Let me clarify. I believe it exists. And I believe in sibling squabbling. My kids squabble all the time. Sometimes they full-on bicker. And every now and then they actually fight. What I mean is, I don’t think Cain and Abel are the rule. I don’t think kids inherently dislike their siblings. I don’t think they automatically resent each other.
I missed posting last week because about the time that I would normally be typing something up I was in labor, preparing to deliver my fifth baby. From the moment she was born, all her older siblings were absolutely enthralled. They couldn’t wait to get a turn to hold her. I heard “She’s so adorable!” about eleven thousand times that first day. For the first couple days I hardly got to hold her unless she was crying because her brothers and sister all wanted turns snuggling her. Even the three-year-old wanted his turns to hold her.
At one moment my mom made a comment about how you never see preparing-for-baby-sibling books that have kids who are delighted with their new sibling. I’m sure there are some out there, but as I was thinking about it, the books that came to mind are all about preparing your older child(ren) for this huge adjustment they’re about to experience. They portray kids who resent the new baby for taking the parents’ attention. They talk about explaining to your child how your heart has room for both and so on. They don’t tell you how to deal with kids who are thrilled to have a baby. It’s like it’s assumed that the older kids will be upset. It’s as though it doesn’t occur to the book and article writers that a new baby might be a delight to everyone.
Of course, I’m not saying there isn’t valuable advice to be had. It IS an adjustment (even if it’s a happy one) and the older child(ren) DOES need to be made to feel like their place is secure, but I think there’s almost too much emphasis put on that part of it. I think to an extent we become so worried about the chance for resentment that we create a self-fulfilling prophecy. We tell the older child “Now, don’t worry, mommy and daddy will still love you just as much,” and inadvertently tell him, “There’s the potential for worry and the possibility that we wouldn’t still love you the same.” In preparing for the worst, we create the feeling that there is something to prepare for. In being told not to worry, we give them something to worry about.
What if, instead of preparing for the inevitable, parents prepared for the added joy of a new sibling? What if we assumed everyone would be thrilled and acted that way? The expectation would then be that this is a thrilling event and it wouldn’t even occur to the older kids that they should be resentful of this intrusion into their way of life.
I’m sure for the most part parents do this instinctively. And I’m sure I’m not the only mom whose kids enjoy each other more often than not, despite the squabbling and bickering and fighting. But I think it’s always good to remember in all areas of life that expectation influences outcome. Expect the positive. Assume the best. Give the benefit of the doubt. You’re more likely to see positive results if you’re looking for them.