Monday, January 28, 2008

Sibling Anxiety

I spent a great deal of time yesterday helping Gabi tape up some boxes.

The tape is usually off limits due to some of Gabi's previous taping adventures that left me sitting on the wood floor with hot soapy water and a butter knife for several hours. I really don't know what the appeal of sticky paper is, but give the girl a pack of tape and she's the happiest kid on the block.

So yesterday, when she asked with her sweet green eyes if I would rip tape off for her while she decorated her boxes, I decided to encourage her artistic side and let her work on her little project. Surely some sort of pathways that would be useful later in life were being forged. I should have asked right from the very beginning, though, the Whys of the situation. As in, why are you putting all of your favorite things into boxes and then sealing each one within an inch of your life?

At first I thought it was because she loves playing with boxes and loves playing with tape, and just wanted to have fun playing with both at the same time. I sat at the computer (with my back to what was going on) and ripped piece after piece of tape for her.

When she was done she proudly spun me around in my chair (which now squeaks like the dickens because Gabi has recently discovered the joy of spinning herself dizzy) to present the finished products. She had been very thorough, the boxes almost completely covered in tape, and the result was very avant-garde. In a messy, abstract, parent perspective kind of way.

Me: Gabi, that looks great!

Gabi: Now my little brother and my little sister won't be able to get into my things! I need to put my things in a safe place. And my little brother and my little sister have to stay away!

Huh? What is she talking about? Um, Gabi? You're an only child. You don't have any siblings. We do plan to have another in the near future, but I'm not even pregnant yet! And we've never talked to her about our plans. Where did this anxiety come from?

Me: But you don't have a little brother or sister!

Gabi: Not yet, but it will be born from you soon.

Me: Don't you think you're jumping the gun a bit? I mean, there isn't even a baby in mommy's tummy yet! And even if there was, they take a long time to grow, and then they spend a long time as a little baby, just like Trina's baby brother.

Gabi: But when I do have a little brother or little sister, if they get into my things and take my beautiful jewelry, I will be very angry. Because big sisters get angry about things like that. And I need to protect my things!

She then started crying that she didn't want to be a big sister!

After prying a bit more, I found out she got it from the Noggin cartoon, Max and Ruby. Ruby is a big sister rabbit that had to protect her room from her little brother rabbit, and wrote a sign that said, "Stay Out!" As far as a cartoons go, this one isn't bad. Ruby and Max actually have a really cute, healthy relationship. But it put some interesting ideas into Gabi's head.

I'm not sure how healthy it is for me to let Gabi protect her things from non-existent future siblings. And there I was, aiding and abetting by ripping off the pieces of tape! I explained to her that when she does have a brother or sister, there will be a special place for her to put her special things, and they will be safe there. That calmed her down, and she ran off line up her babies down the stairwell. Leaving a living room full of tape for me to clean up.

I've been noticing lately that she most definitely has my genes for organization (yay!). I'm also a planner, and it looks like she has inherited that as well. Though on that she has me trumped. I don't know when I've ever planned for something so far in advance.

Last night brought more tears about having to be a big sister some day. I think this has more to do with all of her friends that have little siblings than the cartoon, though that was probably the cherry on top. Maybe they're dishing it all out in secret clubhouse meetings, and Gabi has started working on us early, trying to ensure that she stays an only child.

This must be why people have kids so close together. And since we missed out on that opportunity, I just hope Gabi doesn't fixate on this for the next few years. Since I think she's also inherited my tendency to, well, fixate on things.

Why does it always come back to me?

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