Wednesday 20 April 2016

On Losing The Only-Child Status

Until now, I’ve only really thought about how good the new baby will be for Ebony. After all, she’ll be getting a brand new playmate to climb trees with, play pirates with and build intricate Lego houses with. I used to have the most fun playing games with my sister and I am looking forward to Ebony enjoying that same sort of bond.

A sibling is a friend for life. My own sister is a really important person in my life and always someone I can turn to when I don’t want to talk to somebody else. I imagine, as your parents age, this bond becomes even more important. And up until now, that’s what I’ve been thinking about when I’ve imagined Ebony and a sibling. I’ve thought about them appearing at the conservatory doors, covered in mud after an enthusiastic afternoon spent playing at the bottom of the garden. I’ve imagined them having sleepovers together and cuddling up in bed together. I’ve imagined the benefits but haven’t even stopped to consider the other side of getting a sibling.

Of course, having a sibling isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes they ruin your games, embarrass you in public and steal your clothes. Sometimes you hate them. But that’s all to be expected. That’s all part and parcel of family life. It’s the other side of it that has started to worry me.

Ebony has spent over four years enjoying the luxury of life as an only child. She hasn’t had to share her toys. She hasn’t had to compete for attention. She hasn’t really had to do anything,unless she’s wanted to do it. But all that is about to change. Pretty soon, there will be someone else calling some of the shots. We’ll be running out of the door late not because Ebony couldn’t find her school shoes but because the baby forced out a badly timed crap. Ebony will be woken up in the night not because she’s cold but because there’s somebody screaming in the room next door. Ebony will climb into my bed in the middle of the night to find that somebody else has stolen her place.

I hope that, because she’s older, she’ll be better equipped to handle these changes. But I don’t know. At the moment, she is really excited about the new baby. She already thinks of the new baby as her best friend and is so excited to have a baby in the family. But will that change when the reality of what it means to be a big sister sets in? Will she end up resenting the new baby? Will she feel pushed out or rejected by this squishy little person in my bed?

And it’s not just her I’m worried about, it’s me. How will I cope with Ebony no longer being my only baby? For the past four years and three months, she has dominated most of my thoughts and pretty much all decisions have been made with her in mind. How will I cope with juggling her needs with those of the new baby? Will I miss all of the one-on-one time we have always had the luxury of enjoying? Those long cuddles at bedtime, will they come to an end as I rush out of the door to soothe a crying baby yet again? One thing I’ve always tried to give Ebony is time. Time to master things herself, time to explore and investigate and time to spend together, no matter how long it all takes. Will I still be able to grant her this basic right, or is she going to be caught up in the whirlwind of looking after a newborn?

How do you juggle the needs of a newborn with the lifelong expectations of the first child you love so much? And how do you juggle at all, without feeling like you’re about to drop shitloads of balls?

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