I often remember when growing up the consistent fighting with my siblings. Don’t get me wrong, mess with one of us and we will step in to defend but other than that we pretty much fought a lot. I was the eldest of three sisters, perfectly timed, each two years apart. Sibling bickering would be considered normal between all that estrogen but allow me to be real here.
For many years I carried such despise for my younger sister. I felt like I got all the serious discipline and my younger sister got away with everything. To some extent, we all can relate to that feeling of ‘unfairness’ so to speak. It wasn’t till the Lord began to deal with my unforgiveness towards her that I had learnt her perspective on the situation was similar in thinking. Our common denominator in the equation was the way our parents treated us. Don’t get me wrong, they did the best they knew how as parents. Often times though, we repeat what we have seen without realizing it and thus a pattern continues.
Now here I am a parent of two amazing, very different children. How do I love them both equally? Do I have enough love for both of them? How do I avoid repeating history? These are real questions we face with no exact answer. I often tackled the thought of how Joshua would react to having a sibling. My mind would casual wonder to crazy spaces like; What if Josh resents this new addition to the family? Would he think we don’t love him anymore? Etc. I know I am not alone in this crazy thinking. ( I had to censor some of the crazy)
I’m definitely no parenting pro. I’m learning as I go. Here are a few things I have learned so far in ensuring my children are healthy siblings and grow together as healthy siblings:
- Include your first born as soon as possible.
When we found out baby number two was on the way, Josh was 16 months old. We began speaking often about the arrival of a sister. We told him he was going to be a big brother and that he was going to help etc. It might sound silly because what would a little toddler understand? Words might not be easily understood but feelings are. We sometimes take for granted the little masterminds we raise. Josh is a hands-on brother, sometimes too hands on lol. I never exclude but I do control the environment that everything is happening in. When Lizzy came home, Josh still came first as much as possible. You have to bare in mind that as your toddler develops, so does their basic understanding. They do feel neglect even if it is not your intention in a situation. I learnt to balance out attention to the needs of each child and having a hands on partner did help a-lot.
When your toddler is experiencing frustration or seeming extra needy, communicate things clearly and repeat when necessary. Again it could sound silly because your toddler might be learning to talk so what would they understand but what you do in the early years, you reap much later. When Lizzy requires much-needed attention like a bottle etc and Josh wants full attention, we often have to come to his level and say a few times why we doing what we doing and assure him that whatever his need is, we will attend to it when we are done with Lizzy and then we follow through.
It is not considered weak if you ask for help. I don’t know where the myth came from that you meant to do it all by yourself, especially when the father is present. I am grateful that my husband is a hands-on dad, but sometimes I also fall for the thinking that I must be able to do it all. That is such lie that can drive any mom mad. As the saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’
Quality time counts
Try to have moments of quality time with your firstborn. I have often seen that sometimes the world can centre around the new baby. Often times your toddler can pick up when too much attention is going somewhere else and can often act out. Finding the balance between more than one baby in the house can be difficult but not unachievable. I enjoy shopping with Josh. That is our quality time as mom and son and I find by regularly having those moments, he rarely fights for my attention when I am taking care of Lizzy. As he gets older, it gets easier.
This one I find is a big one at the moment. I find that I am so mindful of what I say or how I say it. I constantly remind myself that my children are unique individuals. I try not to use the terms; ‘Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother’. I remember the feeling those words gave me when my parents used it and that is definitely not a feeling I want my kids to grow up having. We don’t realize how quickly we do it and we only realize when damage is already done that we were at fault. It definately makes it a challenge when your children are so very different. We are learning to celebrate them individually where they are at. I never want to create an environment where one might not feel good enough or at some point feel like a failure.
The result thus far on applying these lessons is Josh loving his sister to bits and often times helping her and assisting with things. His sister is very much part of his life and although he doesn’t understand entirely why she can’t do what he does, he still wants her apart of it. Don’t get me wrong, Josh is still a classic brother occasionally throwing a ball at her and not to her etc ( which is dealt with as it happens). I’m not sure it’s possible to raise perfect, fight free siblings but what I am sure of is I will always make sure they don’t have to compete with each other for my love and attention. This is still a lesson in the process.
Feel free to share any tips you might have with raising more than one child.