Learning to Take Care

2 Aug

Lucia is a great big sister. So far we’re really lucking out in terms of her treating the baby well and not being a total nightmare of jealousy and havoc. It helps that we try to find ways to give her extra attention. It helps that she’s started school. It helps that she’s really stoked about being a big girl and being able to do all kinds of independent things (use the potty, get dressed semi-solo, etc.). We talk all the time about how she can talk, she can eat food, she can walk and run and jump, and the poor baby can’t do any of that stuff yet. I don’t know how she’ll feel when the baby can do that stuff, too, but so far we’re enjoying the way she interacts with Khalil.

We also constantly rehash the when-you-were-a-baby scenario so she doesn’t feel left out. When you were a baby you ate num-nums (breastmilk). When you were a baby you wore this same cute outfit. When you were a baby you had this toy. She says, “When I’m a baby I cry like, wah,wah, like the baby, huh?” That’s right. Exactly like that. Sometimes it’s a stretch- when she says things like, “When I’m a baby I laughed at the cat, too, huh?” and really, “no, because we didn’t have a cat then, but, you know, you liked to watch other animals when you were a baby.” Anything to appease the big baby, to remind her that she’s special and important, too.

I think that her age- or her life stage / phase / whatever you want to call it- helps, too. Right around the time that I got pregnant, she started playing with dolls and stuffed animals. Before that she was completely uninterested in them. But she hit that stage where she started reenacting scenarios of ways in which we take care of her. Suddenly she was singing to her “baby,” reading to it, taking it to time out, taking it with us to go out, patting its back, and much, much more. Her baby of the moment can be any stuffed animal or doll, depending on her whim. It is incredibly endearing and also wildly funny the conversations she has with her baby, the way she replays her relationship with us, her parents, trying to internalize lessons. “Baby, we don’t color on the walls!” she scolds, for example. “Baby, we don’t hit people! Do you need to go to time out?” Or my personal favorite, “baby, you need to take a nap.” (Because Lucia never, ever believes she needs to take a nap.)

One of her many “babies”

Lucia playing Mommy- a bit too realistic!

And once the baby came out of my belly, her baby-caring just amped up. “I’m taking care of my baby, too.” She says, mouth set in a line of serious determination. “I need to change my baby’s diaper, too. Pass me the wipes. Pass me a diaper.” She shushes the baby, rocks him to sleep in the hammock (her babies are now almost always boys- what a coincidence since Mommy’s baby is a boy!). “Mommy, my baby needs num-nums,” she says, pulling her shirt down to uncover a nipple and putting the baby there to nurse. I’m sure many people in the U.S. would be appalled by her realistic mothering. I’m proud and enamored.

Matching Babies in their Wraps!

Matching Babies in their Wraps!

Lucia reads a book while she puts her baby down for a nap in the hammock- just like Mommy does for her!

Lucia reads a book while she puts her baby down for a nap in the hammock- just like Mommy does for her! (this is not our house, btw)

I came home from work a few days ago to find little brother strapped into his swing, big sister in the chair beside him, reading him a book. “Mommy, I’m taking care of him!” She squealed, so pleased to be taking care of the real, live baby. Although Khalil was trying to chew on the book as much as look at it, she was certainly taking care of him- keeping him occupied and not crying. I told her I was impressed and happy, and that she’s a good big sister. After I got settled in and Khalil started crying a bit, I went to pick him up to nurse him. “Mommy, no!” Lucia shouted at me. “I’m taking care of him!” It took a while to convince her that I could take care of him in a different way for a little bit and that then she could take care of him some more. She’s a bit possessive about her role, which is nothing but great even if I do have to convince her of my role in the matter.

But of course, I’m sure she won’t always adore her little brother. And as soon as something more interesting happens around her, her baby gets dropped and abandoned. She did just turn 3, after all, and “Mommy, it’s just pretend, okay?” as she likes to reassure me. It’s all just a learning process, and she’s still my baby, too. “Mommy, you take care of me, okay!” she orders sometimes, lest I forget that she needs special attention, too. And maybe that puts her a step ahead of the rest of us, because she already knows that we caregivers need caring-for, too, and sometimes you have to come right out and ask for it. Here’s to learning to take care!

2 Responses to “Learning to Take Care”

  1. fml221 August 2, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    Love this one – especially the end. It’s an important lesson…

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