Thursday, May 19, 2011

Second Child

A friend is expecting her second child.  She asked me recently how to prepare her three year old daughter for the new arrival.

First, talking about a coming baby before you start showing is just too abstract for young children.  A growing belly is something they can touch and can relate with.  Allow them to talk to the belly and read stories or whatever they come up with for interaction.

Prepare yourself for questions, but make sure you listen to the question.  Yes, the sex question is coming, but usually they are not asking about the mechanics of getting the baby in there.  Sometimes something so simple as "mommy and daddy love each other very much" or "daddy gave mommy a seed" is sufficient although those open the door to some interesting interpretations.  I recall a story I read several years ago - the child asked his father about where he came from so the dad went into the big sex talk and discussion about anatomy.  The child took it all in and after dad was finished with his dissertation, the kid asked, "but what hospital did I come from?"

When the baby arrives encourage, but don't force, interaction.  I have two younger brothers.  When the first was born I was allowed to lead a parade of neighborhood friends into the room for show and tell.  My mom talks about how I was a mini mother to him, fetching bottles and diapers and involving myself in his care.  To this day I have a very maternal attitude toward him.

My second brother was very medically fragile.  Tweedle Dee an I were hands off.  No breathing on the baby, no poking sticks or toys into his playpen, and don't you dare pick him up.  Eh, how BORING!  We scampered off into the yard to throw rocks at each other leaving Tweedle Dum stranded in his crib with his scary machines and over-protective mother.  We were never allowed to bond.  The boys grew up with a strange rivalry, beating the everloving shit out of each other.  I grew up and moved away.  It's only as adults that I have any form of relationship with my youngest brother but honestly we don't have much to say to each other.  It's a shame because he's a great person with a funny personality and of course I'm fabulous, but we have never bonded as siblings.

When my older son was born there wasn't a chance of keeping my daughter out of the action.  She gleefully fetched diapers and reported on the baby's needs.  Eight years later when my younger son was born, he too was a medically fragile baby but nothing as severe as my brother.  Amanda and Keith were allowed into the NICU to see the baby and when he came home they got to hold him and help care for him.  All three of them have wonderful relationships and I am convinced it is based on allowing them to bond at the very beginning.

As the children get older it's important to allow them to have their relationship however they define it.  The more you meddle and interfere the less they'll bond properly.  Let them duke it out.  Now I'm not saying you should allow a bloodbath, I mean after all it took too much work to get their grumpy asses into this world you sure don't appreciate anyone taking one of them out.  So yes, stop fights when they escalate, but definitely let siblings squabble the little stuff through.  It's important.  Trust me.

I remember long evenings lasting into the wee hours of the morning sitting on my step-sister's bed.  I had snuck into her room after lights out and we talked about everything and solved all of the worlds problems.  We talked and talked and talked.  We certainly had a few fights along the way, but we formed our own unique sisterhood completely outside the bounds of our parents reach.

Not so long ago I discovered when Keith was little he would crawl into Amanda's bed on stormy nights.  AWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!  This happened under my roof when I was at home.  How did I not know?  I also found out they talk about ME.  How dare them!  Actually, YAY!  My kids have their own relationship and don't need me to play intermediary - as well it should be.

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