In the chapter of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens entitled “Lock-Out Time,” Peter Pan remembers that once upon a time he had a mother who loved him very much, and he longs to go back to her. But when he finally makes the decision to return to his mother forever and be “her boy,” it is too late; she has moved on and replaced him with another child. Peter is devastated, and returns to his new home in Kensington Gardens, where he is happy, but forever haunted by the experience of being replaced. During his encounter with Maimie, Peter feels guilty when asking her to stay with him in the gardens forever because she thinks she will be able to go back to her mother whenever she pleases and her mother will be waiting there for her, but Peter is finally forced to admit that, in his experience, this is not the case. Maimie, terrified that her mother has already found a replacement for her, hurriedly leaves the gardens and Peter behind, in order to avoid the trauma of Peter’s life.
Although the extent to which Peter Pan is replaced is not experienced by most children and Maimie’s fears of immediate replacement are a bit irrational, the narrator acknowledges that many of us are familiar with the unsettling experience of a new addition to the family. In the story, this is explained as “in fairy families, the youngest is always chief person, and usually becomes a prince or princess; and children remember this, and think it must be so among humans also, and that is why they are often made uneasy when they come upon their mother furtively putting new frills on the bassinet” (Barrie 33). Children like to be special. They like to be the center of attention, and enjoy being a novelty. When their position is threatened, kids tend to get nervous.
This theme, or fact of life, has been taken on by many writers since Barrie. Many modern books for young children take on this conundrum in a very straightforward, didactic manner, such as in Stan and Jan Berenstain’s The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby, one of many in the popular Berenstain Bears series. Marc Brown’s Arthur the Aardvark, another popular children’s book character, also goes through this life adjustment in Arthur’s Baby. In both of these books, the only child, who is soon to become a big brother, becomes both inquisitive and apprehensive about the arrival of their new baby sister. In the end, however, this authors assuage the child’s fears and present the addition of the new baby as a new and exciting thing.
It’s not just young children who have to adjust to a new baby in the family. In today’s culture, many parents have to deal with their pets’ reactions to tiny humans. Walt Disney explored this idea in the feature film, Lady and the Tramp. When Lady, a spoiled cocker spaniel, learns that her masters are expecting a baby, she’s curious, but excited. However, her other dog pals expose her to what a new baby will really mean- she’ll be chained out in the yard for the rest of her days, with no more naps by the fire and no more curling up at the foot of the bed. (See video below)
As popular culture testifies, the addition of a new baby to the family is a timeless issue, which generation after generation of children (and pets) must come to terms with.