When I was pregnant with BB, I became anxious about how Sausage would cope with no longer being the main focus of the household. I spoke to lots of people about it and was met, in every instance, with roughly the same answer. “It’ll be okay”, people would say, “she’ll be able to help you out, grabbing nappies and helping you bathe the baby. She’ll love it!”. And, for a while, she did. BB was a novelty and Sausage happily fetched and carried for her sister, responding with zeal to every “Could you just grab an [insert baby item] for Mummy, please?”.
A couple of months ago, I watched Loose Women for the first time ever. I was flicking through the channels whilst giving BB an early afternoon bottle and as I flicked past, something captured my interest. They were talking about something family related and I heard Myleene Klass saying something about resenting her siblings. She said that once they came along, because she is the oldest, she was turned into a ‘little mummy’ and asked to “keep an eye on them” or fetch things for them. She said she felt like too much responsibility was put on her and that, for years, she resented her siblings.
Now, I’m not exactly a fan of Ms. Klass (I’ve often been known to refer to her range of baby clothes for Mothercare as looking more like garments for midget hookers…) but what she said really struck a chord with me. Was I making Sausage into some sort of miniature skivvy?
Last week, I needed to make a phone call, so I put a freshly-fed BB in her bouncy chair and asked Sausage to keep an ear out for her sister while she watched her TV show. During the course of the phonecall, I heard BB getting agitated so I ended the call as quickly as I could and walked into the lounge to calm her down. As I walked through the door, Sausage (who’d been reclining on the sofa) jumped up and ran over to her sister, attempting to comfort her with a ‘Oh baby girl, it’s okay’ and a rock of her bouncy chair. I’d never told Sausage that it was her job to soothe BB, nor have I ever told her off for failing to, yet she automatically assumed that I expected her to deal with her sister while I was out of the room.
It made me think about the weight of my words – “can you keep an ear out for your sister?” has somehow given her the impression that she’s responsible for the care of the baby and that was NEVER my intention. I’m proud of Sausage for being such a good, kind girl who ultimately just wants to please her Dad and me, but there’s no way I’d expect an almost-6-year-old to take on the care of an almost-6-month-old. Now I’m worried that I may have triggered a cycle of resentment from Sausage towards her sister, potentially damaged their future relationship or even forced my biggest girl to grow up to fast.
The trouble is, I now have no idea how to reverse this. If I stop asking Sausage for help, she might notice the difference and feel pushed out or like I no longer need her and if I carry on, I’m worried I’ll push her closer to resenting her sister or me.
I’m asking for advice, dear readers. Are any of you an older sibling? Do you remember feeling resentment towards your younger brothers or sisters, or have you noticed the same thing with your kids? How have you managed to make your kids feel included without making them feel like mini slaves?! Leave me a comment below…please!