Thursday, April 19, 2012

Primo deconstructs Babydom

Everyone wants to know how the bid kids are adjusting to the addition of la bambina. And I am pleased to say, not bad. I mean, hey, anyone who's ever read Siblings Without Rivalry knows, this shit is complicated. Epic. Its no bed of roses when a family that's pretty set in its formation has to make room and recalibrate all its settings for a new member. But both Primo and Seconda find it a generally positive thing. They really love the baby.

Its a whole different ball game for Primo then when Sec was born. When Sec was born, he was only two years and four months old, a total babe in the woods himself. Diapers, bottles, incoherent and unintelligible baby talk. He woke all through the night. He didn't go to any real kind of school. And he did NOT enjoy the addition of a newer model baby in the house. I will never forget how, after about three weeks or so, he asked very casually, "When is the baby going to go back in your belly?"

And when I informed him that that wasn't happening, that the baby wouldn't be going anywhere. he nodded and then asked again, "When is she going back in your belly?" Every day for a few weeks, he repeated this question, holding out hope that his miserable fate might be reversed.

This time around, Primo is more or less exclusively delighted to have a new baby sister. He's already been through the process of adding one on to the family after all and the whole thing is much less of a big deal to him than it is to Sec, whose entire universe is irrevocably altered. At seven, Primo's world is much bigger now than it was when he was two. The kid has best friends, homework, slumber parties, video game obsessions, first holy communions, evil lunch ladies, favorite book series . . . in other words, he's got a life now. The baby's cool and whatever but its not everything.

Which is not to say he doesn't care about the baby or that he's not into her. He is super charmed by and enamored of her and it is possibly the cutest thing in the world to watch him watch her with delight. But its not not delight he approaches her with but total fascination. He's like a scientist, trying to uncover what kind of species this newborn is and what makes her tick.

When he came to see her in the hospital, he observed her for a while and then concluded, very matter of factly, "Yes, she's good. She's a good baby."

The next day, when he woke up, he walked over to her Moses basket and checked on her development, "Yes, she's better than yesterday. That's good."

Every day, he assesses where she is on the spectrum of cuteness and thankfully, its been an upward trajectory for Terza. He wants to know what she can see and what she can hear and what sorts of thoughts she is capable of thinking and how she knows how to breastfeed and why she wounds like an animal instead of a human being when she cries.

But my favorite question he's asked about her -- and it really got me thinking - was in her first few days.

"What makes her cute?"

"Don't you think she is cute?" I asked.

"Yes, of course," he replied, "But what makes her cute? She's not pretty but she's cute. Why?"

I explained its those big eyes in the big head and the recessed chin and all these little tweaks nature takes care of to make the little bundle of joy pleasing enough that parents don't just abandon the bawling, exhausting thing right off the bat. And its pretty effective too.

Deconstructing babydom.