Our worry that Munchkin might react negatively to the arrival of his baby sister stemmed partly from S’s late-night Internet trawling and partly from experience. S was four when her younger sister was born and, in lieu of exhibiting concern for her hungry cries, S urged her mother not to feed the newborn who had intruded into her heretofore-perfect family life. And when Munchkin was born, our pup Emmie wore her melancholy on her face, arching her eyebrows in a show of exaggerated sadness at seeing her playtime and share of our attention significantly reduced.
S fretted that with Junebug needing round-the-clock care, Munchkin would feel abandoned; that he would rebel even more if the only attention he received from us were negative – a chorus of NOs whenever he misbehaved or wasn’t careful enough around his baby sister. And while it’s true that, at three, Munchkin has no gentle mode and must at times be kept at arm’s length from his sister when he’s playing, he appears to harbor no ill feelings towards her, exhibiting only tenderness, curiosity, and a propensity for introspection. “When I was a little boy,” he told D apropos of nothing while riding his bike in the woods, “I used to drink milk from mama’s breasts.” – a statement that caught D completely off-guard with both its anatomical and grammatical correctness.
It helps that Junebug thus far has proved to be an easy baby. She is assertive when she needs to be but is usually quick to settle down. It probably helps also that we are less flummoxed by her needs than when we were trying to figure out parenthood for the first time with Munchkin. And it definitely helps that in addition to our many family visitors, S’s mom has set up semi-permanent residence with us. “You’re beautiful, little nannie,” Munchkin told her on a recent walk, underscoring nana’s unmistakable spot at the apex of his love pyramid.
Though Munchkin is usually too busy running around and causing havoc to pay much attention to his baby sister, he clearly cares for her. When she cries, he urges S to feed her. And when we put her down for a nap, he brings her the stuffed animal pacifiers she inherited from him. “I sleep with my animals and baby sister sleeps with these animals,” he says, placing them gently by her side.
Children wear their feelings and emotions on their sleeves, and Munchkin’s burgeoning love for Junebug was on full display on July Fourth. Riding on D’s shoulders as we made our way back from Bug Light Park, Munchkin waved to every passing stranger. “Hi!” he’d holler, waiting for the passersby to acknowledge his greeting before excitedly informing everyone who would listen, “I have a baby sister! I have a baby sister!”