My daughter was nearly five when I told her that we were expecting an addition to our family. All little girls are thrilled at the prospect of a new baby in the family, before they evaluate the consequences of another small voice clamoring for her mother's attention, that is.
The baby was welcomed as a somewhat cute oddity in her little world. Getting to hold him, laughing when he peed on Mom while she changed his diaper, listening to his strange baby gurgles; all of these things were appealing to her while he was in his baby stage. She wasn't very pleased that she got a baby brother instead of a baby sister, but at this stage it didn't make a lot of difference.
As The Boy grew into a toddler, The Girl wanted to play games with him but the age difference and the gender difference made it all a bit difficult. The Boy couldn't play more grown-up games with her, she didn't want to play trucks. She daily chastised me for bringing home a brother and not a sister.
And then one day The Girl devised a scheme so brilliant, so sinister in its objectives, that she just had to try it out. She had somehow convinced The Boy to play house with her. However, rather than being the daddy or some other male figure in the family, she had decided on a surprise role for him.
When The Girl called to me to come see their play - barely managing to get out the words between giggles - I had no idea what I would find. When I saw The Boy, my reaction was a mixture of amusement and horror.
She paraded him like a contestant at a beauty pageant. He was dressed in her best sparkly skirt and frilly top. She had put her pink plastic sandals on him and some strings of beads. She christended him anew with a femininized form of his name as she proudly displayed her "little sister".
Something about my less than enthusiastic reaction made it all the more fun for her, and for a year or so, she kept trying to dress The Boy in girl's clothing - no matter how much I tried to convince her that confusing him wouldn't be a good idea.
Sibling rivalry is one thing, but practicing sibling gender reassignment is quite another.
As The Boy grew it became more apparent every day that he was all boy, through and through. His daily routine was to find new and interesting ways to nearly kill himself and age his mother beyond her years. The Girl not only failed to make him into her little sister, she didn't even dampen his enthusiasm for boyish terror and danger.
I often wondered if things would have worked out better with a second child of the same gender. Certainly it would have been more economical. The younger could wear hand-me-downs from the elder, they could share a bedroom and Christmas could be the season of buying two of everything.
But The Girl probably never considered the ramifications of relinquishing her status as the "only girl" and I am sure would have tired quickly of the competition. She's lucky she didn't succeed in creating her own little sister, but I must acknowledge her efforts. She really gave it a good try.