In Nairobi, almost all of our friends either had young kids or were actively trending in that direction. Though at times we felt a bit left out, we were not ready for children. We had gotten married two weeks before arriving in Kenya — our first posting with the State Department — and we did not want to jump into parenthood right away. So, we got a puppy instead. Some friends joked that Emmie was our proto-baby. Watching her interact with Munchkin now, it seems there was quite a bit of truth to that jokey statement.
The sibling dynamic manifested itself as soon as we brought Munchkin home to Moldova. Naturally, he was too young to notice that she even existed. It took him several months to become aware of her presence. Emmie, on the other hand, realized right away that her place as the spoiled first baby had been usurped. She had handled with aplomb the move from her native Africa to unfamiliar and cold Eastern Europe. There was an adjustment period, of course, but within a week, or two at the most, she was back to her old happy self, comfortably settled into her new life in Moldova.
When Munchkin entered the picture, however, it was almost too much for her to bear. Deprived of her status as the house favorite, Emmie grew quiet and withdrawn, prone to curling up in her bed and exhaling long, mournful sighs of reproach for our sudden neglect. Even now that she has adjusted to her new role, she still tries to reclaim the spotlight. For example, if we sit down on the floor to play with Munchkin, she immediately tries to wedge herself between us and him.
In addition to competing for our attention, which is only natural, Emmie and Munchkin also interact with each other in ways typical of siblings. For example, despite being surrounded by toys, he will frequently ignore his playthings and try to either gnaw on Emmie’s bone or take her squeak toy from her. Although she knows she is not allowed to reciprocate in kind, Emmie likewise tries to appropriate his things. In particular, she is fond of the Eric Carle quilt S’s mom made for Munchkin, and she spreads out on top of it whenever she gets a chance.
For all their sibling-esque rivalries, our two babies clearly love each other, though Munchkin is not yet coordinated enough to demonstrate his love in gentle ways. He is usually not fast enough to get a hold of Emmie, but when he does manage to corner her, he tends to chew on her fur. Her ears, in particular, are a favorite target of his. For her part, she just puts up with it, occasionally licking his face and demonstrating either the patience of an older sibling or, more likely, the knowledge that at mealtime half his food will wind up on the floor for her to lick up.