Sister Act

Ever since the day she was born, we’ve been planning for the day when Maddi became a sister. The minute I delivered our purple, coneheaded, colicky insomniac after nine intense hours of hard, fast back labor, I knew I would do it all over again, and soon. There is something about newborn babies — even screaming, inconsolable ones — that makes you want to have 10 more just like them. And so, there in the delivery room on May 6, 2005, it was determined that Maddi would have a younger sibling as soon as possible.

Of course, babies take time, and by the time her brother arrived, Maddi had had us almost entirely to herself for 18 months. Naturally, Chris and I were concerned that our pampered princess might see her baby sibling as an intruder rather than a future playmate. So a few months before the baby was due, we gave Maddi a baby doll and some miniature nursery accoutrements to get her used to the idea of infants in the house. Maddi spent many happy hours strolling her dolls around the living room, serving up meals of imaginary oatmeal (and meticulously “washing” the high chair tray in her big sister’s play kitchen afterward) and laying her babies down for naps. She almost always carried the babies head-up and was very tender with her tiny charges. Of course, the real test would be how she treated Mommy’s baby.

I am happy to report that Maddi has done spectacularly well thus far at adjusting to the new baby. Even the hospital stay was easier. She slept better for Chris and didn’t treat me like a stranger during hospital visits, although she still did (and does) seem to be under the impression that everybody has babies in their tummies, including a much-thinner Mommy.

Luckily for Maddi — not to mention for Chris and me — James spends a lot of the time sleeping, so we can devote sizable chunks of quality time to our little girl. Perhaps all the playing and cuddling has made Maddi blissfully unaware that some of our attention is now going to the wee interloper, because she hasn’t seemed to notice that she has a little competition in the quality-time department. In fact, when the baby’s cries ring out over the monitor, Maddi is the first to head for the doorway and down the hall, urgently pressing us with the refrain, “Baby? Baby?”

She also begs me to lower him for kisses at least 10 times an hour, and is always excited to help put him in his bassinet and bid him goodnight. She has helpfully offered him sippy cups and chicken tenders, as well as her favorite books and toys.

And while she’s definitely grown-up next to the tiny baby we brought home, she’s also getting bigger in ways we’d notice even if we weren’t looking at her compared with a newborn. In the past few months, she’s been bought and subsequently outgrown several pairs of pants. She’s regained all the words she lost in the language regression that happened after the move, and is adding new ones each day. She will now sit still long enough for ponytails and barrettes, and can both remove and put on her shoes lipitor medication. She’s inches away from being able to don her own pants and shirts, and has become proficient at stripping herself of all manner of clothing, including things that zip, button, or snap up the back and then are covered over with a layer of duct tape.

Maddi can also jump in the air, bellyflop, kick a ball, spin in circles, operate the Diaper Champ (albeit abusing the tool to dispose of pacifiers), clamber in and out of her high chair, and scale the arms of the sofa to drop, catlike, over the gate into the forbidden but enticing fireplace area. She also uses the potty when the inclination strikes her, and can apply her own lotion and hand sanitizer. Over the past few months, she’s been honing her skills with a spoon and fork, and now uses utensils like an old pro, often keeping her face entirely clean (if not her lap!).

She can point to nearly every part of her body — not just arms and legs, but wrists, elbows, knees and ankles too — and can mimic dozens of animals including tigers, snakes, seals and dolphins. After just a few singalongs at the library, she began doing all the motions (correctly!) to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

And to top it all off, a few days ago I was combing her hair and she snatched at the comb with a big scowl and snapped, “No! Mine!” Our little girl is, indeed, growing up!

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