MAGIC. That’s the best description for a four-year-old. Each day brings more carefully crafted fantasy into a four-year-old’s life.
Several years ago I was given the honor of being present when a third child appeared in a family, whose son was four years older than the new baby. The oldest sister was seven and looking forward to caring for her new baby sister. But our four-year-old, with his tight grip on being the “baby of the family” and liking things just the way they were was quite sure he did not want a new sibling, let alone another girl.
Mom and Dad had tried everything to entice our reluctant “big brother” to be excited (well, at least accepting) of the new baby. Nope. Nothing doing. He was quite sure that he would like the new sibling, upon arrival, to go back where she came. Immediately wouldn’t be too soon.
The morning of the inducement, I was staying with both of the children at home, waiting for a phone call from the hospital with instructions. In our waiting time, I quietly sat down on the floor and pulled out some match box cars and a toy gas station with parking lot. Our reluctant big brother joined me.
For about thirty minutes he played his heart out. Through his play he told me about his anxiety of the newness and change in their family, and his sadness of losing his position in the family. (Cars banged together and pushed each other around in the parking lot. Cars went careening over the second story parking lot. Cars spun,zoomed and flung themselves at each other.)
And then a kind of relief appeared. He managed to turn his feelings around and cars started being friendly to each other, helping each other. Without saying one word about a little sister arriving, our big brother was able to come to a peaceful resolution about being a middle child with a big AND little sister. As soon as this happened, he stopped playing and with quiet movement, put away the game and went to find his big sister.
later that day, when he was introduced to his little sister for the first time, he was somewhat hesitant to approach her. But after a moment of insecurity, he rubbed his cheek on hers and announced to his family, “I’m taking care of Lucy!”
It is now six years later. Our reluctant big brother is still taking care of Lucy–with pride and a sense of responsibility.
The magic of a four-year-old combined with a little play (therapy) and we have sibling bonds that will endure throughout their lifetimes.
Be gentle with yourselves and enjoy the magic.