Preparing for a Sibling
The world had revolved around our oldest child for the first three years of his life. Weekends, vacations, and evenings were all planned based on age-appropriate, educational activities for him. Our own happiness was largely dependent on his health and level of contentment.
Then, I got pregnant again.
We wondered how he would react to the situation and waited to tell him until the reality of a new sibling was more imminent. I didn’t want him to associate my lack of energy for carrying him, or playing hide-and-seek, with the baby growing in my tummy.
As the trimesters went by and my belly continued to grow, the time to prepare our son for the impending change drew near. Given his princely position in our home, we knew it would be unnerving for him to share the throne with a sibling. We wanted him to know that his position in our hearts and lives was always going to be secure.
Perhaps, unwittingly, we made the situation more difficult for him. In order to make him feel special, we showered him with attention during the final few months of my pregnancy: There were more pizza dinners, more visits to his favorite parks and toy stores, and many more cuddles. While the three of us enjoyed each of those moments, in hindsight, it made the adjustment to his new life with a young baby in the house even more difficult.
About four weeks before my due date, my husband and I sat down with him and told him that he was going to become an older brother. Much to our relief and joy, he was happy about it. He was excited to pick names for the baby (although we told him that “Goofy” was not an option), and also to select the baby’s clothes and toys. Every morning he would ask me if the baby had arrived. I was touched by the disappointment on his face every time I said, “Not yet.”
The day finally arrived, and my husband informed our son that he had a younger brother. He was thrilled and could barely wait to come into the hospital to see the baby and me. He was given the big-brother honor of escorting the little baby back home from the hospital, sitting proudly in his toddler car seat right next to the infant car seat.
During the first few days, our older son was extremely excited about having a younger brother and began making plans to teach him his favorite ball games. But soon the novelty wore off. He got tired of waiting by the crib for a single reaction from his younger brother. He didn’t understand why the baby cried so much. And with the way his brother thrashed his hands and feet in all directions while sleeping, it was pretty clear even to a young boy that he wasn’t going to be playing ball with his baby brother any time soon.
Much more upsetting to him was the amount of time the baby was spending in my lap, being fed, burped, or soothed. When I wasn’t taking care of the new baby, I was often too exhausted to focus my energy on my older boy.
We assumed that our son had adjusted to the baby’s arrival. Perhaps it was what we wanted to believe. It was easier to believe that, than address the simmering resentment building towards his baby brother.
About a month after the baby’s birth, my older son came towards me and angrily almost pulled his younger brother out of my lap. I clutched the baby and instinctively yelled at my son before seeing the expression on his face. He couldn’t verbally communicate his feelings, but the tears streaming down his face and the frustration in his voice told me how insecure he was feeling.
There was no ignoring it now.
I started to do what I should have done from the start: I made sure that my older son’s time with me was not compromised. I was still nursing, but I got help with the baby’s other needs so that I had time and energy to spend on my firstborn. I made sure that he and I spent special time together every day.
Very soon, my big boy became more secure and confident in his new role. He grew more patient with the baby and even started to help bathe and change the little fellow. The cuddles and kisses that we both loved so much were back.
A few months later, when the little baby started responding, the delight on big brother’s face was evident. He was convinced that the training for ball games with his sibling would not be too far away now.
The boys are older now, and have an interesting love-hate relationship. At times, they are the best of friends, and at other times they are enemies with their hands around each other’s necks. But the brotherly bond between them is undeniable. They stand up for each other and protect each other. They have inside jokes that they refuse to share with their parents.
I don’t know if their bond will remain as strong when they grow up. But for now, they enjoy each other’s company, and I enjoy watching their relationship evolve.