Mmmm… maybe not so much.
“When the baby comes you’re going to be my big helper.” I would say to my 5 year old as she watched my belly bloom. “You’re going to help me dress baby, wash baby…”
“And feed baby?”
“Not right away,” I reassured her. “but you’ll be able to do all sorts of big sister things. I promise.”
It was that promise that got me.
After my son was born I expected my daughter to be put off by the crying, the poopy diapers, the crying, the lack of interaction, the naps and the crying. I expected her to find him boring and noisy, wet and noisy and stinky and noisy. I was wrong. Like Rumplestilskin, she remembered the promise I made those many months ago, “You’ll be my big helper.” And she was going to make me stick to it.
Thrilled as I was that she wasn’t put off by his arrival, I wasn’t prepared for the constant begging to hold him, change him, rock him or wash him. I honestly thought like so many fallen toys before, he too would fade from my daughter’s interest. Na-uh.
What to do? I didn’t want to her resent him (why I came up with the promise) or resent me (that’s what teen-age years are for) and boarding school was out of the question (too expensive). So I took a long look at my child, at both my children and decided to keep my promise…..within limits.
I realized big siblings are capable of some things. Not carrying baby up the stairs but it can be simple things like handing Mommy wipes or getting the new diaper. I give my daughter at least one special job a day. Sometimes it is picking out his clothes, or keeping track of the pacifiers or singing Old McDonald. Just like adults, a stable job is a good thing for a child. They will feel secure, important, helpful and often content with their assigned task.
At the same time explain why they can’t do certain things. Believe it or not, a simple explanation can save you a lot of time. I heard myself saying “No” “Stop” and “That’s too hard” over and over again until I got sick of myself and my daughter still wasn’t listening. Finally I explained, “You can’t push the stroller by yourself because you can’t see over the top and I don’t want you to hit a tree.” “You can’t carry baby up the stairs because if you trip both of you might get very hurt.” “Baby can’t sleep with you because he needs to eat in the middle of the night and you need sleep for school.” I know, logic with a little-big sib can be a time consuming exercise in futility but if you have to you can pull out the big gun; I’m the mommy and I need to look out for both of my babies.
That’s really what it boils down to; everyone’s safety. So even if she doesn’t want to hand over her crying little brother because I can make him stop. Sometimes I have to say, “Enough.” And that’s OK. It’s OK once she sees me stop his crying because she is learning. She learning there is a difference between a tired cry and a hungry cry. She learning a burp probably means a cloth and a red, red baby face probably means a diaper change. And she’s learning a promise should be kept.