Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sibling Rivalry

Kasia has, as many toddlers are wont to do, gotten into the habit of taking a doll to bed with her at night.

Now when I say ‘a doll’ I actually mean that she takes two to bed with her – currently a plastic baby almost as tall as her and a soft cuddly one-eared bunny rabbit. She would, for preference, take three or four or forty teddies to bed with her, but my wife and I have drawn the line at two. (Besides the obvious problems of overcrowding, any additional dolls would quickly find themselves incorporated into an escape ladder, and I’d be coming back to an empty crib.) The word ‘doll’ is also something of a misnomer, because she has on an equal number of occasions chosen to go to sleep cuddling one of her beloved books, her raincoat, or whatever other object happened to be the focus of her attention immediately prior to bedtime (though we again drew the line at the wire trash can from our home office she had been pushing around the house one evening).

Her typical nightly routine, after bath, fresh diaper, PJs and nursing, is to lay down in the crib for about 10 seconds, then sit up again so that she can put her dolls to sleep. She will carefully cover the baby with a blanket, then pat its back while saying “night night”. Once she has ‘settled’ the first doll, she turns her attention to the second, similarly covering it with the blanket, stroking its back, and then, if all is well, laying down herself to receive the same treatment from Dad. Unfortunately, it is as likely that in covering the second doll with the blanket, that she will have uncovered the first, causing her to turn back to that ‘baby’ with a scolding for its having gotten out from under the covers. She will then restart the routine to ‘resettle’ the first baby, only to find that the second has ‘gotten out of bed’ while she was again attending to the first. And so on, for as long as my patience will stand it.

I generally intervene after the second or third iteration, to settle a blanket across all three of my charges, and get them all settled at once. Kasia usually goes along, provided that the blankets are just so, and everyone is exactly in the proper places, etc. For the most part, the routine is harmless, touching, and only notably peculiar when that evening’s objects are books or raincoats, rather than dolls.

This week’s favorites have been, as I mentioned, a largish baby doll and a soft bunny. Sunday night, having satisfactorily settled both her dolls, Kasia lay down to sleep, but banged her head into the protruding arm of the large plastic baby. Sitting up in bed, Kasia indignantly denounced her bedmate for poking her in the eye. “Baby not nice! Mean baby!” Being in something of a hurry to get Kasia to go to sleep, I simply laid her down in the crib again, though this time somewhat removed from the doll on that side. Kasia obligingly curled up to go to sleep, but reached out to cuddle her doll, which -- unfortunately -- again resulted in Kasia getting a poke in the eye. Before I could react, Kasia had struck out at her erstwhile sibling, and knocked the protruding arm away. Which -- being in fact a large inanimate object -- slowly, majestically, but inevitably swung back to strike Kasia another blow on the head. There followed a frenzied three-way brawl as the two combatants quickly ended up standing on, and so falling off, the poor rabbit.

A less sleep-deprived father might have been able to intervene more quickly to end the havoc, but I confess I was too taken aback, and well, choking back the laughter, to be much use. Kasia, of course, failed to see the humour in the situation, and was very put out that I did not take her side, but made both her and the doll promise to stop fighting. Carefully tucking the offending arm in under the doll, I eventually restored order and got everyone to sleep.

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