It’s Not All Mary Poppins

My Grandmother would call it “Giving Them Ideas”

We went to the library yesterday. Brought home a great heap o’books. Now, when at the library, I do generally glance through the books they toss on the table, and discreetly remove the ones I know I would find mind-numbing beyond belief, or simply annoying. When Poppy tossed in a Caillou book, I let it stay without reading through. I know some people love to hate Caillou, but I find him generally harmless. Insipid and whiney, perhaps, but harmless.

Until today, that is.

And this book? Was Caillou: Baby Sister, which is VERY COOL, because Poppy is getting a baby sister in the summer. (We all found out it was a sister a week or so ago.) So, can Poppy bring home a book about getting a baby sister? Of course she can! How fun!

So I sit down with the children, and we start reading through the mondo pile o’books. We get to Caillou. I begin. Caillou pats his mummy’s big tummy, and looks forward to baby’s arrival. Mummy and Daddy go off to the hospital, leaving Caillou with gramma.

Is he excited about the even he’s awaited so long? Is he eager? No. He sticks his thumb in his mouth and he “feels lonely”. (Yes, Caillou’s a bit of a sap.)

Mummy and Daddy return, and Caillou is surprised. The baby can’t walk or play. “She’s just a baby.” Um, did no one tell him this? Yeesh.

Next page, Caillou is jealous.
Then he pouts.
The he refuses to look at the baby.
Then he regresses.
Wets the bed.
Wants a bottle.
Wants to be rocked to sleep.
And then, in a startling bit of active aggression (instead of his usual passive version) he
BITES the baby.
Then he goes into his room and beats up on his baby doll.

And then, on the very last page, after a whole book of Caillou being a little shit, he hands the baby her bottle, and discovers she is funny! She is very small and smells nice.

Last sentence of the book:
“Caillou likes being a big brother.”

Um, really? You know, I am not convinced by this. I very much doubt your toddler would be, either. I did not finish reading the book to the tots. After two or three pages of negativity, I had had enough. (I read it later, on my own, to discover what I’ve just shared with you.)

“Goodness, Caillou is being mean, isn’t he? I don’t think I want to read a book about someone being mean to a baby.” The children all nodded sagely, because a guiding principle at Mary’s is “Big people take care of little people.” Being mean to a baby is shocking, people! Shocking and utterly reprehensible. And then I hid the book.

Of course it is important to prepare a child for a sibling’s arrival. Let the older one know how helpless the baby will be. Disabuse them of any idea of being presented with a fully-developed playmate. Talk about crying and pooping and sour milk. And also talk about what they might do with the baby. Pat her head, fetch burp cloths, jiggle a toy…

Of course it is important to acknowledge a child’s feelings, both positive and negative, as they arise. A new baby very often does make the older child feel displaced. An older child can feel resentful, jealous, might indeed wish to be a baby again, and cause reams of delighted laughter, from the entire world, for farting. I mean, really!


But while you can and should prepare the child for the helplessness of a newborn, and you can and should suggest ways that they can be involved, I do not for one second think you should be telling the child how they might respond emotionally in a negative way. Small children are extremely suggestible. Tell a child, “You might feel jealous. You might think that everyone loves the baby more than you,” and you will pretty much ensure that your child does just that.

If you’re going to plant seeds, why not make them positive ones?

“You will spend the night with grandma. Won’t that be fun? You LOVE sleepovers at Grandma’s house!”
“The baby will be soooo teeny, it will be like having a doll that wriggles and makes funny noises.”
“When the baby cries, we will try things to make her happy and stop crying. Maybe you could tickle her toes.”

I find it interesting that the author of Caillou has decided not to make these types of positive suggestions, and thus plant seeds of resilience and possibility. No, she has decided that it’s more helpful to tell your child all the ways he might hate the new baby.

Honest to pete.

(And don’t even get me started on how Caillou’s parents respond when he bites his sister. Actually, that part is screamingly funny in a dark, dry way, and deserves its own blog post.)

If, in fact, your child responds in a negative way to the new baby, you deal with those feelings as they arise. A wise parent is prepared for that eventuality … but why would you suggest to your child that you expect those behaviours? You, the adult, may indeed be expecting them. You probably should anticipate some negativity, at least for a while. For that matter, Caillou’s lengthy list of rotten behaviours is good preparation for the parent. (But, whatever you do, don’t use Caillou’s parents as role models for how to respond. Lordy.)

But to plant the seed for your child? To, in essence, actively make suggestions for how to respond negatively?

That’s just nuts.

My fall-back New Baby book is Mercer Mayer’s “The New Baby“. I don’t always like the sibling dynamic in the Little Critter books, but this one is very good. The older brother does discover that babies don’t do much on their own, that they cry a lot, and don’t play like older children do, but he makes all these discoveries in a cheerfully exploratory way, as he tries to interact positively with his new sibling. Then mom makes a bunch of helpful suggestions which he tries, and on the last page, the big brother is showing his wee sister off to his friends, who think he’s “SO LUCKY!”

Accurate information presented positively (imagine!) with a believable happy ending. Much better.

How about you? Any “New Baby” books you particularly love? Or loathe?

February 22, 2013 - Posted by | aggression, books, parenting, Peeve me, socializing | , , , ,


  1. Now I just really, really want to know what Caillou’s parents did…

    Count me as one of those parents who hates Caillou. My kids are not allowed to watch the show or read the books. He’s a whiny, manipulative little jerk – the one time my two watched an episode, they both whined for days afterwards, and my kids are many things but whiny is not normally one of them.

    My limited exposure to Caillou has totally turned me off, because I do find they are just steeped in negative behaviours that, as you say, give kids ideas.

    We also love “The New Baby” – it was a popular one here. Another book in the Little Critter series, “Just Me and My Little Brother”, has been a big part of our lives – the book details all the wonderful things that big brother will do with his little brother – just the two of them against the world, doing everything from picking apples to staying up late to breaking the wishbone at Thanksgiving. At the end, Little Critter says “There are so many things we can do, just me and my little brother!” (page turn)… and he’s sitting looking at a wee baby crawling on a blanket, and he says “But first he has to learn how to walk”. SO CUTE OMG.

    Another one we have here is “Little Rabbit’s Baby Brother” ( – it’s an older book and I think out of print, but my mom passed it along when I was pregnant with number two. The book starts with Mother & Father Rabbit making lists and preparing for the arrival of the new baby. Little Rabbit is very excited but also nervous; at one point she is worried that the baby will take her room, but that is dealt with right away and the story continues. It does address how cute babies are, but also how noisy. She tries to help, but at first does the wrong thing – she tries to share her hot chocolate with the baby. She does get upset and storm out of the house, but her parents handle it all well, and the last several pages are all about her learning ways to be a good big sister. It has a lovely happy ending and lots of good ideas for older siblings.

    Comment by Hannah | February 22, 2013 | Reply

  2. This reminds me of some of your previous posts about children living up (or down) to expectations, which really hit home with me – it’s something I employ with the kids I look after and it generally works. If I act as though I expect them to do something well, they generally do. My first reaction to a child falling over is a cheerful “oops!” and maybe a joke about making a hole in the floor (if they’re old enough to understand that it’s a joke). If they cry after that, then I look for the problem. Thank you for the idea!

    I haven’t heard of Caillou, perhaps he hasn’t made it over to the UK yet – hopefully he won’t.

    Comment by May | February 22, 2013 | Reply

  3. I don’t know the exact title of the book we use for the girls I nanny. But it is an informative book including nursing and how the baby requires a lot of attention. There isn’t a story. It is just information. I, actually think it might be called What Baby Needs. The two oldest understand what it is to have a baby sibling. But there is another coming in March so the 1.5 year old will be having some MAJOR adjustment issues. The two oldest are frequently gone, so in her lovely little world she is an only child at heart. Hopefully I don’t go crazy. 😉

    Comment by miss ashley | February 22, 2013 | Reply

  4. It was called “When the Teddy Bears Came” and was just about a family making room on their laps for the little kid (gender unclear) and the new baby ALSO.

    Comment by My Kids Mom | February 22, 2013 | Reply

  5. There’s a wonderful book called “101 Things to Do with a Baby” by Jan Omerod. Lots of illustrations–101 of them–of gentle, everyday life with a new baby.

    Comment by Francesca | February 22, 2013 | Reply

  6. Okay, I’m dying to know about the parental response in that book. I’m certainly not going to be reading that book any time soon. (Although we ARE preparing for a new baby around here, that book is certainly not a candidate for preparation. However, when I told my toddler that there’s a baby in mommy’s tummy recently, he looked at me with a little surprise, whipped my shirt up, poked my belly, and then looked very disappointed indeed when there was nothing but pillowy skin to be seen.)

    Comment by rosie_kate | February 22, 2013 | Reply

  7. Count me in, how did Caillou’s parents respond to his biting his baby sister?

    Comment by Sheri | February 22, 2013 | Reply

  8. Ok, I’ve never commented here before, but this is one of my “things”–I hate most new baby books! I have 6 kids, and we’ve never had new baby jealousy issues, and why would I want to introduce that idea???? Here are some of the ones I found for the new baby this time around (born last summer): Rachel Fuller has a series of 4 wordless board books that are great; here’s one:
    I love the love and joy in the parents’ and big brother’s expressions in this one:
    This one has lovely illustrations:

    Comment by Jennifer | February 23, 2013 | Reply

  9. […] So. About that Caillou book. […]

    Pingback by Caillou: New Baby, or, The Weirdness « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | February 26, 2013 | Reply

  10. For 4 year old Henry, when we were expecting his little brother, we bought “I’m a Big Brother Now” (comes in a Big Sister version too). It talked about all the things babies can’t do and all the things big brothers can do and it shows both Mum and Dad helping with baby and encouring Big Brother to help and feed the baby. It talks about asking Mum and Dad before picking up the baby too. Excellent book that my son loved. Ends with Mum and Dad showing photos of Big Brother when he was a baby and talking about how he is special too.

    Comment by Tammy | February 27, 2013 | Reply

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