It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Play, learn, play

Rory has a baby sister!

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!

September 12, 2011 - Posted by | Rory | , , , ,


  1. I suspect the baby also gets PLENTY of attention at home. You and his friends are still focused on Rory, not his sister, and he probably likes it that way. πŸ˜‰
    Rory sounds like he is already well on his way to keeping his home life at home/keeping his worlds separate. That will probably help him when he has to focus at school!

    Comment by LoryKC | September 12, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thankyou thankyou thankyou for the ‘no bottle’ bit! Still breastfeeding Jack at 1 and am a breastfeeding supporter, help run two groups and promote the free lactation advice service we have in the area!xxx

    Comment by jenny | September 12, 2011 | Reply

  3. Got a toy breast pump? My son would pull up his shirt, hold a baby doll there to nurse, then want to hold the breast pump to his little chest too. The pump is about the only thing he remembers about getting his brother. It was not one of my favorite baby items, that’s for sure!

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | September 12, 2011 | Reply

  4. My boys are adjusting to a new baby as well. Henry (2.9 at the baby’s birth), has had a tough time, but he would also rather not think about the baby. I think the baby takes up so much of my energy, he needs to have a baby-free zone. It’s great that you’re providing it for Rory.

    Interestingly, Henry LOVES the baby. It’s me he’s disenchanted with right now. Oh well, better me than Charlie.

    Comment by barneyneuberger | September 12, 2011 | Reply

  5. I love that you didn’t bring out bottles.

    Comment by IfByYes | September 12, 2011 | Reply

  6. My older daughter’s daycare did a whole set of stuff around babies when her sister was born and she continued role playing at home, it was great and I so appreciated it as I had little time to give her that opportunity at home. They also did measuring/numeracy with bottles to which my daughter responded that the milk in our house came from mummy, not bottles. She happily played with the bottles at nursery and “nursed” her teddy (she prefers teddy to doll) at home. Already apt at dealing with cultural differences πŸ˜‰

    Comment by cartside | September 13, 2011 | Reply

  7. I know you know this but you are truly awesome. Letting him have his space and a place where nothing has changed and bringing out dolls to help with the adjustment if help is needed is beyond thoughtful. I’m in the states and my girls go to a wonderful, wonderful day care school but even in their thoughtfulness I doubt this would be done. Your clients and children are so lucky to have you and as one of your readers I feel lucky you take us along for the ride.

    Comment by bearsmomma | September 13, 2011 | Reply

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