Wee'd in there!
When our daughter joined our family she brought a whole new dimension to all of our lives. Not least her new brother.
After almost three years together we three boys had become used to a routine. Less to do with being male, more to do with our son moving from toddler to independence. So we knew that life would change as a child, little more than eighteen months old, joined our family.
We didn't anticipate how different a daughter/sister was going to be though.
Our daughter is a force of nature.
She was confident when she joined us. As she has grown, become more dextrous and most of all been able to talk she has made her presence, and wishes, increasingly felt.
Our son was superb from day one. On the second day of our week transitioning our daughter to our family he came with us to meet her for the first time at the foster parents' home.
He stood back with a look that seemed to span entranced, fascinated and horrified as she ran excitedly around the house to mark our arrival. He was kind and attentive that afternoon. His new sister played around him rather than with him, but that didn't see to bother him much.
The honeymoon lasted between our children through the week of transition and for about the first month of our daughter joining our family.
We knew that eventually any period of calm might break down and indeed it did after that first month. It was as though our son suddenly woke up and realised that his new sister was staying. That this hadn't been an entertaining interlude. That she was a keeper and that, in fact, she could be pretty annoying.
We spent some time reassuring our son before our daughter came to live with us. Part of those conversations had been to reassure him that feelings of jealousy towards his new sibling were likely to be quite normal. We agreed that if he felt jealous he would come and tell one of us in order that we could spend some time with him, helping him to stop feeling that way.
In the fifth week after the placement of our daughter with us our son went to J one afternoon. It had taken some time to get our daughter to bed for her afternoon nap, during which time repeated requests from our son for us to play with him had necessarily been ignored.
"I think I'm feeling a bit jealous," our little boy said.
I took him out for a walk alone and by the time we returned things were back to normal.
From that point onwards our son would complain about his sister, bemoaning the attention she demanded and the changes to our routine she had brought. However, he would do so to us and he was almost always be careful to do so out of her hearing.
Even on the day he finally asked if there was any chance we could send her back (our answer, categorically, NO) and would it be possible to return to the way things had been before she arrived (answer, very unlikely), he did so in a direct, calm conversation carried out once our daughter was in bed.
This is not to say that everything was completely trouble free during those first few weeks. We all learnt that our daughter could be something of a bruiser if things weren't going her way. She was also capable of standing her ground in any dispute, particularly over toys. We therefore refereed some short, yet intense scraps between the two of them.
More often, our son would stand back from these arguments, either relinquishing whatever he had and his sister wanted, or removing himself and the items while we distracted her. He was remarkably kind doing this, which made us very proud of him.
He also, in those early days when her speech was very limited, found a scapegoat in his sister whom he could blame for various misdemeanours.
Juice spilled on the sitting room carpet? It was his sister. Juice in the sitting room at all? That was his sister too. Chocolate biscuit barrel pulled down from the cupboard and left opened? He was caught out with that one as there was no way his sister could have reached up for it, the shelf being too high for her, but just in reach for our son.
What developed over those first few weeks was a bond between our son and daughter that has grown stronger as time has progressed.
Their arguments are short lived and, despite their almost 5 year age gap they play happily together. Tell one off and there's rarely gloating from the other. Our son can encourage our daughter to comply with requests when we are otherwise hitting a brick wall. Our daughter can calm our son when he is in the middle of a tantrum with us.
Tell them off together and they sit, side by side, viewing us with the same, amused, indulgent expressions. Get angry with one of them and you attract the ire of the other in their defence. On the rare occasions one has witnessed another child attack the other then that other child had better look out.
They are competitive and spark off one another often. Being the younger our daughter is usually on the losing end of any competition, which she accepts gracefully. She's also the foil of many of our son's jokes, again something she takes in benign, disinterested good humour. She has though a steely core, one that ensures just occasionally, at well chosen moments, she comes out on top.
Our daughter was in the bath one evening. Our son, due in next, was making an enormous fuss about having to firstly, share the bath water and, secondly, share the bath at all.
His incessant moaning went on throughout what should have been our daughter's bath play time. He whinged. He complained. He refused to cooperate with requests for bath toys to be brought for her to play with. Ultimately he badgered so much his then two year old sister agreed to get out of the bath.
Triumphantly our son got in the bath, bringing with him his bath toys previously denied to his sister. I dried our daughter off while he began to play.
As she walked out of the bathroom, now dressed in her pyjamas she looked over her shoulder at her brother. "Wee'd in there," she said.
The resulting pandemonium from our son was indescribable of course. Much spitting, pulling of the plug, demands for a shower.
Who knows whether our daughter really did do a wee in the bath. But in that moment I knew she was going to be alright. That she had fitted perfectly into our family and I should not worry that her brother seemingly always had the upper hand.