When we first learned we were expecting we waiting until after the first trimester to tell our boys. Upon hearing the news they were pretty excited and immediately wanted to feel the baby through my belly. (My SIL is a few months ahead of me pregnant so they already understand the concept of the baby in the belly) Of course they couldn’t feel anything at that point – but it did lead us to a discussion of whether they thought they’d have a new baby brother or sister.
“Captain Hook” thought about it for a moment, and said “Well, we’ll have to wait until it’s born, take a look at it and then we’ll know.” A well reasoned response for a 6 year old I thought. Meanwhile, our 4 year old “Peter Pan” didn’t have to think about it at all – “It’s a girl!” he said immediately. I asked, “Really? Are you sure? How do you know?” his response – “It just is.”
(image credit: a drawing of Mum and the baby, by “Peter Pan” age 4)
Over the next few weeks and months before we knew for sure – we’d check back in with the kids, and “Peter Pan” stuck to his guns about it being a girl. I did ask – “What happens if it’s a boy?” he then replied – “Then you’re not having a baby, because it’s a girl.” Hmmmm…
One evening, still before we knew the baby’s gender – as “Captain Hook” sat at the table coloring he turned to me and said – “Are you having a girl because you want a smart kid?” I think my heart just about broke. I told him we didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl, and that we thought he and his brother both were intelligent, kind boys who worked very hard and we were very proud of them. I asked him why he’d think something like that – and he said “Because girls are smarter than boys.” I had to wonder if this is something he’d heard in school, or felt – as young girls language skills developed at a faster rate at his age.
This incident did however remind me of something that had happened years earlier. The boys are 23 months apart. So when “Peter Pan” was born, “Captain Hook” was 2. A little less than a year after his birth – we began asking “Captain Hook” how he’d feel about another brother or sister. He always got really upset and would should “No!” at us. We were rather bemused since he got along so well with “Peter Pan” and really doted on him. Such an extreme reaction was a surprise to us. This went on for several months until one time when we asked – he expanded on the “No!” He said “No! I like ‘Peter Pan’ don’t take him back! I don’t want a different brother or sister!” Oh man – poor kid. For months we’d been asking if he’d wanted an additional brother or sister and the whole time we’d in effect been torturing him, as he’d perceived we were asking if we wanted him to replace/refund his baby brother!
At any rate as our 18-20 wk scan rolled around we grew increasingly nervous. While we’d have been happy with a boy or girl – “Peter Pan” was so convinced it was a girl we didn’t know how to break the news to him if it wasn’t. When we learned we are in fact having a girl we were so relieved. When we told the boys – there was no crowing from “Peter Pan,” just more of an eye roll as in – but of course, that’s what I’ve been saying all along.
Once they learned it was a girl – they wanted to help with the name selection. First up was “Rango” (having been watching Rango quite a bit during that time), then “Rexo” (which I’m pretty sure they got from “Flexo” Bender’s evil twin on Futurama) then Kadija (the name of girl in “Peter Pan’s” class) then “Rosie” (from that CBB’s show). Clearly if I want to influence their name choices I should start selectively slipping in tv shows and movies with names I like! After their initial naming spurt – a few days later, “Captain Hook” came to me to tell me he had the perfect name, “Lisa Simpson, so she’ll be really smart!” Again, my heart broke. I explained that while a lot of names have history or meaning to the people who pick the names, that they don’t imbue the person with skills or know-how, that’s learned. It’s something we develop, and work hard at – and can achieve when we try really hard.
We’ve officially selected a name, the boys know it and call baby girl by her name already. It hasn’t stopped them from contributing new names – they recently asked if the baby could be named after them with the exact same name. (not going to happen!) I asked them - wouldn’t that be confusing? And they didn’t seem to think so.
What I find so amazing – is that without having met the baby yet, or having a baby in the house that they can remember – our new little girl has become a part of their view of our family. All family pictures they draw feature the baby too. She’s either in my tummy – or in some images standing beside the boys, as part of our family. While the boys play quietly with toys – I often hear them discussing the new baby and their plans on big brotherhood. “Peter Pan”, 4 the other morning was patiently explaining to “Captain Hook”, 6 that they couldn’t let the baby play with their gooey alien in slime as the baby was too little and could choke on it.
In the same way that it’s hard to imagine life before the boys – here I am on the cusp of having a third child, a girl. Our life these last few years has been focused on the boys, the 4 of us as a family. In a few short weeks, it will be hard to remember what that life was like, as we won’t be able to imagine life without our little girl too, a family of 5.