I haven't figured this out yet . . .
My daughter recently turned one and I felt a need to honor that momentous occasion with a posting about what an amazing achievement that truly is. I’m being serious. But I’m being serious mostly with respect to babies who make it to one with older siblings.
My older son’s birthday was a momentous occasion as well, and greeted with much fanfare, but it didn’t carry the same weight as his younger sister’s. His was more of a, “wow! you’re growing up so fast, it seems like just yesterday when you were born,” kind of celebration. Her first birthday was the same, but also, “wow! we’re so glad and amazed you survived,” kind of celebration.
The age difference between my kids is about a year and a half; and for parents who’ve had children that close in age, they’ve undoubtedly experienced a range of jealous responses from the elder siblings. Some are not that bad, maybe a refusal to share a toy or a demand for attention by the parents. Others can be quite violent, such as biting or hitting. The frequency of the violence or bad behavior toward the younger sibling also factors into the severity of the jealousy.
I’d like to think that my son’s behavior toward my daughter is somewhere in the middle of the road. The jealous reactions by my son were slow to arrive, but at times quite severe and frequent. Here’s a list of twelve traumas my daughter was lucky enough to survive in her first year of life at her older brother’s hands:
1. Slap to the face.
2. Pushed down.
3. Dragged while attempting to hang onto a toy.
4. Pushed down the stairs.
5. Fingers, toes and face bitten.
6. Being used as a drum set.
7. Tackled to the ground.
8. Limbs stepped on.
9. Smashed into a wall.
10. Pushed into a wall.
11. Numerous headlocks.
12. Smothering by a 30lb toddler.
Ok it sounds bad, and I may be forgetting some of the violence, but it’s not like all of these things happened at once, or even in the same month. Nor is the violence the only type of behavior demonstrated. The fits of jealousy were often spaced out between moments of hugs and kisses and sharing that make even the most seemingly evil child seem like an angel. But perhaps that is part of the ruse.
I was fooled numerous times into thinking my son was repentant of his bad deeds and adopted his older brother duties of love and protection, that I one day hope manifest fully. The point is that you can’t trust a jealous older sibling. Especially one that you can’t fully communicate with to explain to them that their feelings of abandonment or neglect in favor of a younger replacement, is simply not the case.
My daughter’s first birthday reminds me how resilient children are, and that one day, I will have to match that resilience when she asks me for a car or to date a boy. Until then, happy birthday sweetheart! You’ve survived, and I’m so glad you did.