There are two photos on my mantelpiece. Both never fail to make me smile. One is of my two girls, aged 9 months and 3. My eldest is holding her little sister in her arms and my baby girl is gazing up at her big sister. She is staring right into her eyes with an expression of pure love and bliss. The other photo is of my two girls walking down a path in front of me, holding hands. My youngest is a nappy clad toddler with a pudgy hand reaching up to clasp her big sister’s. Her big sister’s other hand is pointing to something in the distance (I can’t recall what it was – but probably a duck on the pond that we were going to feed). Their two heads are leaning in just slightly towards each other, as they chatted. Both photographs are perfectly-captured moments of a sibling bond. Both make me believe that I have given my girls the greatest gift of all – the gift of each other.
A new arrival
I always knew that I wanted more than one baby but before giving birth to my second I was nervous. For two years it had all been about my little girl and me. I couldn’t imagine loving anyone in the world as much as my firstborn. I was plagued with fears of not bonding with my second baby or not loving her as much as my eldest. I also worried that my first child would feel jealous of this new baby, who was going to arrive suddenly into our worlds and change everything.
The moment I gave birth and held my second baby girl in my arms, I discovered that my heart simply grew to find just as much love for my newborn as I had for my first born. I only hoped that my big girl would grow to love her too.
Love at first sight?
The first meeting didn’t bode well. We brought our new baby home and placed her gently on the floor, sleeping in her basket. My firstborn pointedly ignored her and just pretended that she didn’t exist. So much for an instant bond.
The sibling bond between my two girls really only began once my youngest became mobile. She was discovering this whole new world around her and to her, the very best thing in it was her big sister. Her whole face lit up when she saw her. She would crawl across across the room and launch herself across her big sister’s body. She’d reach out to stroke her face with her pudgy baby hands. She’d smile the widest, most open smiles saved especially for her big sister and favourite person in the world.
The only problem was that my little one’s exuberance often meant that by launching herself onto her big sister, she often knocked over the toys she had carefully arranged for a game or knocked a crayon out of her hand when she was busy drawing. And the lovely moment of sibling togetherness would descend into a heap of tears: my eldest furious with her little sister for ruining her play and my youngest devastated because her big sister was so cross with her.
As they both grew so did the fights. Some days I felt like a firefighter, dampening the flames of anger from my two tiny girls. They fought over everything, from whose turn it was to press the green man at the traffic lights to who should have the green bowl at breakfast time. And there were so many tears. On the really bad days when I was at a low ebb and completely knackered, I felt like crying too. This was so far from the idyllic picture of sibling bliss that I had imagined. I began to wonder if they would every get along or if they would march on into adulthood bickering and squabbling over every little thing.
But for every exhausting day filled with screams of ‘It’s my turn. It’s MY toy. It’s NOT FAIR’ there were little moments of magic that made it all OK. Like the time when the three of us sat in a row. The girls were dressed in matching pyjamas that they had got for Christmas and were dewy and pink from a hot bath. I sat behind my biggest girl combing and plaiting her hair. My littlest sat on her big sister’s lap, while she played with her hair too, giving her funny bunches and adding in a whole heap of sparkly hair clips. And to complete the line my youngest clutched a doll and combed her hair with a tiny plastic brush. When she got stuck she’d ask her big sister for help, which she gave her so patiently, enjoying showing her how. It was a moment of pure togetherness and I wanted to stop time and bottle that moment forever.
There were also those moments when they played beautifully together, absorbed in the little worlds they created. My favourite times were those when I watched them unnoticed from afar. Like the time that things had gone quiet and I peered into the lounge to see both girls dressed in princess dresses lying under the coffee table. They had covered the low table with a blanket and filled it with books to make a little den. They were lying side by side, looking quietly through the books.
As I watched my littlest pointed out a funny hedgehog in her book to her big sister. Her big sister looked over and giggled. She pointed to the picture and showed her the letter ‘h’ for hedgehog. She traced the letter on her little sister’s back, making her squirm with delight. At times like these I tiptoed away before being seen, not wanting to break the magic of this moment between them.
To my girls
I look upon you both, my beautiful girls, each with your own unique personality and feel blessed that you are mine and blessed that you have each other.
I cherish the magical moments in amongst the chaos, and will always love watching your sibling bond develop and grow. Later I know it will count for an awful lot as you both make your way into the world.
If you stumble on your way I hope you’ll help each other get back up again and carry on. I hope that together you’ll always find times when you make each other laugh so much you clutch your bellies, just like you do after a silly moment together now. And it’s in moments like those when I know that, by giving you both the gift of a sibling, I gave you the greatest gift of all.