Family Growing Pains
Of course we all want, and warmly welcome our new babies, but their arrival marks a big change in our lives with our other kiddos, and that hits us where it hurts.
I gave birth to my second baby just three weeks ago, and am already amazed at the difference that having done this before makes. Without the first-time mom stress, I’m able to savor the infant-stage sweetness in full: the sleep deprivation feels less taxing, I’m not afraid of every hiccup or gurgle, and I’m not struggling with any of that ‘I no longer know who I am, exactly, now that I’m a mom,’ stuff new mamas face. So now, in round two, I get to bask freely in baby breath and bleary nuzzles, knowing that all too soon this tiny baby will be running and talking as fast as my (very busy) three-year-old is. The one and only bitter in this super-dose of sweet is that my relationship with my older child, Kaspar, changed literally overnight. And while I know having a brother will ultimately be a positive thing for him, right now it’s rough to say the least, and he lacks the perspective that could otherwise ease the blow.
For all of the enthusiastic congrats he’s received on becoming a big brother, the role so far requires him to give endlessly—particularly give up of my time and attention—without gaining much in return. For him, the promise that his brother will eventually be his playmate and his biggest fan is too abstract to be meaningful.
In the first few days after the glow and excitement of the birth wore off, Kaspar realized how much his life had just changed, and he kind of freaked out. He threw a few tantrums. He threw a toy at me! These days, he’s still being a little bit extra-obnoxious now and again (and I am a lot less patient than usual… that part of sleep deprivation hasn’t changed), but he’s calmed down. He’s taking this big transition as well as a three-year-old probably can.
Three-year-olds are a little extra-obnoxious, but they’re also remarkably adaptable. When I tell Kaspar I’ll push him in the swing and am finally able to do so a full hour later, he’s a good sport about it. Almost too good. There’s a tinge of desperation there, for sure (and it kind of breaks my heart). But when he recently brought a cough home from school and I had to tell him he couldn’t come snuggle in our bed—where I sleep with Baby Otto curled up on my chest—he didn’t take it so well. He was really sad and honestly, so was I.
Right now we’re figuring out who we are, exactly, as a family. Although Kaspar’s life, and our life together, won’t be like they were before, we’re beginning to settle into our new routines and evolving some of our established ones. Whatever patience was required (or lost) during the day, whatever growing pains we sustained, fade into the background as we fold into a corner of his bed, reading books together at bedtime. Sometimes Otto nurses quietly while we read and Kaspar turns the pages for me. I lean over and kiss his messy blonde hair, saying, “I love you, bud.” And he answers, “I love you, too,” gazing at me with his big, sleepy brown eyes. Then he strokes his brother’s foot, ever so gently, and says, “I love you, Baby Otto. Yes I do.” I know then that he, and we, will all be just fine.
A few of my mom friends have also mentioned going through something of a grieving process for their pre-baby family and parenting dynamics when their new babies arrived. Of course we all want and warmly welcome the newbies, but their arrival marks a major change in our lives with our other kiddos, and that hits us where it hurts. It’s a weird thing, to be so overjoyed and infatuated with our newborns and to also feel a sense of loss in terms of what we had with the big sibs… or what they had with us.
Did you experience this? How did you help your older kiddos cope with the huge life change? When did you feel your family had successfully made the transition? How do you nurture your relationships with your kids while attending to the very immediate needs of your babies?
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