Everyone was excited when I came home from the hospital with our fifth child.
Fifth child! You'd think that everyone in the family was used to the noise already, the sharing, and the conflicting schedules. Perhaps this baby would slip right in, into all those welcoming hands.
But standing alone on the side of the room was my "baby" - my two-year-old son who had only recently started leaving me in the mornings. It was time to go back to my two favorite experts on children, Penelope Leach and Haim Ginot, to get another dose of what it feels like to be pushed out of babyhood.
I remember the first time I read that, to a child, bringing home a new sibling is like a husband telling a wife (or the other way around) that he will soon be bringing another wife home. How would we feel if we were told, "I love you so much that I just had to have another wife" or "I really need my helpful old wife to help me look after my new one."
This helped give me the patience during those very hard first months of adapting to a new baby in the house. I tried extra hard to concentrate on the child who had to be forced out of his position as the youngest of the gang. Penelope Leach, in her books, has the ability to speak to me in the place of the child who can't express himself.
Haim Ginot, on the other hand, gives me practical advice on how to handle day to day situations. A child needs help in expressing her feelings and in receiving the affirmation that we understand her feelings. Soon after reading this, my four-year-old son ran inside, upset about something that was happening outside. I couldn't make out his story and just said "Boy, that made you really angry, didn't it?" He stopped yelling, looked at me and gave a loud "yeah." He then went back outside happily.
It doesn't work half as easily most of the time, but it does help me to stop whatever I am doing, listen to my two-year-old "big boy," and help him get over his frustrations.
When he starts to get upset when I begin to nurse the baby, I tell him that I know he would like me to hold him. Being that I can't do that, I would very much like to read him a story.
There will always be competition among the ranks in the family, but there also has to be acceptance. It is always a challenge, but with patience and over time, it will be hard for kids to remember a time when the baby wasn't there ....thank goodness!