This post is a part of my “Board Book Beauty – Savoring the small as I read to my toddler” series. To see all of the posts in the series, go here.
We tried to prepare Katie for Abigail’s arrival before her little sister’s birth. We talked about the baby in Mommy’s tummy, talked about how Abby was growing big and strong, talked about how we couldn’t see her then but would be able to see her soon. Being two, she had little concept of what we meant, but we did our best.
Part of our education process involved books. (Of course it did). We checked out a few from the library (Katie enjoyed What’s Inside?, though her engineering-minded parents found the answer to what’s inside the television to be … lacking). When one of her books featured a baby, we pointed it out to her. “Look! A baby! Like Abby!” And, in an attempt to teach her about all of the things babies are and do, we read Everywhere Babies.
In retrospect, this might have been a tactical error on our part. Not because of anything wrong with the book, which is delightful, but because of the unfair expectations it gave Katie regarding poor Abby. For, in addition to telling us that babies are born, that they are rocked and fed and kissed and dressed and carried and loved, it also tells us that babies like toys. That they play games and make friends, that they are crawling and walking and growing.
Unfortunately, Abby does none of these things yet. (Well, except for the growing part. She does that, and does it well. As the one who is providing all of the nutrition she needs to do it, I can attest that she is, in fact, growing.)
After an initial uncertainty in the hospital, a confusion about who this tiny person was (and whether she was, in fact, a person at all – my sister is convinced that Katie thought Abby was a stuffed animal), she began trying to figure out just what her baby sister was good for. Katie brought Abby her toys – stuffed animals and Duplos and books – and was exasperated when she didn’t show proper appreciation for such treasures. We fielded constant requests of “Abby come play?” and “Abby eat sandwich?” and, my personal favorite, “Abby do somersault?”
She’s resigned herself to the fact that Abby is not the playmate her book depicts. And she loves her sister, despite the disappointment: she is always wanting to hold her and to sing to her and to be near her. Abby gets better goodnight hugs and kisses than I do.
On second thought, perhaps reading Everywhere Babies wasn’t the tactical error I thought it was. Katie was likely to want her sister to be a playmate regardless. Beyond that, perhaps it was a valuable life lesson, one her loving spirit learned quickly and well: people don’t always live up to our hopes and expectations. We should love them anyway.
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