What’s another syndrome among family?

New Baby is settling in at home. We’ve begun calling him New Baby because after two years we still are in the habit of referring to Buster as the baby. Until we come to terms with Buster’s boyhood, he is Old Baby and his little brother is New Baby.

It still seems surreal that Buster could have a little brother.

My wife worries that Buster will develop Middle Child Syndrome. For that reason, she always wanted to have four children. Now that she has to deal with the reality of three boys, she has switched gears. She’s leaning less toward birthing another child and more toward viewing a little psychotherapy for her middle child as a solid investment.

I’m not worried about the man in the middle. Buster already has Buster Syndrome. Maybe that other syndrome is just the antidote he needs. He could use a little soul-searching to slow him down and temper some of those ragged edges.

Buster's glasses

The ravages of Buster Syndrome.

So far, Buster has adapted admirably to his new position. He shows only tenderness to New Baby, channeling all of his aggressive tendencies toward his big brother. Needless to say, his big brother is fine with this. It leads to no fighting, whining, or tattle telling at all.

Whether Buster’s treatment of New Baby stems from pure kindness or the fact that he sees the writing on the wall is uncertain. New Baby is a beefcake. Buster is a little squirt. Unless he conjures up a growth spurt, Buster will be a big brother in name only within a few years. He is wise to plan for that day.

Until then, New Baby has sharp claws for self-defense. I don’t know what part of evolution demands that babies be born with long fingernails. He can’t hold his head up or make his limbs bend to his will, yet New Baby has razor talons. This somehow makes sense to Nature. In theory, his claws could be used to protect himself, if a predator caught his spastic hand and scraped his fingernails against itself. Otherwise, they only protect him from having a smooth face. Nature likes self-inflicted scratches I guess.

Not a bumbo fan

“Feel the wrath of my pinky claw!”

New Baby doesn’t have to wield his bird of prey claws against Buster, even if he could control them. Buster is committed to being a good big brother. As to being the middle child, I think Buster will have no problem carving out a comfortable space for himself. He will defend his things from the grabby hands of his little brother with vigor equal to that he used snatching them from the hands of this big brother. His zeal will be an example to all.

I don’t worry about any of the boys adjusting to their new roles. The one I worry about is the cat. He flirted with neurosis dodging only two boys. Now he faces a trio of hazards even as his reflexes decline. If anyone qualifies to blame their troubles on a situational syndrome it’s him.

in the cat's bed

There is no place in this house for you to find solitude, Mr. Cat. It’s kind of like being a parent.