She ain’t heavy, she’s our sister

Toby and Kara

Kara reached the grand old age of ten days today. One of the most intriguing aspects of her short life to date has been watching the way her brothers interact with her. So far, we couldn’t be more delighted with the obvious affection both Isaac and Toby have shown for their little sister.

This is all new to both my wife and I. Heather is an only child, whereas my brother and I are separated by six years. So having a close (in age) sibling, let alone one of the opposite sex, is beyond both of our personal experiences.

Of course, we have seen a sibling relationship develop between our two boys, who were born 25 months apart. As a first child, Zac was used to receiving all the attention, in particular from his mother. But when Toby arrived he changed almost overnight. Any concerns we had that he would resent having to share airtime with his brother soon evaporated as he forged a strong bond almost overnight, cuddling up to him constantly and christening him ‘Teeny Tiny Toby’. And, much to my delight – and Heather’s – his mummy’s boy tendency quickly vanished too. Ever since, he and I have grown increasingly close. There are still things which he naturally gravitates towards his mum for, but there are at least as many father/son activities which while away many a happy hour. In many ways Toby’s arrival was the making of Zac.

The gap between Kara and Toby – 28 months – is similar to that between the two boys. And our pre-Kara Toby exhibited many of the same traits as his elder brother, not least being a total mummy’s boy. So I guess it shouldn’t be surprising – although it was, to both of us – that his reaction to the birth was much the same as Zac’s to his own two years ago. From the moment he first laid eyes on his new sister the morning after her arrival, he has been utterly … smitten is the only word, really.

All he wanted to do – and continues to want to do – is to lie next to her, hold her, cuddle her and generally interact with her. Unprompted, virtually the first thing he did with Kara when given her to hold was to gently lean over and kiss her forehead. (This from the boy who seems to spend most of his spare time jumping up and down on me in an attempt to shatter each of the 206 bones in my body, and regularly offering me a ‘Glaswegian kiss’.)

The other night at bed-time he picked up a stack of books, sat down next to Kara and started to read to her. Okay, the process actually went something like this: open book, remember he can’t actually read yet, close book, utter a few words vaguely describing the story, pick up a different book and start all over again. But it was ever so sweet, and it was an activity he took obvious and great pride in doing.

Just as with Zac, we’re hoping that Kara’s birth proves to be the making of Toby. It has already accelerated the process of him becoming less of a mummy’s boy and willingly interacting more with me. That can only be a good thing – for both him and me.

Having been round this particular block before, Zac has been more predictable in showing his caring, nurturing side around Kara. He’s comfortable holding her in his arms, talks to her a lot and – in his typically inquisitive manner – has started asking lots of questions ranging from “when will she be able to speak?” to “why does she poo so much?” Sometimes I wonder whether he is more of a big sister than a big brother. But then last night he asked me about why a Gatling gun is so named, which dispelled my doubts.

Between the two of them, Zac and Toby form quite the double act. They wander round prefacing every other conversation with their sister’s official title of ‘Baby Kara’. At the first squawk from the baby monitor, they will both come running out to tell us “Baby Kara’s crying.” And they seem to be taking it in turns to try to out-cute each other in their attentiveness to their sister. Toby is the more tactile of the two, while Zac is quick to introduce his friends to his new sister, beaming with pride as he does so.

It will be fascinating to watch how the relationship between the three develops over time. Several years from now – at least 30 if I have anything to do with it – I can just picture them protectively quizzing their sister’s first boyfriend. The cerebral Zac will take said suitor to one side for a man-to-man chat, while the more physical Toby will simply threaten to beat him up if he doesn’t do right by Kara.

At least I hope that’s what happens. Who knows how the boys’ relationship with their sister will change? But for now, it is clear that they are just as delighted with her as Heather and I are, and that her presence is adding to their quality of life rather than detracting from it. Indeed, to paraphrase The Hollies’ classic song:

So on we go

Her welfare is of my concern

No burden is she to bear

We’ll get there

For I know

She would not encumber me

She ain’t heavy, she’s our sister

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