My extended basketball belly was pushed out from my t-shirt as my daughter, Eowyn slapped her little hands on it as if hitting a drum. “That is your sibling,” I would tell her. To which she would pause and then go back to yelling and slapping the belly. Sometimes, it was like she knew there was a person in there. She’d put her head on my belly and talk quietly. In my mind I would imagine their relationship; would it be a sister, or brother? And, would they like one another?
She would be 16 months when he was born and still a baby. I needed her to be patient with the new baby. I wanted to teach her kindness-how to think and care for someone or something outside of herself. Her cute stuffed animal bunnies took part in my experiment. I would take one and pretend to nurse it, to which she would grab the bunny and throw it on the floor. After a time I would kiss it and say, “Eowyn kiss the baby!” and she would kiss it. And I would make it a big deal- praising her and telling her what a great job she was doing. Soon, she was bringing the bunny to me with a diaper. I’d put the diaper on the bunny and let her play the role of mama, patting the baby and kissing it.
When she did meet her brother, she was very indifferent. She wasn’t even jealous; in fact she was just not impressed at all! I would try to make her imitate me kissing or hugging him and she would look down at him like he was the most disgusting thing in the world then go back to playing. Despite this, I was persistent in including her and eventually it clicked. While doing diaper changes she started handing the wipes to me, or bringing me a diaper. Sometimes, she even tried to help wipe. It could get pretty messy, but I wanted to let her be the big sister.
Being the big sister doesn’t mean she has doesn’t get babied or put on the back burner. We have special mommy and Eowyn time every day where she is the center of my attention. I baby her and love on her to let her know she is very important to me. Interestingly, if we don’t have this alone time she is often difficult and whiny for the rest of the day.
It is easy to be scared of your older child hurting the new baby or getting short with them as your attention is being pulled in so many directions. Despite these concerns try to be patient. I would encourage you to find a way to let your older child help. Too often one child or all the children can easily become the center of the family verses a part of the family. How can we make our children feel a part of the family? By giving them a purpose and a way to contribute. Be consistent in having them help you. Even at 16 months a toddler can pick up a little, help give you wipes and diapers, kiss and pat the baby, and so much more. It is never too early to teach kindness and helpfulness.