Before my son was born, my husband and I tried to let our daughter know what to expect. We told her that Mommy had a baby in her belly, and that the baby would be her little brother. We told her that he'd be born with a booboo, but that the doctors would be able to fix that booboo when he got a bit older.
When she first met him, we could see that she was checking him out, and she lingered at his lip. We reminded her about the fact that we knew he would have a booboo when he was born, and that the doctors were going to fix it when he was a little bigger. After a little while getting used to it, she didn't seem to care.
Prior to his first surgery, every once in a while she'd make mention of her brother's booboo, but it really didn't seem to matter to her. She was obsessed with him, so much so that we often had to remind her to back up from him, or not to squeeze him so tightly when she hugged him. He's been the first thing she asks about when she wakes in the morning pretty much since day one.
After he had his first surgery, she came to visit him in the hospital regularly. At first she seemed concerned about the tubes hooked to his body and the scary, loud machines. We explained them to her as best we could, and told her he'd be home in a few days, and the tubes and machines would not accompany him. She asked if his booboo hurt, and we told her that it did, but that the doctors and nurses were taking good care of him to make him feel better.
The story was the same with the second surgery, only this one she couldn't see. She was older for his second surgery, and more aware of what was happening. She seemed less scared this time, but even more concerned for his comfort and when he'd be coming home.
Truth be told, I've been concerned that some day he will resent her. I have worried that some day he will notice that she does not have the same "flaws" he does, and that things seem to come easily for her. But I have to believe that we'll be able to foster their relationship, allow them to continue to grow close to one another. More importantly, I hope we are able to instill in him how wonderfully perfect he is, struggles or not.
I do believe that she will be one of his biggest advocates and allies as he grows. She is so loving toward him, and though I expect normal sibling rivalry and fights over toys, TV shows and other nonsense, I really hope they will remain as close as they are now.
I also believe that having a baby brother born with a booboo on his face has helped her to realize at a young age that people have differences, and that is completely normal. She seems more accepting of people (though I think some of that is just a natural innocence with children). One of her classmates in daycare has Down's Syndrome. Her teachers have repeatedly told me how great she is with this little girl. This child's mother seems to be regularly picking her up around the time that I am also there. On more than one occasion, my daughter has exclaimed, "That's Dori! She's my friend!" She recognizes their differences, and helps her friend when she can, but those differences just don't seem to matter to her.
It all gives me even more hope for the person she is becoming, and solidifies the belief that she will do wonderful things in this world.