By Sarah Rachel Egelman
My baby, who turns one this month and is hardly a baby anymore, has a bad case of little-sister-itis. That is what we call her permanent and incurable condition and it seems to be getting more acute. Symptoms include:
- frustration at being unable to walk/run/jump/climb like her big sister
- boundless joy at being the object of her big sister's attention
- arching of back and howling at the word "no"
- fits of giggling and hand clapping upon hearing her big sister sing or seeing her dance
- possible neck strain at constantly looking around for her big sister
- rejection of all age-appropriate toys
- attempting and often succeeding in playing with big kid toys like Legos and puzzles
- disinterest in board books
- extreme interest in big sister's favorite books
- super baby strength demonstrated by attempting to climb bunk bed ladder after big sister and getting farther up there than you would imagine; note: this is directly related to the condition found in parents called "heart palpitations"
I am a big sister myself. And the age difference between myself and my younger sister is only a few months less than between my girls. So I can empathize with Lilith when she is upset at finding Adina chewing up her books, messing up the puzzles she worked so hard at, or just getting the kind of hawk-eye attention a 1-year-old gets. But, I am starting to understand the younger sibling's point of view, too.
An early memory of mine is sitting on my bed, quietly playing while my little sister toddled into my room and swept all the books and toys off my shelf. She seemed to leave a trail of destruction wherever she went. But, as a mother, witnessing this same scene several times daily, I have come to rethink the scenario. Could it be that what I took as deliberate mischief was really my sister just wanting to play? Was she just trying to get my attention? Was she trying to keep up with me and play with the things I liked to play with?
Adina adores her big sister. Lilith is by far her favorite person, beating out me and her father easily. It seems my job these days is, however, to keep her little-sister-itis in check, encouraging the sweet behaviors and rechanneling the less endearing ones. I know that a bad case of big-sister-itis (jealousy and feelings of isolation, confusingly coupled with abundant love and an innate desire to protect) can get out of hand, too.
I am learning a lot about being a sister from being a mother, and thankfully the difficult side effects (sleep deprivation, frustration, heaps of laundry, inability to answer 700 "why" questions in a two-hour span) are always outweighed by the benefits of mother-itis (pure unconditional love, pride, creativity, humility and laughter).
Sarah Rachel Egelman is a community college instructor and freelance book reviewer who lives in New Mexico with her family.