I’m grateful for Brooke’s account of this transition in her family and have put into practice her tips in our home. You can read more guest posts in this series on adding more children here and here. If you would like to share your own story before our series concludes, contact Kathryn.
From First Born to Big Sib
Oliver was only 13 months old when that little pink plus sign appeared one cold January morning.
Right after the thoughts of “how lucky are we to have baby #2 on the way?!?!” and “oh my god, how the hell are we going to afford two in daycare?!”, we almost immediately shifted our attention to trying to figure out how to help our tiny tot understand what was on the horizon…
How can we teach him what it looks like to be a good big brother? Will he understand that he has to share time with mom and dad? What questions will he have? Can he possibly understand there is a baby in my belly? Will he love her? Resent her? Try to hurt her?
And what about me? He is my world. He is the definition of love. How can my heart possibly expand to love another child in the same way?
Despite all our best efforts, there was no way he (or any of us really) could have been truly prepared for the road ahead. But through our journey, we’ve learned a few things that helped us get through the transition with just a few bumps and bruises along the way.
1. Preparing to be a Big Sib
We read lots of books about becoming a big brother (here are some of our favorites: Daniel Tiger | Big Brother Daniel, Little Critter | My New Baby, Waiting For Baby, My New Baby) and talked all about how Oliver would become one too. We explained that he could help take care of baby sister and how he would help keep her safe. We talked about how baby might use some of his old things and that she would make lots of noise (and sometimes some funny smells too). We explained that she would sleep a lot in the beginning, but eventually she would be able to play with him.
We supplemented those books by giving Oliver his very own baby doll. Despite his early interactions in which he sat on the baby doll’s head (Big brother? Nailed it!), he has since come to love and cherish “his baby”. It also served as a great teaching tool to show him how to hold baby and use gentle touch – something that seems to always be a work in progress around here.
We also tried to keep Oliver’s life (his room, his routine, his favorite things) as unchanged as possible leading up to the arrival of baby sister. Knowing that kids this age thrive on consistency, we wanted to do everything we could to maintain his sense of normalcy as much as possible.
2. The Big Helper
After baby Taylor arrived, we tried to include Oliver in as much as we could. He got her diapers, helped pick out her clothes, brought me a burp cloth when she spit up, held her, sang her songs when she cried and even shared his toys.
We made him our little helper and talked him up for it every chance we got. We told him how proud we were that he was such a good helper. We boasted about him to others in front of him so he could hear us praise him to someone else. The smile on his face when he heard us say how good he was at being a big brother was priceless.
3. The Special Date
Despite all our best efforts, we were still struggling to help him adjust as smoothly as we’d hoped. He seemed to ADORE lil sis, Taylor. But he was so ANGRY with me. I realized he was resentful to have to share me with someone else. My fragile heart shattered recognizing his pain.
A very wise friend who is also in the trenches shared her secret a couple months in. She talked about how a “special date” with her oldest had a significantly positive impact. I went home that night and declared that we were implementing it in our family.
Oliver and I started attending gymnastics classes together every week. After, we stopped for muffins and got to just hang out together. Each week I told him that I was SO excited for my special date with him and that it was going to be just us – dad and Taylor couldn’t come. We made a big deal about it. He became SO excited about our time together and the positive shift in his behavior was noticeable.
Throughout our date and the rest of the week, I tried to make a more conscious effort to get down on his level, look him in his eyes, hug him, pat his back, hold his hand or just love on him in ways that he so deeply needed. It was easy to pass over those little moments in the hustle and bustle of life with a newborn and a toddler. But I realize that tiny moment can have a huge impact – on all of us – and I do my best to make that a priority even on the busiest of days.
Oh, and about my own heart? It’s incredible the capacity it has to expand infinitely. Back then, I could not imagine how I could love another child as much as I loved Oliver. Somehow the reality is that I can and I do. And it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced.
PS – a good baby carrier will serve you well in those early weeks and months.
Brooke is a digital marketing strategist living just outside of Denver with her husband, two kids and a dog.