“Siblings are who you share your childhood with,” my husband commented, as we talked about possibly having another kid.
“I never thought about it that way,” I responded. Tilting my head, you could practically see the classic cartoon lightbulb above it. As an only child, that aspect of having a sibling honestly never occurred to me. But now, years later, I see its truth reflected in the relationship between my two young children. Even at one and four-years-old, they have a bond different than I’ve ever experienced.
This is actually Snowball, our “pet bunny.” But good luck getting a photo of an imaginary friend.
“Tell me a Hop and Bun story,” Sprout says, his pants around his ankles as he’s sitting on the toilet. Perched on the side of the bathtub, I look off into the distance, as if I can pluck an idea from the mirror above the sink. “Hmmmm, well,” I stall, wracking my brain. “Once upon a time, there were two bunnies, named Hop and Bun. They were best friends. One day…”
Eventually, I always come up with something. The plots have ranged from the hapless bunnies getting lost on the subway to saving up money and buying a scooter.
While I love telling Sprout stories – despite the odd circumstances – that’s not my favorite part of this routine. No – it’s the fact that Hop and Bun are utterly from Sprout’s imagination. I played no part in their creation. They aren’t drawn from a book or TV show. One day, Sprout just declared that he was a bunny named Hop and Bun was his friend.
The afternoon stretched before me, ripe with potential. With Chris taking the car in for repairs, I had the kids to myself on a warm, sunny day. The park nearby beckoned. The seeds for our garden still needed starting, months before they could go in the ground. And we still had the make-your-own bird feeder activity I had promised Sprout that we would do since we got birdseed in church for some mysterious reason. Why not do it all? None of it would take very long, right? Silly me.
Here’s a few of the ways an afternoon filled with old-fashioned activities can go not-quite-as-planned:
My younger son has a remarkable ability to inspire comparisons to non-human creatures. While his smile is quite human – and adorable to boot – the noises and gestures he makes often aren’t.
As he’s moved from a newborn who arrived nearly a month early to a very mobile baby, here are six more things Little Bird reminds me of:
Changing diapers, chasing after toddlers, tolerating loud nonsensical singing from the never-ending musical from hell – all expertise one can expect to pick up as a parent. But there’s a specific subset of skills that my pre-child mind would have never dreamed up until I needed to do them. Here’s some of the things I’ve learned how to do in my three years as a mom that I would have never predicted:
Be okay with handling my breasts in public and exposing my nipples in front of my parents
Most three-year-olds are not still in cribs, having transitioned to toddler beds long ago. But in this case, Sprout is not “most kids.” He’s never tried to climb out of his crib, uneasy with scrambling down where there isn’t obvious hand and foot-holds. Because there was no great need, we put off the transition as long as possible. But with his third birthday passed, a potty-training blitz coming up, and preschool approaching, we figured it was time. It was only slightly more chaotic than we expected.
Nope, these aren’t my kids. I don’t like sharing photos of them, so stock random boys it is!
Returning to work, one of the first questions people ask is, “How is [Sprout] doing?” And my answer is consistently, “He really loves his brother. But he’s a bit aggressively affectionate.” While I’m grateful that he adores his brother, sometimes the ways he shows it aren’t very appropriate. Oddly, even though we’re freaking out, Little Bird hardly ever seems to mind.
Here are a few of the things he does that are sometimes adorable, sometimes a Very Bad Idea and most often, both.
When a baby is born, all of the adults gather around, ooohing and ahhhhing. Inevitably one of them says to the parents, “Oh, they look just like you!” This is obviously not true. Babies look far more like each other than their own parents. In fact, my baby has actually reminded me of a variety of animals far more than me or my husband. With Little Bird having recently moved out of the newborn stage, here’s an inventory of things he reminded me of:
Shannon: an overconfident mom of two
Chris: Her husband
Sprout, Shannon and Chris’s almost three-year-old
Little Bird, Shannon and Chris’s week-old newborn
Act 1: Getting to the Park
Shannon and Chris are sitting on the couch, with Shannon holding Little Bird. Sprout is lying on the floor.
Shannon: Let’s go to the park!
Sprout continues to lie on the floor.
Shannon: Don’t you want to go to the park? We’ll bring Little Bird!
Sprout pushes his toy school bus across the floor.
Sprout: Pee pee poo poo, mommy.
Shannon: We’re putting your shoes on in 5. 1-2-3-4-5.
Shannon walks over to Sprout, grabs his hands and tries to get him to stand up. He goes limp, then stands up very slowly and mosies over to the couch. Shannon hauls Sprout up on her lap and put his sneakers on. Chris straps Little Bird into his car seat, who immediately starts crying.
Shannon: Do you think he’s hungry? I fed him less than an hour ago.
Chris (carrying the car seat out the door and snapping it into the stroller): He’s fine. Just go.
Shannon and Sprout walk outside. Shannon begins to push the stroller.
Sprout: No no no no no!
Shannon: What’s wrong? Please use words.
Sprout: I WANT TO DO IT!
Shannon: Do what?
Sprout reaches for the stroller’s handle.
Sprout: Want to push!
Shannon: Ah. Thank you for being so helpful!
Sprout and Shannon push the stroller for two feet, then Sprout stops and pushes on the foot brake.
Shannon: The stroller can’t move if the brake is on.
Sprout runs to the side of the stroller and peers in. He then runs to the back, takes off the brake, pushes for another two feet, and puts the brake on again.
Shannon: Seriously, what are you doing?
Sprout (looks into the stroller): Hi, Little Bird!
Shannon: You want to see him, but can’t from the back, can you?
Sprout runs back, takes off the brake, pushes the stroller and then repeats the whole process.
Shannon: You aren’t going to do this every two feet, are you?
While the physical discomfort was bad, the most stressful thing for me about pregnancy was picking a freaking name for the baby. (Especially this time around, when Little Bird’s labor was bizarrely quick. But that’s a story for another time.) As I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with this, I wrote a guest post called the Seven Stages of Picking a Name for Your Baby for Pregnant Chicken.
Besides labor, picking a name is one of the hardest things about having a baby. It’s rumored that there are couples who have a name for each gender picked out before conception. But for the rest of us, it’s a process fraught with uncertainty, frustration and confusion. We also kind of hope those prepared parents’ kid changes their name during a quarter-life crisis. While not everyone goes through these, here are seven common stages of naming a baby:
Read the rest at Pregnant Chicken! (While you’re there, check out their Is It Safe? series. Brilliant.)