There’s nothing like the dynamic between siblings. For better or worse, these life-long, unavoidable relationships can be disastrous, delightful, and everything in between.
It stands to reason then, that one of the more anxiety-laden issues with a second (or subsequent) pregnancy is how to prepare your first child for the birth of your second or your third, etc. In essence, how to help them become a big sibling. I’ll be posting articles discussing each of these worries and our family’s attempts to work through them over the next month or so. Here were my main concerns:
These issues were ultimately wrapped up into one core concern: my own guilt in depriving my oldest of her routine, comfort, and worldview. This incredibly destructive emotion weighed heavily on me early on in my second to-term pregnancy. Once I recognized it, I made a pledge to myself to “do away” with guilt in raising my daughter to be a conscientious big sibling. Easier said than done, right?!
Whether it was my guilt for feeling like there wasn’t enough of me to go around or guilt I placed on myself for not doing everything “right,” I decided that it was time to do away with guilt and raise my kids the way I felt was best. In this awareness, I realized that my mission of raising a big sibling was based on two main premises: (1) there are benefits to sharing; and (2) live in the moment.
My first goal was to focus on the benefits of sharing. By this, I’m not talking about toys. I’m talking about me. As a stay-at-home mom, my kids get virtually unlimited access to me, but with more than one child and only one me, they do need to share. This, I figured, was a life lesson. There will never come a time in life where you get to claim absolute dominion over another person and, therefore, for my 2 year old to share “mommy” was/is a good lesson for sharing time with her friends, spouse, and children later on in life. I would remind myself of this fact many times when my toddler would be throwing a tantrum because I could not “twirl” with her while changing her brother’s diaper (she needs to share me; this is good for her; this will be good for us in the long run…).
The other goal of mine was to live in the moment and encourage my children to do the same. I’m using this phrase somewhat differently than the typical “carpe diam.” What I mean is that there is a time and place for certain actions, activities, and objects, and it’s important to live in that moment when you’re there (and conversely, to not go back once you’ve matured beyond those things). For example, there are certain outfits that I choose not to wear now that I would have loved to wear in college. There are certain things I no longer do that I felt were more than appropriate 30 years ago. The same philosophy can be true, I believe, for young kids. While it is perfectly appropriate for a 2 month old to scream and cry as their only method of communication, it is not as appropriate for a highly verbal 2.5 year old to do the same as their primary mode of communication (occasional and developmentally appropriate tantrums notwithstanding).
By doing away with my own guilt and working on the jealousy, curiosity, regression, and independence of my older children, I feel as though I’m working to raise big siblings, not merely big kids.
There are very few relationships that you’re born into, and siblings definitely fall into that category. It’s a relationship that’s worth building and promoting, and I hope these ideas will encourage you to find your path in preparing and working with your first (or subsequent) baby to be a conscientious big sibling!