Play, learn, play
Is he excited? Is he thrilled? Is he jealous?
I have no idea. He has yet to mention her. (Rory has come every day since the birth, and will for a few more weeks as mum recovers from the Cesarean, when he will come part-time.)
His parents tell me that at home he is curious and affectionate, giving her gentle kisses and delicate pats on the head.
But here? She may as well not exist. Not a whisper of the baby passes his lips. Had I not seen the pregnancy progressing day by day, and gotten the news last week, I’d know nothing. Nor has his behaviour changed in the slightest. No anger, no outbursts, no anxiety, no withdrawal. Just normal, everyday Rory.
I find it a little extraordinary, this full radio silence, but it’s not at all unusual. I think it’s a combination of things.
– Toddlers tend to live in the moment, and though you do get stories of things that have happened to them elsewhere, mostly they deal with and talk about what’s right in front of them.
– I suspect that Baby Sister isn’t quite real to him yet. Give him a week or two more and we’ll see.
– It doesn’t occur to toddlers that you don’t know something they do. He doesn’t need to tell me about something so obvious as BABY SISTER.
– Baby Sister isn’t part of the world here. Here, she’s irrelevant.
And you know what? I have a policy of not asking. If, for a few hours in his/her day, a toddler wants to leave baby and all the associated upheaval behind, I let them. Let them make their adjustment in their own time. Let this place be normal, untouched, unchanged.
In time, he’ll start to talk about her. In time, she’ll be a natural, normal, unexceptional part of his world.
All this cooperative silence on my part is not neglect, though. I’ve given him a week of silence, but this weekend I brought out the baby dolls. The baby dolls and their dolly beds, onesies, sleepers and blankets. (No bottles; mum is breastfeeding.) In the play, Rory can (and almost certainly will) act out any worries, consolidate new information, explore the new reality. In his own terms, in his own time. As he plays, the conversation will arise, conversation I can participate in, and, when necessary, guide, answer questions, give information, reassure. Whatever seems to be necessary. Or maybe just hold the doll while he wrangles the sleeper onto it.
I’m looking forward to it!