R and G are obsessed with babies at the moment. Several of their friends have little brothers and sisters and it was only a matter of time before they asked if they could have a younger sibling. They first asked the ‘Can I have a baby brother or sister?’ question when they were about two and a half and I can’t quite remember what I said (some flannel or other about loving R and G so much that I wanted to enjoy them and not have any more babies) but they accepted it readily enough and moved on.
In the bath tonight they took it in turns to list their friends and their younger siblings. “G has a little brother called G, E has a little brother called A, D has a little brother called A, H has a little brother called S, A has a little sister called X…” [Just noticed that most of their friends have baby brothers. Maybe nature is attempting to even the score as there seemed to be a lot of girls in 2007]
As G was drying herself off she asked me if we could have a baby in our house. I started to explain that we couldn’t, but R stepped in and said (with a great deal of authority) that we had to buy one from the shop. I then had to explain that babies couldn’t be bought in shops and that they lived in Mummy’s tummy before they were born and became babies. They both grasped this and named children whose Mum’s are currently pregnant: ‘F’s Mummy has a baby in her tummy…’
[I was just grateful that they didn’t ask the ‘How does the baby get into Mummy’s tummy’ question because I’m not quite ready for that one yet]
R looked at me and said, in a tone that belied her tender years: ‘It’s ok Mummy, we’ll just pretend with our dollies’. I said that having pretend babies was a good idea as real babies cry lots and don’t give you much sleep. I also said that it was lots of fun to play with other people’s babies and give them back to their Mummy and Daddy and they both nodded gravely.
I think I handled it ok. I didn’t want to a. Speak vaguely about maybe having a little brother or sister at some indeterminate point in the future as this would be an outright lie, and b. I didn’t want to do lots of stork and special present rubbish as I don’t think it’s particularly helpful, neither did I want to start the ‘When two people love each other very much…’ conversation. The girls are good at handling pretty grown-up information so I felt it best to be honest whilst simultaneously giving them as much factual (yet simple) details as possible. The facts of life and the ins and outs of our decision not to have any more children can wait until they’re older.
I dodged that bullet but R always has to have the last word: “Mummy? What was my name when I was a baby?” Nonplussed, I replied. “Ruth”. “NO Mummy. I want a different baby name. I want to be Hello Kitty Ruth”. I said that wasn’t her name and as she applied talcum powder liberally she rolled her eyes, sighed and said “Mummy! It’s only a pretend name”. That’s me told, then.