It appears Aya and I aren’t the only ones that are having pre-baby jitters. For the longest time, Ellie has seemed un-phased and uninterested in mama’s belly. Sometimes she’d say she had a belly in her belly too, or that I did. But other than that, she wanted nothing to do with Aya’s belly or any talk about a new baby or a sister. But recently, she’s been acknowledging the baby by calling her “sister bear.” And she’s definitely having some strong feelings about it now.
When Aya’s belly first started getting bigger we bought the Berenstain Bears book, “The New Baby.” The one where “Papa Bear” and “Brother Bear” go into the woods to make Brother Bear a bigger bed, and when they come back, Sister Bear is already born and has taken residence in Brother Bear’s old crib. I have issues with the story, but anyway, we were just trying to get her used to the idea of a new baby, and being a sister. She listened to the book, but when it’d get to the page showing the Mama Bear with her pregnant belly, she would point at her and say, “Daddy!” And when I’d correct her that that was a Mama, she’d protest, “NO! DADDY!”
Fine, whatever. Yes, that’s daddy in the kitchen making porridge for everyone wearing a polka-dot muumuu.
Anyway, she never reacted to the book and never really acknowledged Aya’s belly. Until recently.
When I installed the infant car seat she said, “Sister Bear sit there!” And when I told her all the new small clothes in the closet were for the baby she said, “Ohhh, Sister Bear clothes?”
It’s really sweet to see her slowly and gradually acknowledge the baby coming on her own and in her own way. However, along with her cute curiosity and excitement for Sister Bear has been some anger and resentment towards Mama Bear. The real Mama Bear, Aya, not me.
Her tantrums have been off the charts lately. She’s just a bottle of nerves and emotions and has no outlet. The slightest thing sets her off. Anything from wanting to sleep in her dress, not wanting to take her pajamas off, to not wanting to eat her turkey sandwich. Her tantrums are longer and more ferocious. When her alto ego, Eloise, comes out, she makes herself comfortable. She’s stubborn, cranky, and mean especially mean towards Aya. She’s difficult with me, but she is downright mean to Aya.
Along with her being mean to Aya, she’s extremely possessive of me. Aya can’t talk, touch, or look at me without Ellie saying, “NO! My daddy!” or “You no talk to Papa!” And she says it mean too. She lowers her head, furrows her brow and looks up like Jack Nicholson from the Shining. If we are playing a puzzle and Aya walks by she shouts, “No want Mama to see puzzle!” Or when I pick out her clothes and Aya happens to walk by, she hides them. “No want Mama to see.”
She only wants me to put her to bed and read her a bedtime story. She happily says “goodnight Mama,” but then gets disappointed when she learns I’m not going upstairs to put her to bed. “I want Papa to read book,” she says with a frown.
And not only that, she hits and even sometimes kicks Aya. A lot. She never hits me. Only Aya. We talk about hitting and she knows that it’s wrong. She even comes to me and confesses afterwards. “Daddy, I hit mama,” she says. And when I look at her disapprovingly, she apologizes and gives Aya a hug. “I’m sorry mama. No hitting.”
It really bothers me to see her treat Aya this way. I can’t imagine how Aya must feel. I know she understands why, but it has to hurt. It’s definitely clear Ellie had some pent up angst towards Aya and the soon arrival of the baby. Things had escalated and boiled over too much the other and at bedtime we tried to talk it out with her.
“Are you mad at Mama?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
Then I asked, “Are you mad at Daddy?”
“Are you mad at Sister Bear?”
“Are you mad at Mama?” I asked again to make sure she was listening.
And again, she answered “Yes.”
“Do you know mama has a baby in her belly?”
"Are you mad at the baby in mama's belly?"
“Are you mad at mama because she has a baby in her belly?”
“Yeah... I want Mama to go to Doctors and lie down and fix her belly.”
“You want the Doctor to fix Mama’s belly?”
“Yes." She turned away and faced the wall and said "Go mama!"
So, she does “get” it. It’s hard to be frustrated with her behavior when you know why she’s acting out. Aya and I have our to-do lists and nesting activities to distract us from our anxieties. We can talk to each other and our friends about our fears, worries, and whatever other feelings we might have. But Ellie, not only does she not really know what she’s feeling and why, but she can’t express it in a productive way either.
But I do know that when the baby is born, she’s going to have an older sister that will love her so much. Their journey of life as siblings will begin. And along with it, all the jealousy, frustration, and joy that it can bring.
Ellie, It’s okay to be mad at Mama now. Just remember Mama has a big heart and won’t love you any less when the baby comes. With or without Sister Bear, Mama and Papa will love you just the same. And Sister Bear is going to love you too. She’s going to have the best big sister she could ever ask for.
To read more stories from this stay-at-home dad, visit www.thegoodthedadandthebaby.com