We've all seen the frowns, pouts and devilish grins on older brothers or sisters when Mom or Dad seemed to be paying more attention to the new baby and seemingly forgotten the older one. Picture this: a neighbourhood market where Mom had planned a quick grab and go of some fresh greens, then to drop off a few overdue library books and make it home in time to prepare a yummy family dinner. Now alongside the stroller is an extremely energetic 4-year-old, who can't wait to get back home to play with his friend in the backyard. The little one in the stroller, all of 4 weeks old, is burbling and cooing happily at Mom's face as she is chugged through the tiny aisles. Mom made sure her son had a decent snack before they left the house and baby had the breast just minutes before they were out the door too. All seems good.
As usual, Mom meets a few friends on this outing, but today, she is not expecting this meltdown from her son, as time and attention and laughter are ALL ABOUT his little sister. Mom chats with smiles as she hears from her girlfriends how much her new baby looks like her, and Mom shares how she wants to be held all the time. Mom didn't hear her son's whining about wanting to go home. Mom had learned to tune out whining and has 'already told him' that she wouldn't listen to it anymore. Now, a typical day would include a few minor tantrums and screaming. However, Mom had learned a few tricks that keep her sane and to not fuel the tantrum (by allowing back and forth arguing) but to firmly state, "when you stop screaming and speak to me with a nice voice, I will listen to what you have to say". She also knew that being consistent gave her strength, however, today she soon realized that what worked the other day, did not work today. Today was different. Her son didn't ramp up into a scream, or if he did, she didn't notice how many Mommmmmmy chants her son made in the aisles before this happened. On the way out, it happened. This high pitched scream with a sudden drop-n-roll, on the sidewalk outside the market. All eyes of the shoppers went from surveying the fruit and vegetables on the market tables to this 4-year- old boy falling apart.
We have all seen or heard similar episodes involving children and them acting out when they don't get what they want. In this instance, it is the older sibling screaming, "why aren't you paying attention to me?" and deep down feeling, "I want to play with my friends!"
Did this Mom forget her first born? Of course not. No mother would. He is a blessing and he's really grown into such an adorable little human. He had his favourite books, his favourite foods and even quite smart to remind his Mom that the bread bag clips can go in recycling. He was the first to brush his teeth each day and neatly place the cap on the toothpaste too. He even knew that he needed down time. Mom and Dad enjoyed reading, so he too, chose a good book to look over and over quietly in his room.
Oh sure, this once little boy tot was a teething monster with drips from his nose and mouth that would easily use up a box of tissues. Daily whining in his bed covers, as he declared he didn't want to wake up, were and sometimes still part of his morning routine. BUT ever since Mom gave birth and brought home his baby sister, he just hadn't been himself. A few months prior to the new addition, Mom and Dad had reached out and resourced every possible book, website or mother/father friend about how to integrate a newborn into an already well-tuned family machine.
Did they miss something? Were the suggestions too vague and not specific enough to their family?
Mom had not forgotten her son, nor Dad for that matter. Mom had a similar birth this second time around, although did admit it felt different. The birth of the baby was without complications, other than a rush to Emergency for 3 false alarms to finally deliver just 1 week past her due date. With 1 week in intensive care to help with jaundice, Mom and baby arrived home to the rest of the family; Mom a bit cranky since her milk came in and unfortunately didn't receive much support in the hospital but the baby girl seemed very happy to be out of the incubator and in Mom's arms.
Mom knew this first week was going to be different this time around - baby and a 4-year-old. She knew her parents had offered to help and could call on them but she was sure that she wanted just her cozy family handling everything. What Mom didn't realize, even on the first day back home, was that she would miss dropping off her boy to school that morning. With Dad home for a few days, he was a fill-in for the drop-offs but that was the one thing she loved to do with him.
A preschooler is still trying to figure out the concept of time, so when you say you have to bath and feed the baby, he may not understand what is taking you so long to play with him. Perhaps you could give your older child some fun things to be a part of the babies routine. An excited preschooler will love to play house, bringing items to you as you prepare the area for the bath etc...A basket for them to fill with what you need would be a great way for them to get it all in one shot. A soft toy and wash cloth are small items your child can use to interact with the baby at bath time. Preschoolers have lots of questions and love to tell stories. Once bath time is over and the baby is quiet after a feeding, it could be a good time to ask your preschooler to tell you all the items that were used in the babies bath. Recalling events of the day give your child an opportunity to practice conversation skills, memory skills and perhaps will add some additional points in from their imagination.
Most of all your older child need to feel included, as he has been THE only child receiving all the attention for that last 4 years. Families that make time and take time and enjoy as many moments as they can, see positive changes in behaviour and overall healthy, growing connections between the children.
Right here with you,