My Experience as a Tandem Nurturer: Part 2

From the time a parent finds out there’s another baby on the way, one question that hangs in the air is: How will the sibling relationship be?

The stories told of reactions to new siblings span the spectrum, from instant affectionate love to secret and overt hitting and hurting. (Please feel free to tell your stories in the comments!) When I was a baby, my own brother was kind to me when my parents were looking and hit me when he thought they weren’t. Or so I’m told.

Having been surprised by my baby boy’s recent arrival, I didn’t get to finish all the activities and special big sister things I wanted to have in place for her before the birth. I had a sense, though, that even without those things my two-year old daughter was already in love with “her baby.” (The giveaway? The kisses and hugs and I love you’s my pregnant belly received.) Even so, I wasn’t sure how she would feel when baby actually came out and was demanding that this new family member’s needs be met as well as everyone else’s.

Turns out she does indeed love her brother….sooooo much, as she says. She wakes up and wants to see him. She loves to give him kisses and hold his head and hand and “tosh the nose.” The problem we have run into isn’t in having her come around to care for him but in having her give him (and mama) some space.

Believe it or not, my daughter’s displays of love and affection toward her sibling have sent me over the edge many a time.

I realize things could be worse. However, our situation was complicated by the fact that we had to deal with jaundice which required me to stay in bed under bright full spectrum lights pretty much round the clock. Many of my parenting strategies that I would normally use if I was up and about I could not because I was stuck in a room that had more of her things instead of little other than books and her “new baby brudder.” This meant that pretty much constantly there were things that she couldn’t touch (pump parts, feeding syringe, homeopathy and more) near the bed in addition to her mama telling her she couldn’t be leaning over baby in baby’s face to give kisses when mama is trying to do something important (like nurse, syringe feed, change dirty clothing, and so on).

In a fit of desperation I came up with the idea that when we really really want to touch baby we can give baby lovings from our heart instead (put hands on heart). She was into it, but still insisted on coming over, leaning in and touching her hands to his body. No matter how many times I talked about and modelled being gentle and used alternatives and empathy, this girl continually insisted on being up in baby’s face.

I found myself losing my calm and getting angry and using my one free arm to hold/keep her back. This led to my two year old daughter telling her mama “don’t push me.” I was so frustrated and exhausted from dealing with baby’s jaundice (and possible tongue tie) that all I could do was have a dead end conversation with her about how I don’t want to push her and I don’t mean to get angry but I’m frustrated that she won’t stop touching baby.

Wake up call: I was not handling this well. I was not considering my daughter’s perspective. I was not diving deeply enough into my resources to find a solution.

I realized a few things after calming down and seeing things from her vantage point. She has been responding incredibly positively and lovingly to the pregnancy, birth and arrival of her brother. Instead of the potty regression that many talk about (and that may still occur), she has been more clear more often about having to go. (Part of this may be because we got a new travel potty seat that she decided she loves and enjoys putting on herself. We also got a potty step so she can climb up by herself and do the whole process except wash her bum.) This in baby’s face must stand up on the bed business is the one area in which she may be trying to show me the challenge of transition. I also realized that it must be completely unclear and seemingly arbitrary when she can touch baby and when she can’t.

This last realization about her not being able to clearly tell when I can allow her to touch baby and when I need her not to led me to a possible solution.

A few months ago my daughter recognized that when the stoplight turns green the car gets to go. This excites her and she often says when a light is green and exclaims “we get to go go go!” We also, then, have talked about what red means. We have to stop and wait. When I realized she didn’t know when she could come in close and when she couldn’t a lightbulb went off that maybe using red and green and her “go go go” excitement would make it much more clear to her what my needs (and baby’s) are at any given moment.

So, I made two cards: one red card that says “Stop and Wait” inside a heart and one green card that says “Touch and Kiss.” I explained that green meant she could touch and kiss gently and that read meant she had to wait and if she was having trouble waiting the heart symbol meant she could give baby lovings from her heart. At first they didn’t seem to work too well because she ignored them and did what she always did.

We kept trying the red/green wait/kiss cards, though.

She did start responding by waiting and saying/asking if she could give baby lovings. I also found that I could stay more calm because I had a chance to give her permission to come over and could focus on giving her as much “green card” time as I could manage. This led to both of us getting our needs met more.

It’s not a perfect solution (she was excited about the cards and wanted to hold and play them which doesn’t really work out well). However, whereas before my negative attitude was setting up power struggles that no one could or should win, I definitely feel that I shifted my own energy towards the positive which allowed her to do so as well. This simple card system has allowed us to get through a tough period of transition for all of us.

I hope that I can keep bringing myself back to “finding solutions” as my husband said so that we can support a loving and respectful relationship between these new siblings……and keep our sanity and respect as well.

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Resources

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jessica on January 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

    What a great idea with the red/green cards Sheila!! Thank you for sharing this story and so openly and candidly sharing your feelings (both loving and not-so loving), your vulnerabilities, and your process towards empathetic, loving ideas/solutions to life’s daily challenges as a nurturer of two. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply

  2. […] 1 and Part 2 of my journey were raw and rough, I know. I definitely was feeling more off then than I do now. Is […]

    Reply

  3. […] the actual addition of a sibling. I have already shared about the nose obsession that turned into a nose-touching issue with baby boy. Even though that has died down a bit, I continue to need support and wisdom to be a […]

    Reply

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