I sit on the floor doing puzzles with my 3-year-old, a change of pace to have this a small moment of time together we honestly haven’t had in the three weeks since we brought the new baby home. I look at him and see him for the grown up, independent boy he has become and want to make sure he knows how proud I am. I’m not sure how much his little mind will really understand or if he is even listening, but I want to take the chance.
“You’re a great big brother, and I’m so proud of you for doing well at school this week. I know that I hold baby sister a lot and I feed her all the time, but I like spending time with you too. It’s just hard for mommy to do both. Sometimes I can’t play with you even when I want to. I still love you so much though and will give you as much time as I can. Ok?”
Without skipping a beat, he puts a puzzle piece in, looks at me and puts his hand out palm up, and says “it’s just happening.” My heart melts. Here I am trying to pour out an apology in small words and simple ideas when really he already knows, already understands that these things happen, life goes on, it’s all good. He comes over and gives me a hug and a kiss, and then we walk out of the playroom, me to my spot on the couch to feed the baby, and him to get ready for bed.
It’s obvious that adding a new baby to the family changes things. What’s not clear is exactly is how our threenager attitudes will react. Our son was so excited for his baby sister to be born during my pregnancy, but he’s strong-willed, the center of everyone’s attention, sensitive, and frankly spoiled. Despite my concerns, when she was born, my son fell hard. He loves everything about his baby sister. He constantly wants to hug her, hold her, poke her toes, hold her hand, and help with anything and everything he can. With her, he was a dream. With us however, things changed.
I know they say kids go through phases of preferring one parent over the other, but for almost two years now, my son has either not cared or always wanted my husband. I’ve never been the favorite and bringing home baby only emphasized that. Suddenly he wants me for nothing – and his stubbornness has kicked into full gear. Only daddy can get him a cup of juice or read a book. Only mommy can hold the baby or get her when she cries. If daddy does, then on come the waterworks and the sudden desire to sit in his lap and be held too.
Honestly, it’s exhausting. I just keep telling myself it’s ok. I knew there would be feelings about the new baby and as long as he is nice to her, I am ok with him taking it out on me. But it is hard. Times ten. Post-partum hormones and emotions, endless feedings, a crying newborn, and no sleep? Now throw in a toddler that has a major attitude and wants nothing to do with you. My heart broke. And not only that but my husband was left to deal with tantrums on his own.
Unfortunately, because I am up nursing so much at night, I stay in bed trying to sleep while my husband gets our son ready for daycare and out the door. The new baby also hates evenings, so I’m usually nursing her through dinner, most of the playtime, and bedtime. I try to at least sit in areas that are close by, but slowly I feel myself missing out on every moment with my son. Daddy takes him to swim lessons, gets him from school, takes him on random ice cream runs, the zoo, etc., just to help keep things normal for him. But I miss out on all of it.
If I’m honest with myself, it’s been three weeks. I know this will change, but it’s so tough. All I can do is cling to the little moments that I do get. On a random day, I get asked to read bedtime stories. I also can’t wait for mornings when my son sneaks into my room, whispers goodbye and gives the baby and me each a hug and kiss goodbye. I just have to hold on to any moment I get, and I know we’ll get through. The baby will cry less (we hope!), she will nurse less often, be more tolerant of other people, and eventually, she’ll be playing right alongside my son. And until then, I just have to take what I can get, go day by day, and remember, “it’s just happening,” but it won’t be forever.