Third Child

When Babygirl was a teeny tot, she loved her babies like a real mama.  She lined them up on meticulously smoothed dishtowels.  She wiped their faces shiny-clean with baby wipes, and bundled them up safely in her stroller to roam around the apartment. We always took her aptitude for baby care as assurance that she herself was well-attended-to in daycare, kept clean, warm, and well-fed all day long.

When Babygirl turned three a friend emailed me a SALE from the American Girl website.  “These babies never go on sale!” she assured me.

I do love me a sale.  And so we acquired Bitty Baby.

I should note as an aside that we have acquired several toys-of-her-own along the way in our attempts to get Babygirl to be a tad more self-sufficient.  Girlfriend does NOT like to play alone.  We’ve tried dolls and dollhouses, Legos and Duplos, Play-Doh and paint, beads, baking supplies.  To our great dismay (and financial misfortune), nothing has stuck — besides Bitty Baby.

Bitty Baby comes with us everywhere.  She tags along on the school run, joins us for our weekly restaurant dinner, plays in the snow in Tahoe, and sits by the edge of the pool when we go swimming.    Her doll-sized high chair is dragged next to Babygirl’s seat at the dining table — and then propped up on step-stools, the better for her to converse with the rest of us (by which I mean, stare vacantly).  Thanks to the dark magic of the American Girl marketing machine, she also has a vast wardrobe of clothes which coordinate with Babygirl’s own, meaning that half the time they are dressed alike.

I have come to refer to Bitty Baby as My Third Child.  This is not to diminish the very real, deep, and true love I have for my living, breathing children, but rather pays tribute to the fact that Bitty Baby demands a great deal from me logistically, and so I must accept her place in our family.  Consider the following, true-life example:

Me: “Babygirl, let’s use the potty and brush our teeth.”
Babygirl: “Wait!  I have to get Bitty Baby dressed!  Where are Bitty Baby’s pink leggings?”
Me: “Her leggings are in the wash, Lovey, because she fell in the sand at the park yesterday, remember?”
Babygirl: “But I am wearing pink leggings, so Bitty Baby has to wear pink leggings!  Can you get them, please, mommy?”
Me: “That park is really dirty, Lovey.  Remember how last night I had to give Bitty Baby a bath so we could get the park germs off of her before she got into bed with you?  I need to wash the pants.”
Babygirl: “Then we have to change because we have to match and I need to find my skirt and my teacup shirt and – oh but first – let me find Bitty Baby’s skirt and teacup shirt…”

And.  Now we are late for school.  And, yes.  I actually took the time to give the doll a bath after she fell at the park.  See what I mean about the Third Child?

So used to this routine are we that we now refer to Babygirl and her doll as a kind of team: Why don’t you and Bitty Baby go get dressed / put on your shoes / wash your hands for supper?  Of course we have to make these proposals a solid 30 minutes before we need them DONE, because it takes time to feed and dress and snuggle a baby, and I get that, I do.

Besides, there are benefits.  Bitty Baby is a useful tool for getting Babygirl to do stuff.  Bitty Baby holds my hand and Babygirl’s when we cross the street.  Bitty Baby wears a sunhat, so Babygirl will consent to wearing a sunhat.  Bitty Baby sits patiently while Babygirl buckles her seatbelt (for real – in the middle seat), so Babygirl sits patiently while I buckle her into her seatbelt.

A few weeks ago I took the kids to Tahoe for four days.  Of course Bitty Baby came along, with a full suitcase.  (I even bought her a sweater for the occasion, which is crazy but was well-received.  Because  it’s cold in Tahoe.  It’s cold for babies.)  Stepping out to dinner one chilly evening, Babygirl insisted on bringing her folding stroller, with diaper bag attached.  Before we left she scrambled to find her Disney Princess cell phone/noisemaker and her Frozen sunglasses, and then she stepped out onto the front walk.  “Look Mommy!” she cried over her shoulder to me.  “I’m a Mommy just like you!

Looking down at my little sassafras — 40-odd pounds of pure spunk, in pink-on-pink-on-pink with sunglasses on top — I couldn’t help feeling that this was a high compliment indeed.

Maybe her daycare doesn’t deserve all the credit for her strong maternal instinct.  Maybe I can pat myself on the back just a little for the fact that Bitty Baby gets so much unconditional love (even when Babygirl disciplines her).

And the sunglasses?  Those are all me.  That’s my girl.

Leave a Comment