sibling preparation course

Fear and Loathing In Our Son’s Sibling Preparation Course

sibling preparation course

By Britta Eberle of This Is Motherhood

Last Saturday was cold, the kind of cold where you’re not sure if the car will start…and you don’t want to leave the house. I certainly didn’t want to go anywhere because I was just getting over a terrible respiratory infection — complete with a wet, hacking cough — but there we were at 8 A.M., my husband, three-year-old son, and I, gearing up for the hour-long drive to Burlington so that Wolfy could attend a “sibling preparation” workshop. On the way, we stopped so I could use the bathroom. (Yes, I had just peed when I left the house, but believe me, you do not want to negotiate with the bladder of a woman who is 37 weeks pregnant. Also, the car needed gas.)

Here’s the thing: Our battered 2002 Subaru is usually a trustworthy car. It was a gift from my husband’s grandmother, and it is perfect on the back roads of Vermont. But sometimes when it’s super cold outside, the automatic gas shut-off malfunctions and — well — gas spews everywhere.

Today was one of those days.

So there we were: a half-hour from home and running late, and my husband was covered in gas. But nothing was going to stop us from getting Wolfy to his sibling workshop, so we piled into the car and headed back onto the highway.

Finally, we got to the hospital.

“This is the biggest elementary school ever!” Wolfy loudly declared.

Oh right, you’re going to a class so you think this must be a school.

We got to the class and met our instructors. Of course, we were one of the last families to arrive. But what’s really annoying is that the instructors insisted on referring to everyone as friends.

“Here are some new friends, just arrived! We only have a few more friends we’re waiting for!”

I tried to suppress one of my hacking coughs so my new “friends” didn’t think I was getting everyone sick. And please, I wanted them to stop forcing the intimacy. I didn’t know these families. I didn’t want to know these families, and they didn’t want to know Mrs. Hacks and Mr. Gasoline, either.

We were certainly not friends.

The only thing we had in common is that we wanted to do some kind of ridiculous-yet-enriching thing for our young kids on a Saturday morning. Oh yeah, and there was one other thing we had in common: We were all terrified by the prospect of bringing a new baby around these three-foot-tall monsters.

I looked over at the instructors. Did they look capable of instilling a little last-minute sibling training on these kids? Did they…

Before I could think about it too much, the last of our “friends” showed up and all the families were herded on an incredibly long journey through the bowels of the hospital.

Wolfy raced off ahead of everyone at top speed, and the instructors started looking around with astonished, accusatory looks on their faces that said, “Whose child is that?” Oh, that little boy? He belongs to me. Well, actually me, the coughing waddling woman and this guy who was walking around in over-sized hip hop style clothes that were covered in gasoline.

Finally, the class got underway, and the kids had to perform such tasks as peeling the back off of their name tag sticker and getting measured to see how much they grew since they were born.

While all of this “learning” was happening, I realized I was lightheaded from the intense gasoline fumes radiating off my husband.

“You reek. I don’t think this is good for all these pregnant women.”

“I know!” he whispered back and shrugged his shoulders. Then he told me that he was going to go try to wash his winter boots off in the bathroom sink because he thought he got some gas on them.

As my husband headed toward the bathroom, the instructor showed the children how to hold a baby. Soon, all of these toddlers would be responsible for “helping your grown-ups care for” real living, breathing, tiny humans – but for the time being, they could practice on their stuffed animals and dolls.

Wolfy came prepared with his boy doll, which my mother gave him last winter. He named the doll Vuffa. And Vuffa has a penis. (Seriously. It’s a little nub that my mother sewed onto the doll thinking Wolfy would identify more with it if it looked like him. Except my mother put a little too much stuffing into Vuffa’s nub, and now it looks like he has a teeny-tiny half-erection.)

Wolfy immediately took off all of Vuffa’s clothes. So there I was, sitting powerless in the folding chair with Vuffa sprawled out on the floor in the middle of the circle, penis exposed.

The instructor showed all the children how to hold “your baby,” but Wolfy was just pinching Vuffa’s eyes together over and over again. Yes, he is totally ready for this sibling thing.

Please, pretty please, don’t call Child Protective Services on us, I begged.

Finally, my husband returned from the bathroom with a giant coffee for us to share, and — the rest of the class went off without a hitch.

My favorite part of the whole experience was when the instructors taught all the kids the “Super Sibling Handshake.” (And, yes, this is real.) You put your hands over your heart, extend them in front of you, and then, holding two thumbs up, you say “Super Sibling!”

A few hours later I asked Wolfy, “What do you think the word ‘sibling’ means?” And without hesitation, he said, “It means thumbs up!” Then he showed me the handshake.

So yeah: We’re totally ready for this sibling thing. Nothing to worry about here…

This post originally appeared on This Is Motherhood.


About the Author

Britta Eberle lives with her husband and two young kids in rural Vermont, in an old farm house they fixed up themselves. She enjoys growing and pickling things and writing about the fun side of parenting on her blog, This Is Motherhood. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.