Spending a Little Time.

My good friend over at Two Hands (who just welcomed another beautiful little boy into her family!) came to me and asked me if I’d be interested in doing a blog about spending time with your older child after birth. Since I’ve been lacking on inspiration lately (can you tell by the spaces in between posts?), and because it really was a fabulous suggestion, I excitedly signed up for the challenge.

While I was pregnant with Girlie, I often talked to friends about how my life would be with two. Some assured me that my child was pretty well rounded, and would likely be okay. Another, one in particular, scared me senseless with horror stories of how terrible her daughter had been.

So for 9 months, I listened with anxiously, hoping to all hope, that she was wrong. Her stories of her daughter lashing out, throwing tantrums, of becoming more frustrating since the baby was born…none of it served to do anything except make me nervous about our impending arrival, and worry about the earth shattering effect this clearly was going to have on Potato.

Maybe I got lucky, but she was wrong. I remember her asking me days after Girlie was born, how Potato was doing, and when I said other then rambunctiousness from the complete change in schedule, routine, and having his first sleepover at Bonk’s (Grandpa) house, he was good. He was loving, he was gentle, and he was proudly exclaiming, “Baby MUCK!”  every single time I latched Girlie on.

Picture Courtesy of Lorelei Hoffarth Photography.

Perhaps I was seeing this, but she actually visibly looked disappointed, then quickly covered it up with a look that said, “Oh that will change”. I got the feeling that because she had experienced such a terrible and rough transition from one to two, that she was begging the universe to pour that sort of experience on someone else. Or maybe she just wanted to someone to experience how tough it had been for her, so she could share her experiences more. Either way, I felt guilty for having a smooth transition, and I know I shouldn’t have felt that way.

Truth be told, our transition had a few bumps. Potato was a little bit wired from the late nights for the first week, plus the fabulous fact that The Hubby was home all week too. It was a different routine then he was used to. Yet, it was nothing I hadn’t seen before, and he had actually reacted more negatively when The Hubby went away on a business trip this past spring. He was still the reasonable, sensible kid that I had before Girlie was born.

Even almost three months out, we have still not have had any issues (knock on wood). We are going through the “no” stage, but that was impending, and to be expected when he had a language burst. We are still figuring out our sleeping routine, but in the end, everyone eventually goes to sleep, and life is good again.

As I look back, I have to credit the smoothness of this transition to a couple of things:

1. Make time for alone time with Mommy and Daddy- 

Once a week, we try to make sure we each get some time alone with Potato. I’ve done elaborate things like going on a Mommy Date with him for a bit, and have done things as simple as baking with him in the kitchen. The Hubby takes him on adventures to the playground, or for hikes. This way, he’s still getting some genuine one on one attention from both of us.

2. Get the Older Sibling to HELP, HELP, HELP! 

Potato is at an age where everything is, “Mommy, help?” I cook dinner, and he drags a chair up beside me to help. I start cleaning the floors, and he grabs the brooms. I’ve managed to hone in on this by asking him to help me with the baby. He loves helping me give her a bath, he loves picking out her diapers and clothing. He tells me when it’s time to feed her. Letting him help, believe it or not, actually makes my life reasonably easier too. He loves helping me out, and he loves being involved. It’s a win win for both of us.

The Craft Box

3. The Craft Box

Paper Bag Puppets made from The Craft Box

My lovely BFF had this fabulous idea for her older son. She spent about 30 bucks and filled a plastic container full of craft gems for them to do when the mood stuck. So I stole a page out of her book and did the same. We actually combined this idea into a date, where Potato came with me to help me pick out items to put into the box. We filled it with construction paper, paints, stickers, Popsicle sticks, glitter, paper bags, plates, and much much more. All of these materials came from the dollar store, which my wallet thanked me heartily for. Potato will drag The Craft Box out for me, and tell me he wants to play, other times when I can feel the crazies coming on, I pull it out and we play. It helps me spend some time with him, and it lets him be creative. He adores this little box almost as much as he love his Thomas Trains.

4. Lowering Expectations

I found out really fast that the days get shorter and the to-do list gets a bit longer when you have two. It was a mighty tough pill for me to swallow- I thrive on routine, and getting things accomplished. I finally realized that sometimes getting a shower was going to be a good day, and that I would have to accept each day as it came, and whatever it decided to serve me. When I finally let go of the routines that we had before Girlie was born, I became much more relaxed. Routines will come back, and they are, but in this time frame, it was silly for me to think I’d be up and back at them within days or weeks.

5. Be Prepared

Be prepared for what you might be in for. And prepare yourself emotionally for it, beforehand. There will likely be a disruption in sleep, there will likely be some clinging happening. There may be some meltdowns. If you nursed your older child, you may find him or her interested in nursing again. Before any of these occur, talk to your spouse about a plan of action. Figure out how you want to deal with it before it comes along, and you have to make a snap decision. Expecting these things make it easier to deal with when they either a) don’t happen, or b)do and need some action right away. It’s easier on your stress levels too when you aren’t exclaiming, “What in the world is wrong with my child?!!” On that same note, talk, talk, TALK to your child about the new baby. Talk to him or her about what is going to happen when the new one arrives. Talk about everything under the sun when it comes to the baby. Kids process things better then we give them credit for.

6. Babywearing for the win!

Wearing Girlie in a borrowed Ring Sling!

I am now going to be that annoying Mom who asks the new mom if she has tried a sling, or a carrier. Yes, that will be me. But I’m not joking when I say, having a carrier that I loved saved my life. I was able to nurse Girlie in bed, get up, get dressed, and sling her on. I could then load the dishwasher, prepare breakfast, make the bed, get crafts going, sweep, mop, do laundry…well, you get my drift. It gave me BOTH my arms, and most of the time, Girlie would pass out and sleep. The closeness was fabulous, and it was nice to be able to still attend to both their needs, AND mine.

Other things that I found helpful was meal planning, less elaborate meals for the first bit, asking and accepting help when it was needed, coffee, and a lot of patience.

Reality is, as much as you prepare yourself for the transition of two, there are some things you just can’t prepare for. But, these are the things that I learned, and now believe helped us smoothly move from a family of three to a family of four.

My only other word of advice, take your friend’s advice with a grain of salt. If I had stopped focusing on how epically awful this transition was going to be, thanks to the advice of a Mom who was struggling in other ways just then being a mom of two. I would have been less stressed out, and I would have been able to give Potato a little more credit. Know your kid, and know what he or she needs. Then throw in some patience, and time.

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