Monday, November 11, 2013

What Works For Us: New Sibling Edition

Henry and Charlie
BFF set by Mama Case Prints

When we found out that Charlie was a Charlie we were over the moon. I daydreamed about how fun it would be to have two boys, brothers who would be the best of friends. I was lucky enough to have my sister Lauren growing up and to this day I feel immeasurably lucky to have her through thick and thin (even in our younger days when she would steal my clothes and use all my hairspray and copy everything I did. Little sisters, ya know?). But either way to have that bond would be amazing. Brothers, two boys...awesome.

So of course while I was pregnant Hank and I talked up the baby a lot. We told Henry all the time that his best friend was in there, someone who would eventually be able to play with him everyday and always be there for him. We read books and talked about it constantly. But still, in the back of my mind I worried a little. Up until this point Henry had been an only child. All of our attention all of the time, was focused on him. Henry wants to play? We play. He wants to dance around like crazy in the middle of the living room? We drop everything we're doing and dance with him. He feels like stacking up every cushion from the couch onto the floor and making a huge fort? Sounds good. But I knew when a new baby came along things would change; the dynamic would shift, of course. I wouldn't always be able to play because I'd have to nurse. Dancing around the living room might not always be okay if Charlie was on the floor. And the same with the cushions. Or riding his Big Wheels around the kitchen island. Or playing his drum set any time of the day. So amidst all of my romantic notions of what would be, I had a tiny bit of worry in my heart that Henry would feel sad about all of this change.

Henry and Charlie
the night before Charlie was born

Henry and Charlie

It's been 3 months now and looking back through all the ups and downs, I feel like Henry really was able to adjust well and I feel really happy with how it went. He hasn't seemed upset about the change at all, and more than anything he wakes up every morning hoping that this is the morning Charlie is finally big enough to play. It's so cute. At first when we brought Charlie home he was a little stand-offish as we figured everything out, but I think this was more from being almost scared of how tiny and fragile Charlie was. And of course some days are harder than others- remind me to one day tell the story of when, overexcited by all of the leaves, Henry dumped a pile of them onto poor Charlie while he was in his stroller- but most days are great. I'm no expert by any means (really, it's only been 12 weeks and we have a lifetime of brother-stuff to navigate) and none of this is rocket science, but here's what has worked for us in these first months:

1. We read a lot of books about being a big brother throughout my pregnancy, and talked about it constantly. We focused a lot on Henry's new role as a protector and teacher, and about how it was his job to show Charlie all the fun things in life- how to play, have fun, etc. He loved that and would often stop what he was doing during my pregnancy and say something like "I can't WAIT to show Charlie this truck!" "Big brother" books were also a huge part of this and a great conversation starter- here are a couple of our favorites: one and two. Our most favorite book though, wasn't necessarily about bringing a new brother home, but about being excited to teach your little brother something. Henry changed the names in the book to Henry and Charlie, and we must have read this every night until Charlie came along.

Henry and Charlie
Henry and Charlie

2. Special projects and jobs. My family stayed with Henry while Hank and I were in the hospital and they made a "Welcome Home" celebration for us, complete with art projects Henry made for Charlie's arrival. And even before that Henry worked with us on some special things for Charlie's room- he helped us paint the walls, put together the crib, and move his crib mattress into the baby's room. I also talked to a lot of girlfriends and asked them if they did anything for the older sibling. Some mentioned they had gone with the older sibling(s) to the store to get the baby a special birthday present, so we did this for Henry and it was a big hit. He picked out something for Charlie, and brought it into the room when he met him; he was so excited to give it to him. I can't necessarily say this helped him to adjust, but it definitely helped add more excitement and positivity to the big day. Another huge thing we did from day one and still do everyday, all day, is give Henry jobs to do in relation to Charlie. He has a little step stool in Charlie's room that he stands on to "help" me change C's diaper, always make sure the diaper basket is full, and is in charge of a handful of other little things, like making sure Charlie's toys are put away into the white basket after playtime, checking on him when he's in his swing, getting me a pillow so I can nurse, etc. Like any 3-year old Henry loves to help, so this makes him feel really important and proud.

Henry and Charlie
helping to "carry" Charlie at the doctor's office 
Henry and Charlie
Henry and Charlie

3. Reminding myself to be patient, every single day. This seems like a simple thing but one of my biggest challenges is not getting annoyed or irritated when Henry is loud when we're trying to be quiet. Usually he's doing the best he can and I need to remind myself that he's not even three yet, and just as I'm learning to be a Mom of two, he's learning to be a big brother and share all of the attention that was once his. Or more importantly, that he's being loud because he wants my attention. Another challenge for me was realizing that I was saying "not now, Henry" way too many times when he would come to me while I was nursing Charlie. This was not helping the climate of either of our relationships so now I try to always acknowledge what he is saying and redirect him to something else until I am done. This has helped to avoid a myriad of upset feeling from both sides- either me feeling frustrated with Henry when he isn't cooperating, or him feeling pushed to the side, which makes me feel so guilty and really sad. It's so funny- I always thought I was a really patient and calm person with Henry, but once I was put into a situation where I would be nursing Charlie, and Henry would be on the verge of a tantrum, or I'd be trying to calm Charlie down to get ready to nap and Henry wouldn't listen to my requests to quiet down, I would get SO annoyed. And of course I still do, but I handle it differently now and focusing on patience is so much better. So taking a step back and reminding myself that there is a reason for Henry being uncooperative or extra-loud, and redirecting him (stocking up on quiet activities like puzzles and fun art supplies is key) has changed everything.

Henry and Charlie
Henry and Charlie

Really though, through it all, nothing is sweeter than seeing Henry go up to Charlie unprompted and talk to him, hug him, or sing a song for him. And that smile that Charlie gives him and the way Henry puffs up with pride ("Mommy, I made him SMILE!")- that is everything. And this is happening more and more everyday, and it's these little moments that shine over all of the harder days (the too-loud toy trucks during naptime days, the Henry getting upset at something during Charlie's naptime and waking him up days, the me just feeling frustrated that I don't have enough arms for everyone days). Henry has blossomed so much since becoming a big brother. He's always been exceptionally sweet, but now seeing the gentle and kind way he is with Charlie is just about the best thing in the world. Knowing that this is just the beginning is so exciting too and realizing that these three months are just the tip of the iceberg in the adventures of Henry and Charlie. I can't wait to see what comes next!

Like I did in my first "What Works For Us" post, I'll ask the same questions- what's worked for you when welcoming in a new sibling? Any experiences you'd like to share? Tips or tricks to add to my list?

p.s. I'll leave you with this short video of Henry meeting Charlie at the hospital. This is one of the sweetest moments of my life- a totally unprompted song Henry pulled out to calm Charlie down when he started to cry. The little kiss and "I love you, Charlie" at the end kills me.

 
Henry Singing to Charlie in the Hospital from DH on Vimeo.


31 comments:

  1. Awwww they're just too cute! Henry is an amazing big brother already by the looks of it :) I'm sure they will have their ups and downs but I bet they've each got a best friend for life. xx

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  2. you're melting my heart over here ;)

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  3. They are both too cute for their boots! Looks to me you are doing an alright job now...

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  4. They are both too cute for their boots! Looks to me you are doing an alright job now...

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  5. All the pictures of them together are so sweet!! And that video just melted my heart!!

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  6. We did the exact same thing with our girls! (And I wanted my second to be a girl for the same reason as well!) It was such a smooth transition for us. My baby is 7 months now and I love watching their relationship grow.

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  7. when my youngest son was born i had to remind myself to be patient with my older child. the things he had previously done that had never bothered me began to irritate me. i knew it was mostly because of hormones, but i still had to make a conscious effort not to get annoyed with him when he would run around and be crazy all the time. i think it took me about six months to get in the swing of things.

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  8. Oh the best is yet to come! I have two boys (6 & 3) and they say it themselves without me even prompting them "We're bestfriends!" They protect each other and love each other so much.

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  9. oh so cute!! my sister has 2 kids & it's amazing to see the older brother be so protective of the younger sister & how she follows his every move. (they're 4 & 1)

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  10. That video is too precious for words!! Definitely something to treasure over the years :)

    With our (soon to be) four, we always try to focus on sibling love -- no matter what the situation is, we try to remind our littles "you love your sister" or "your brother loves you" -- even when they're screaming mad at each other, we try to calm them back down with reaffirming to each other they've got to work it out and stick together, because they love one another, and they're siblings for life! We talk a lot about sharing, taking turns, being protective, helping, supporting -- doing everything out of love. It's simple, but it's a constant reinforcement we use.

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  11. Before H's birth, M made paintings and drawings which we displayed in his nursery and put up a framed photo of her. SHe loved going in there and showing off her art to visitors. Then when H was born, M came to "pick us up" at the hospital and it pretty much was a disaster, however she was only 20 months old! We had bought a present to give to her "from H" and although she was intrigued and wanted to take a look at him, when it was time to leave, she had a tantrum and screamed that he had to go back in his hospital crib.

    The first week was difficult for everybody. Seeing M go through all these emotions was heart breaking. As time passed, we asked for her help for diaper changes and the like and everytime we had visitors ooing over H, I gave her a lot of love and attention. Now, H is 8 months old and M is SO patient. Whenever we are in a situation where H is crying and M is not cooperating, I can actually stop, stoop down and tell her "your brother is crying, you need to cooperate" and she will! I am impressed with her every single day! Sometimes I have her do quiet activities in her crib to nurse him and it goes smoothly.

    All that said, she does hit him sometimes. It seems like it's beyond her control to do so and she seems so genuinly sad afterwards. I know it's normal but I haven't yet really figured out a way to stop her from doing it :S

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  12. Too adorable. Just love Henry's pride at being a big brother! I worry about having another one too. Like... all the time. I feel like I can't ever give Vivienne enough attention, and work, and do everything else I "should" be doing, let alone have enough for two. You are doing a great job momma!

    My mom told me that when my sister was nursing, and I was an impatient two year old, she would have me bring over a book to read while bf'ing. If I could be a big girl and help turn the pages, then we could read a story to little sis together. I like the idea that even feeding the baby can be something we do together, with snuggles and milk for little one and special storytime for older sibs. Maybe one of these days we'll test that theory out :)

    Love to you and your sweet boys!
    XO

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  13. i second the books for sure... our C is a bit younger than H... so i've just started to learn (why did i wait 6 weeks to figure this out?!) that C wants to help and we need to pick good stuff for her to be the helper because it makes her feel so good... and i rock the sling like it's my job with the baby to nurse, soothe, etc.. that way i can make a run for it after my sweet, spirited, spitfire of a toddler any time :)

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  14. Love the Little Critter new baby book! We read it almost every day during the weeks leading up to bringing baby sister home. Our son was five and our daughter had just turned two, so we had to take two different approaches. We talked about our five year old's new role as a big brother to two little sisters and all the things he'd be able to do to help. We were honestly a little afraid that our daughter would want to treat baby sister like a baby doll, so instead of talking to her about helping (we were afraid she would take 'helping' to mean picking baby up by the neck or poking things in her mouth), we talked about how cute and fun the new baby would be. We also got her a new baby doll so she could practice being gentle and quiet.

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  15. That is just the sweetest! I used to always joke that Henry & now both your boys gave me baby fever. I thought once I was pregnant baby fever would be a thing of the past, but those sweet little boys are just changing it to the "I can't wait until my own hatches" variety ;)

    Thanks for sharing these tips! I always enjoy your more persona/lifestyle-y posts, and these are especially helpful and fun to read.

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  16. It sounds like you've done a great job, and that video just shows it all.
    Rosie x | Every Word Handwritten

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  17. So cute! You just never know - my oldest was heartbroken when his first little brother was born and over-the-moon when our newborn arrived.

    www.animpulsetosoar.blogspot.com

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  18. OH MY HEART. Just watched that video and DIED. Still dying. That is just the stinkin cutest thing I've ever seen.

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  19. that video was the cutest!!!! :) you are so lucky to have such beautiful boys in your life, how wonderful :)

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  20. I have two boys too - never would have imagined it in a million years but now can't picture it any other way. That video is so funny - love how he just keeps singing! My Jonah is around Henry's age (Nov 15 bday) so has been fun reading about Henry b/c they're such similar ages - I was so happy when I read you were having a second boy - so special. Also we have a boston terrier. Best dogs ever!

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  21. Que família linda!! Amei as camisetas dos dois meninos.. eles são tão fofos!
    Blog Antonella e sua Boneca

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  22. Oh my goodness. The best friends onesies! Seriously the cutest ever.

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  23. omgsh they are so cute!!

    www.heyitsingrid.com

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  24. Oh, Danielle that is such a sweet post and that video just melts my heart. It made me remember the video we have thaken in the hospital when big brother met little brother for the first time, I so want to watch it right now! I'm very happy to read here how awesome you guys are dealing with the new sibling addition. In our case (2 boys as well), similar things to what you descibe here have worked very well. Most of the time, my oldest son is just the best bog brother one could ever wish for. Yet sometimes, I feel it is still difficult for him to judge that the little one, is smaller and thus more fragile and that he can for example not lie on him when they do a kiddie wrestling match (which they both love btw). In such a situation us constantly telling him: 'stop that, be careful, you can hurt him etc, ' just gets him frustrated and I am still looking for a good way to deal with it.
    Anyhow, as I myself was an only child and really missed a sibling, I am just dazzled by the two of them and by how much they can give to each other and the bond they are creating. It's somethings so special, so amazing, I sure hope they will get along always! Hugs, xoxo

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  25. taking time poking around on your blog while Sadie naps and Parker is at preschool, so I finally watched the video. SO FREAKING SWEET. I love seeing just how being a big brother changes our kids. I also appreciate your ideas about redirection and your words on WHY those dang older kids of ours tend to be a bit needier just when we don't need them to be. I've been struggling with the weekends since that's when Sean works 12-8, and both boys together sometimes make for loud times when I'm trying to get Sadie to nap. I totally feel guilty because I know that it's been a big transition, and that their needs are valid. It's hard to juggle sometimes! Anyway, rambles aside--I love seeing your two boys together. What fun they will have together

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  26. Aww, so super cute!! We did much of the same, our daughter was a bit older though (at 6 years old when her little brother was born), and everything worked out fine.... until.... when little baby boy started moving, and suddenly everyone had to watch him more often, THAT'S when she suddenly showed a negative and jealous reaction! It's normal for kids to be jealous, and we made sure to spend tons of time with her too, and after a while she got used to it.
    But watch, when baby goes from sedentary football to active monkey, the eldest suddenly sees you watching and trying to make sure crawling/walking baby is safe all the time, that's when you'll see more acting out. Or not. Hopefully!

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  27. AHHH that video is SO precious!!

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  28. Remind me not to read and watch stuff like this so early in the morning that I haven't yet had coffee. I am a mess! So sweet. You're blessed, indeed. What beautiful boys, What a precious big brother he is. That kiss kills me!!

    Our Henry was 12 when our surprise rainbow baby was born. My heart broke a little to get that BFP, despite having always hoped for a big, big family. My first thought: How will this affect Henry? What will happen to our relationship? We'd gone so.very.long. thinking we were never going to add to our family, and it took years to feel at peace with having just one perfect child. Of course, we got to be incredibly close, and he's one of my best buddies, truly. And he had never had to compete for my time or attention. So it worried me. I knew there would be a loss along with the blessing.

    I'm pleased to report that Henry has adjusted with aplomb. Our kids are now about 13.5 years and 20 months old, respectively, and Henry adores Agnes and is... whew... (when do the postpartum hormones regulate? Maybe when she weans?) He's a doting and tender brother, he is proud of all of her accomplishments and always has to be the one to "rescue" her when she wakes up. Seeing my two -- two! I still can't believe it! -- children play together is the most miraculous, astonishing thing.

    What works for me? I honestly don't know. We're winging it. I couldn't have imagined having an "only child" for twelve years and then adding another. We definitely didn't expect this, and we're doing the best we can. Henry and I are still buddies... We have our Doctor Who and Supernatural marathons and geek out over our fandoms and favorite books, my husband takes him camping and canoeing. He knows he's still the center of our world, he just has a roommate now. ;)

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  29. We are going through this right now. Tomorrow is day 7. While we had plans to make an art project for baby brother, it didn't happen. We had intentions of shopping together for a present to give baby brother-that didn't happen. We spent as much time talking about brother as a baby, reading the books, and helping our 2 year old daughter work through a range of worries and emotions before he was born. And we were impressed with how she did while Mommy was away in the hospital. She missed me but she was on her best behavior with her grandparents. Here we are though, paying her an enormous amount of attention-actually very little has changed yet with respects time for her and she is acting like we don't spend any time with her. We have yet to tell her she has to be quiet when baby is napping, but she cries about having to always be quiet and then sobs extra loud about having to be quiet. Honestly my husband and I are confused. We'll definitely be at our wits end I by next week. We've not even had enough time for our art projects. She brings up the topic of sharing toys (we tell her how nice that is and that she doesn't have to share her toys (or that she has to give him everything that is hers (which was a new worry the day we came home). Maybe if you can do everything to make that first day special-to do it. We ran out of time and her brother came
    early....

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