When we decided to tell our families we were pregnant again, we knew we were going to have to tell the girls first to get them used to the idea.
One afternoon Bob and I were playing with the girls and we decided it was now or never since family was arriving the next day and in two days time we would be announcing our news to our entire family. We thought we would ease into it even though we foolishly believed that the girls would be anything other than overjoyed at this news.
"Em, would you like a brother or sister? " I asked as she played with a Barbie doll.
She didn't even look up. "NO! NO, NO, NO!"
Bob and I looked at each other. That wasn't the reaction we were expecting. She loves babies, she especially loves newborns. She certainly loves her sister (okay, usually).
I tried again. "You wouldn't like to have a baby brother or sister like Madison? You love Madison. Don't you think it would be fun to have another baby in the house?"
That certainly got her attention. She threw her doll down and proceeded to bodily throw herself on the floor and start crying hysterically.
"I don't want you to get rid of Madison. We need to keep her", she cried.
Okay, we saw the problem.
She thought we were getting rid of Madison. During this whole scenario Madison is just alternating playing with a doll and watching us. That is until she heard her name and her sister started crying. Then, she started to get upset. Em is her hero. Em is the first person she calls for when she awakens in her crib and wherever her sister is you can guarantee Madison is trailing not far behind.
Bob and I rushed to reassure the both of them that Madison was indeed not going anywhere. This convincing was like trying to ride up a neverending hill where no matter how fast or hard you pedaled you couldn't really get anywhere. The only thing it got you was out of breath.
After several minutes of hugging them and assuring both of them (even though Madison didn't really understand anything other than we had upset her favorite person in the world with just a few words) that we loved them and no one was going anywhere, they started to calm down.
That conversation was tabled for the time being. Who knew the thought of a new baby would be such a land mine in the mind of our three year old? That night there was extra cuddle time at bedtime and we made sure extra dinosaur hugs and kisses were doled out.
The next day I tried again. This time I reminded Emily of how Madison had grown in Mommy's belly and eventually she was born and came home to be part of our family. Emily interjected at one point, "Oh, so we wouldn't go get a baby at the baby store (this is what she calls Babies R' Us)".
"Ugh, no. That's not how it works, baby."
Then, I asked her and Madison if they would like to have a baby brother or sister who would be a baby just like they once were. They could help Mommy change its diapers and sing to the baby and tell the baby stories.
Emily finally seemed to grasp that we were asking if she wanted another baby brother or sister in addition to Madison. We were not going to the baby store and exchanging her sister for a new model. That she was fine with and she was even excited by the prospect of someone else to boss around. Madison was okay with it as long as her sister was and seemed to like how the word "baby" rolled off her tongue. In fact, it became her new favorite word.
The whole time I was trying to explain all this to our children, all I could think about was how this trying to find the right words that a toddler could understand is hard work.
I should have foreseen that when it came time to tell them it was going to be a boy it was going to cause some major drama once again. Once again I fumbled with the right words and got it wrong. Way wrong. There were tears. That is a whole other story for a whole other day.
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