Learning the art of baby tolerance

23:00, Feb 15 2013

One of the more interesting aspects of having a second child is getting to see how the first one interacts with the new addition.

It must be quite strange going from top dog in the house to a bit of an annoyance to another living creature.

Zach has had enough of a challenge adjusting to life with Furley "The Fleet Footed Ninja Assassin" Cat, let alone a little sister. (Regular readers will recall the Cat Fighting School I opened, with Zach as the sole pupil - they still have the occasional bout, but far less frequently with both having learnt the appropriate lessons.)

But, to his credit, he hasn't shown too much jealousy over Piper's arrival. He was a bit standoffish initially - well, he actually ran away from her in the hospital. But I think we did enough to warn him in advance - although I'm sure he never expected the baby in "mummy's tummy" to actually come out. And come live with us.

So despite those early days of apprehension, he's starting to warm to her. Well, it's either that or he's lulled us into a false sense of security about his level of comfort and acceptance of her.

One of the blessings of having had a first child is that you realise they're a bit tougher and more resilient than you might expect - she's been able to handle the odd bump from her brother. (We still remember, with horror, visiting friends to see their new baby and watching one their older sons gently cradle the newborn's head with such care - only to drop the baby on to the floor with a sickening thud. The baby's fine now.)


To be fair, I couldn't really blame Zach if he did ignore her because, from his point of view, she doesn't really do anything except sleep (Zach has to be quiet), cry (again, very loudly), or take up mum's time with feeding (which is hard to explain to a little guy).

But I'm sure he's been genuinely concerned about her. When she starts to cry he's often the first to comfort her, even if it's a more than gentle bounce of her bouncinette.

Even when she's doing her impersonation of a peacock with a chainsaw (and again, I'm not joking about how loud she is), he's there trying to calm her down.

He's also got used to giving her a good night kiss and throws her the odd high five and knuckles - she "responds"; pretty much only because making a fist is about the only thing she has any control over, and even then she's probably doing it involuntarily.

When we're getting in the car to go anywhere, he always says goodbye to her ("bye-bye Piper") - even if she's coming with us.

He is helpful, too, going to get her nappy when asked. He also likes to turn on the music boxes in her room. But usually when she's asleep. And he's started doing his best Wiggles impersonation: "Wake up Piper!"

I'm sure he gets frustrated when she diverts our attention, which is understandable, but he has done pretty well. Perhaps his time at preschool has helped make him more tolerant - or maybe it's something he's picked up from his dad. (Cue chortling.)

We do point out the positives that having a sister will bring - the hot friends she'll bring him in 18 years or so, but so far that's not something he's too bothered about. I'm sure that will change in time.

Mark Hotton is a journalist who should use safety equipment such as ear plugs so he can spend more time with his daughter; and goggles to protect his eyes from shards of flying metal (thanks Raj).

The Southland Times