends and that friend comes to our house for a sleepover. I can tell you from personal experience that holing yourself up in your room, playing Madden for three hours, does not a great impression make. Although, I'm sure your sister would appreciate if you did exactly that. Instead, do something to really impress her like folding laundry, doing dishes, and re-organizing the Tupperware. In fact, do those things on regular days, too.
As older siblings, it is your responsibility to teach your sister the important things in life she won't be taught in school. This list includes: how to sneak out of the house like a stealthy burglar, the difference between 80s U2 and 2000s U2, ways to incorporate Nutella into every meal, and the name of every Italian restaurant in a 25 mile radius. I meant all of that except for the first part. The only ones who have any real reason to want to escape this house are your mother and me.
Without question, your sister being born is going to change us. All of us. Not all of that will be good change. Especially in the first few weeks when she has no idea that there are hours specifically devoted to sleep. But she will also do something so, so important. She will add a crucial piece of our family puzzle that, although we never knew we were missing it, if we look back 10 years from now, we won't be able to remember our lives without it.
In closing, if you guys could stop fighting, asking me for a cup of water at 3:00 a.m., and coloring on couches, your sister's birth would be the absolute best time to make that lifestyle change.
Thanks in advancement for your full cooperation.
Joe DeProspero is a freelance writer and blogger of all things parenting. His writing was once described as "every thought I've ever had that I didn't deem appropriate to share with others." He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons, and can be followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org