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 that would put most cowboys to shame. But there we were at 8am- my husband, three-year-old son, and I trudging to the car and gearing up for the hour-long drive to Burlington so that Wolfy could attend a sibling preparation workshop. On the way up, we stopped so that 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.
Our battered 2002 Subaru wagon is usually a trustworthy car.
It was a gift from my husband’s grandmother when she could no longer drive and it is the perfect beast for our life on the back roads of Vermont. But sometimes when it’s super cold outside, the automatic gas shut-off malfunctions and this causes gas to spew everywhere. This was one of those awesome occasions.
There we were- a half hour from home and my husband covered in gas and now we’re running late. But nothing was going to stop us from this very important endeavor of getting Wolfy to his sibling workshop, so we loaded back into the car and back onto the highway.
Five minutes later, my husband declares he needs to stop and wash his hands. He thinks all the gasoline smell is coming from his right index finger. So eventually we find a rest area and he charges inside holding his stinky finger out in the cold air in front of him.
Finally, we got to the hospital (where the sibling preparation workshop is happening), found a parking spot, and ushered Wolfy inside.
“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. Well, it’s not quite an elementary school, but we will still be sanitizing your hands every three seconds because like a school, this place is a germ factory and I’m not up for giving birth while having the flu.
We meet our class and our instructors. Of course, we are one of the last families to arrive. But what’s really annoying is that the instructors insist 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 try to suppress one of my hacking coughs so my new “friends” don’t think I’m getting everyone sick. And please, stop forcing the intimacy. I don’t know these families. I don’t want to know these families. They don’t want to know Mrs. Hacks and Mr. Gasoline either. We are certainly not my friends.
The only thing we have in common is that we want to do some kind of ridiculous so-called enriching thing for our young kids on a Saturday morning.
Oh yeah, and there’s one other thing we have in common: we’re terrified of bringing a new baby around these three-foot-tall monsters.
I look over at the instructors. Do they look capable of instilling a little last-minute sibling training into Wolfy’s brain? These poor little children. This is probably the last nice thing they will get to do with both their parent’s attention focused solely on them for a very long time.
Enjoy your sibling preparation workshop, kid. Did you just notice how your father and I both raced over at the same time to help you take off your coat? That’s probably one of the last times that will ever happen. I hope you enjoyed it. You really don’t know how good you’ve had it these past few years.
The last straggling “friends” show up and all the families are herded on an incredibly long journey through the bowels of the hospital.
Wolfy races off ahead of everyone at top speed and the instructors start looking around with astonished, accusatory looks on their faces that say, “Whose child is that?” Oh, that little boy? He belongs to me. Well, actually me, the coughing waddling woman and this guy who is walking around in over-sized hip hop style clothes that are covered in gasoline.
The journey includes an awkward crowded trip in the elevator, which is mostly silent until one of the dads pipes up with, “When the doors open, you’ll be mimicking the birthing experience.” Wow, funny guy! You are so fucking funny. Oh my god, how did I survive without knowing you before? Thank you for that joke… now please refrain from ever opening your mouth again.
The sibling preparation workshop gets underway with the little kids having 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.
Wolfy is constantly standing up and getting right in the face of the instructors as they are talking. My husband and I shrink a little bit in our folding chairs. Wow, three years of constant adult attention has resulted in a kid who thinks someone should be paying attention to him all the time. Who would have thought?
Then my next thought: oh well, they’ll straighten Wolfy out next year when he goes into public school. Sharing one incredibly stressed out adult with fifteen other three-year-olds will certainly take him down a notch of two.
While all of this important learning is happening, I realize I’m lightheaded from the intense gasoline fumes radiating from my husband.
I lean over to him and whisper, “You reek. I don’t think this is good for all these pregnant women.”
“I know!” he whispers back and shrugs his shoulders. Then he tells me that he’s going to go try to wash his winter boots off in the bathroom sink because he thinks maybe he got some gas on them. All I can do start praying that no one walks into the bathroom and calls security on him.
Meanwhile, the instructor shows the children how to hold a baby. Soon, all of these toddlers will be responsible for “helping your grown-ups care for” real living, breathing tiny humans – but for now, they can 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.
It’s actually a little nub that my mother sewed onto the doll with the idea that Wolfy would identify more with a doll if it looked like him. Except, my mother kind of put a little too much stuffing into Vuffa’s penis nub and it looks like he has a teeny-tiny half-erection.
Of course, Wolfy immediately takes off all of Vuffa’s clothes. So now I’m sitting powerless in the folding chair and there is Vuffa sprawled out on the floor in the middle of the circle with his penis exposed.
The instructor shows all the children how to hold “your baby” but Wolfy is 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.
Finally, my husband returns from the bathroom with a giant coffee for us to share and somehow the rest of the class pretty much went off without a hitch.
My personal favorite part of the whole experience was when the instructors taught all the kids the Super Sibling Handshake. Yes, this is real. It involves putting your hands over your heart and then extending them outward from your body in two thumbs up and saying, “Super Sibling!!!” Apparently having a secret or not-so-secret handshake is a very important part of being a big brother or sister.
A few hours later I asked Wolfy, “What do you think the word ‘sibling’ means?” Without hesitation he said, “It means thumbs up!” and showed me the handshake.
Oh yeah, we’re totally prepared for this whole sibling thing. I see nothing to worry about here…