Within two minutes of Darla's birth, I thought, "oh shit, I'm going to have to do that all over again someday." I didn't know when, but I knew for certain that I was going to get pregnant, throw up for five months, complain for the entire pregnancy, and give birth to another baby. I, also, knew it was going to be a boy. I wanted to share with that little baby girl the joy of having a sibling with whom she can both bond and talk shit about their clueless, ass backwards parents.
Coming from a large family has defined almost everything about me. It's the thing I mention when I need an ice breaker. I try to act really cool about it, but really I'm totally proud of it. It was mostly amazing to have so many funny, smart siblings and even more amazing that most of them are really funny, smart sisters. Most times, people look at me incredulously and then ask if we're Irish Catholic.
Greg and I are not Irish Catholic, so we've stopped after that two. I cannot fathom taking care of any more than two kids. (Actually, to be quite honest, I can't fathom taking care of even one kid. How we've managed to make it this far is pure chance. I trip my ways through the days, so there's no reason they should be fairing as well as they are).
When I found out I was pregnant with Jude, Darla's little brother, everything was exciting. Darla was thrilled to have a younger sibling. She even decided to name him "Butter." Two weeks before he was born, we realized that we forgot to explain to her that "brother" meant "boy." She'd operated under the assumption that he was a girl.
"Butter is not a boy! She's a girl," she wailed at the kitchen table.
We had no time to warm her up to the idea of adding a boy to the family. He was born and, rather than presenting Darla with the gift of a younger sibling, I had given her a burden of a completely unrelatable boy. When we left the hospital, she lay facedown on the hospital floor and had the biggest tantrum we'd ever seen her have. In fact, that tantrum never officially ended. Sure, she takes breaks to eat, sleep, and go to school, but the frustration she feels having a younger sibling is as intense today as it was three years ago. To add to the pile of chaos, Jude isn't that pleased with her, either. Their days are spent complaining about the other one and screaming at each other non-stop.
That's the part I forgot when I decided to have more than one kids. The fights between siblings are profound. My sister, Sarah, and I would have throw down, MMA level fights with illegal moves like hair and ear pulling. My mom would just look at us as we fought and tell us to take it outside. At that point, it was a fight to the death, which my sister usually won.
Beyond the fights, Sarah waged a full psychological warfare on me as well. She knew how to subtly drive me insane while rendering me powerless to fight back. We'd sit in the back seat and she'd hold her index finger an inch from my face. I would tell her to stop. She wouldn't stop. Then I would tell on her and I'd end up being the one who was punished. (Really, my parents' hands were tied. They couldn't really tell her to stop. She wasn't "technically" touching me).
Darla, as the older sibling, has perfected this technique. While Jude resorts to fists and kicks, Darla is more deliberate. Last week, they watched a swarm of bees in the bush in front of our house. I told them to back away from the bush, going wild in my head with panic.
"Jude, I think I see a ball in the bush," Darla whispered when she thought I was out of earshot. "Go get the ball."
"DARLA!" I yell. "I know what you're doing!"
She looked at me innocently and walked away. As a younger sibling myself, it's my duty to defend Jude. (I guess it's also my duty as his mom, but I feel his pain and frustration acutely having lived through it).
Somedays, they surprise me and seem like they might actually really like each other. I watched them yesterday morning as they worked together to make Darla's bed. I looked in on them and smiled. It was what I had imagined they would do that day I first gave birth to Darla. It was picture perfect.
I walked away from the room feeling overwhelmed by relief. Then Greg informed me that this was a classic older sibling move. Let the younger sibling feel welcomed and adored until you've roped them into doing your chores. Then, once it's finished, treat them like the scum you think they are. Five minutes later, the bed was made and the fighting began. Manipulative or not, I was just happy to see them get along for a few minutes.