Having been accustomed to pregnancies, new babies and sharing my things since I was four years old, I can accurately say that being a big sister has always been a part of who I am. Often mothers and fathers speak about the beauty and stress of having children but what about siblings? The lesser heard perspective of the eldest sibling; the teacher, the protector, the entertainer, the best friend.
I have seen, first-hand, the way parents worry for the first born when a second child comes along. The worry of them being left out or feeling like they are no longer the priority. However, what I would say to parents feeling that way is that you are not only creating a new member of the family, but you are creating a role, a purpose even, for your first child that they will learn to cherish and bear with pride. Being an older sibling is an amazing thing, something that is life long and by encouraging your child to be involved with your new infant as early as in your pregnancy they will begin to feel that responsibility and love in the same way a parent’s love grows with each sonagram picture. The love amongst siblings is unique and, in my opinion, cannot be replicated in any other type of relationship.
I remember my mum explaining to a four-year-old me that she was growing a baby in her belly and my impatient young mind trying to decipher which toys I’d show the new baby first. I remember being allowed to put the jelly on my mum’s bump and being told that’s how I could see my little sister, confused as I was, the midwife pointed her out to me amongst the black and white scribbles on the screen.
By nurturing the role of older sibling and encouraging its importance you are including your child in the birth and introduction of the new baby into the family. It is moments when mum is eating strange food like peanut butter and ham sandwiches and dad must explain that it is the baby in mummy’s tummy that wants the funny foods, which makes you laugh and call the soon to be baby silly. I share this story from my own memory because it demonstrates how even amongst the stress that parents inevitably experience when expecting a new baby, it is small moments like this which include your eldest child in the experience with you. It does not always need to be sit down, long talks and explanations, sometimes it’s the fleeting unexpected moments that will connect your children together.
Much like parents we as older siblings share joy in common moments. The first time going to the hospital to see the little baby is something never to be forgotten. To be sat with mum and dad holding the baby in your arms whilst they sit with hovering hands ready to support their tiny head. Wondering when they take their first steps if they’ll grow up to run faster than you in races or play football better than you, if they’ll be funny or kind or what will make them laugh. Parents think about all these things and as shocking as it might seem, so do we. We wait with anticipation to see what our lifelong playmate will be like and we dream for them, hope for them and wait until mum and dad tell them off so we can finally get a chance of a voluntary cuddle.
To expecting parents; big sister says, include your children in your pregnancy, let them come to scans when feasible, let them visit the hospital to meet their new baby when possible and nurture their newly established role in the family as older sibling, instil a sense of responsibility in your child and then stop worrying. Let their relationship grow and fluctuate through all the obstacles life throws at them and watch them gravitate back towards each other each time.