What I "got" was his little brother, The Lad, who had been born the previous night while The Boy stayed with friends. The husband and I had talked to The Boy throughout my pregnancy about his new sibling and, as planned, brought him to the hospital to meet his brother as soon as we could. Our plan for a smooth transition from one child to two seemed to be working perfectly when The Boy kissed The Lad's head and voluntarily shared his beloved blanky.
Other strategies failed in the weeks after The Lad came home, and we had to find solutions on the fly as unforeseen problems developed. Our oldest still is a bit jealous of my and my husband's time; however, he's affectionate with his little brother and helpful. Here's how we got there:
- Introducing the belly. From the beginning, we treated my belly as if it were a baby. Because my eldest wasn't quite 2, we didn't go into long explanations about how the baby got there or how it would get out. But we encouraged him to pat, kiss and hug the belly. Once we found out the sex, we called the belly by name.
- Introducing the big brother(s) or sister(s). Whenever we talked about the baby, we also talked about the awesomeness of becoming a big brother. With help from books like "I'm A Big Brother" by Joanna Cole and "New Baby" by Mercer Mayer, we played up the idea of being a big boy who can do many more things than a tiny baby and who can show the baby all about the world.
- Arranging a delivery sleepover. Everyone knows existing little ones need a place to stay while the newest baby arrives. What we didn't realize is that our kid might associate that place with being left and Momma being "sick."
- Arranging for help. This was another tactic that had mixed results.
- Going one-on-one. Something else I didn't expect: My toddler was angry with me.
- Making the baby wait. "Just a minute, I have to feed/change/hold the baby."
- Bringing the family together. For every time I've made The Lad wait so I can deal with his older brother, I've also included the baby in The Boy's play. The bottom-line is I've got two kids now and they each have a sibling; they might as well get used to it.
When the baby actually arrived, The Boy was used to the idea of his little brother.
For our very independent kiddo, this worked like a charm. That first day in the hospital, The Boy held The Lad, said, "I'm your big brudder," and then proceeded to show off his toy cars.
The Boy really enjoyed his stay with our good friends who have a little one just his age. But we were a little shocked--and had to take a few minutes to calm him down--when The Boy started wailing the first time we visited those friends post-partum.
Expecting to be a little overwhelmed with a newborn and a toddler, we eagerly accepted our parents' offers to come and help out. And they did, in fact, help by cooking and doing some light cleaning.
But playing with our very busy toddler was the thing they wanted to do the most, the thing we needed them to do the most--and the thing they were least able to do. The Boy just wanted us, his momma and daddy. This resulted in a more tantrums than we had had in months.
When we first got home, The Boy was great with the baby and sometimes lovey with me, but often wanted nothing to do with me. Daddy needed to change his diaper. Daddy needed to get his milk. Daddy needed to play with him. Daddy needed to put him to bed. Though it was a struggle, I did not take this personally, but accepted it as a phase and let The Boy have his Daddy-time. I think it gave all of us--including the baby--time to adjust slowly to life as a family of four.
And within a day or two, The Boy was back to Momma-ing me to death. I made sure to spend time with him without the baby, reading books or having lunch.
Older kids hear that a lot, so it's only fair to turn the phrase around once in awhile. I thought this advice was silly when I first heard it. Why tell the baby to wait? It's not like a newborn understands. But then I tried it--and the grin on The Boy's face made me understand how important it was for him to know he still had a claim on my time.
"Yeah, it my turn," The Boy told his little brother, who was oblivious to the whole situation.
So, we have family reading time before bed. While The Boy plays blocks, I prop The Lad on my lap. In the car, I ask the toddler to sing songs to keep the baby quiet and narrate the things he sees on the road.
Neither kid seems to mind--or even notice, if I'm being honest--but these family get-togethers are the best part of my day.
"Where mine bruddah?" he asked.
We aren't doing everything right, but at that moment, I was pretty happy with how life as a family of four was going so far.