When I had my second child, I wasn't expecting much from my firstborn daughter in terms of help (I mean, she wasn't even 3 yet). I didn't even expect her to be that interested in her new brother. She was never into baby dolls, always favoring her stuffed animals, and while I love the kid more than life itself, sweet and nurturing aren't exactly two words I'd used to describe her. Spirited, strong-willed, and maybe a little spastic would be more accurate.
She lived up to my low expectations, pretty much ignoring her new baby brother until she he was big enough to bother her. At that point, their relationship transitioned from one of relative disinterest to one of constant drama, with me suddenly feeling more like a cage-match referee than a mom of two seemingly sane children. And that's pretty much where it's stayed until present day.
They're now 6 and 3-and-a-half, and despite the occasional moment when she decides to indulge his obvious obsession with her with a little hand-holding or an offer to play whatever game she's invented for them, she pretty much has only two ways she engages with her brother: disinterest or outright rage. Which is why I was freaking shocked this Summer when I discovered she is apparently in love with every toddler on the planet that isn't her blood relative.
I first discovered her love of little ones when we were visiting my parents over Memorial Day. Our best family friends were all in town as well, including the family's latest addition, a sweet 18-month-old little boy, who my daughter immediately took a liking to. After their introduction at my hometown's art fair, she didn't leave his side. When we all went out to lunch, she even insisted on leaving our table to join his, entertaining and feeding him so diligently that his parents came over to thank us for her help. Um . . . whose child is this?
A few weeks later, she met another 18-month-old, the daughter of my husband's best friend, who now lives across the country. Again, it was love at first sight. She spent an entire afternoon following the admittedly adorable toddler around, making sure she was happy and safe while we hung out in a suburban backyard, relieved that their pairing meant the adults could have a few minutes to engage in an actual conversation instead of the three-word sentences that usually happen at a toddler-filled party. Her parents couldn't believe how wonderful our daughter was with theirs. We were so lucky to have such a good big sister, they said. Could she fly home with them?
I almost said yes because this patient, caring girl that was doting on their child? She was not the girl that lived in my house and alternated treating her own little brother like the invisible boy and an evil being she was put on this planet to destroy. I'll admit that part of me was proud of her behavior; even if she was a monster at home, at least she was putting on a good face to the public. But another part of me could only think, WTF? How about you bring some of those sweet babysitting skills home for Mama?
I'm hoping someday she realizes that her own little brother is actually a pretty cool kid, worthy of the attention she fawns on every other small child she meets. But until then, just so you know, her toddler-sitting services are available for hire. Just make checks payable to her mother.