Being [and adjusting to life as] Big Brother

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Just as I didn't know what to expect before having our first baby, I was again at a loss of what to expect for big brother as we brought another little one into our family.
It's been three + months now and it's just like it should be.
We're adjusted, settled, in a routine, a family, however you want to put it..

T is such a sweet boy, he definitely has his 'toddler' moments and likes to get crazy, but (the majority of the time) he is silly, fun, sweet, and gentle.
Throughout my pregnancy, we asked friends for advice and looked to other's experiences for what things did/did not work for them, as well as just went with what seemed right for us and T.  

In preparing for the baby, we talked about it here and there, that there was a baby in momma's belly and when she was born she was going to live with us. Occasionally, we'd get positive responses from him, other times he seemed quite adamant about wanting NOTHING to do with a baby. We got a big brother book, mainly for our announcement, and read it a few times. He would rock and gently hold his dinosaurs (like they were babies) and played with dolls at daycare and my old toys when we were at my parents'.
 There was also an infant at T's daycare so he was around her for a few month's before Homegirl came along. I think that was great for him and helped put me at ease, as he was GREAT with her. Overall, we didn't do a whole lot really, but his mixed reactions had me feeling uncertain about how it was going to go.. I had no idea what to expect.

Meeting baby..
I was so excited and nervous to have T come to the hospital to meet his little sister (plus we hadn't seen him for a day, so I was missing him too)!! Just as life can go, it didn't happen EXACTLY as I had planned; but I went with the flow, kept it together, and made it as 'normal' as I could for T's sake.
  • We planned on a time for him to come visit that was best for his schedule - we didn't want him hungry or sleepy or in a bad mood.
  • The Mr. met T (and my mom) in the hospital lobby to bring him up to the room to help him feel a little bit more comfortable in this new place.
  • I made sure to NOT hold the baby when he came in, we had her laying on the bed/bassinet, so I could pick him up/give him hugs right away. 
  • I had on regular clothes (as opposed to a hospital gown), and was sitting (rather than laying in the bed) - I wanted him to see me as normal as could be for being in a such a different environment.
  • We unwrapped Homegirl and let T see her hands/feet, and really just 'explore' as much as he wanted and (gently) touch and get to know her. We tried to follow his lead and not push it on him, but rather let him just check things out and ease into it.
  • We had a 'big brother' gift (although I don't think he cared who it was from), we told him it was from his new little sister.
  • My mom got some little balloons that he brought for her too. (And was he ever-proud to give them to her!!) :)

 After a few days home, we started to see T acting out with us; throwing tantrums more than normal and not wanting to listen/follow directions, hollering back lots of 'no!'.. He'd go in the other room/lay on the floor or in places the baby had been laying, and fake cry.

At times, it was like he was mad at me/us. I felt like we all of a sudden lost our sweet little boy who was our best bud. It broke my heart. Thankfully, he never once 'retaliated' towards Homegirl or made me fear he was going to 'take it out' on her. He was SUPER protective, interested, and loved to be around her; he also became more possessive with his things and a little more aggressive with his friends/cousins. 

Many friends/mothers comforted me saying, 'give it 4-6 weeks', when I told them I didn't know who this toddler was, he was acting-out like never before.. And sure enough, within 4-5 weeks, things with him seemed to be back to 'normal'. During this adjustment time, here are a few things we tried to do to help him settle back in (and include in daily activities still)..
  • Be consistent and set ground rules. From the get-go, we set expectations with T and his interactions with Homegirl (be gentle, no touching her face, etc..). We also obviously continued our rules, expectations, and schedules/activities (as much as possible) from before baby to keep some kind of familiar for him. We were sensitive to his 'new' behaviors due to the 'new' circumstance, but we still held him accountable while also doing our best to put him in positions to succeed.  
  • Read big brother books, initially I think this was helpful. T received a few big brother books from family/friends, and my mom read them with him (over and over) when we were at the hospital. I think it helped him know what to do - he still asks to rock her, and tries to have her grab his finger, as one of the books talked about doing with the little sister.. Love this one: The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
  • Have him help and be involved. Since T showed interest, we try to involve him and have him help. I put some of her diapers in the bottom drawer of her dresser and he'll run up and get a diaper whenever we ask. He loves to give her pacifier when she's upset. He's started to read her book or show/share his toys with her. We have them 'play' in the same spaces and let him give her attention and encourage interaction.
  • Talk him up to his sister (in front of him). This was something a friend of mine mentioned she did, and I think it's simple and genius. Daily, I try to tell Homegirl, in front of T, what a good big brother she has, or have her 'watch! T is so good at doing his puzzle!'.. Little things like that, that lets him know we think he's the (And yes, at 2-2.5 years old, I honestly think he gets it and likes that we talk about him..)
  • The most important - give him undivided attention, daily. Especially since it was usually the Mr. and T spending time together, since I was nursing, I tried to get my one-on-one time in with him as much as I could, even if that meant Homegirl cried for a second while I finished helping T. Sometimes I don't think it really mattered to T, but it was important to me and I still appreciate our time together playing, reading, or cooking, just us two.

Looking back..
There isn't much I would change with how we handled our transition. It may not have made a huge difference, if any, but because we weren't settled on a name until late in the game, we obviously didn't call her by name, while in utero. I think it could be beneficial to a toddler to hear that name and be able to 'tie' that together (so it's not a surprise of who the baby is)..

The new normal..
T is in love with his sister. He still likes to help and is usually always quite interested in her. There's only been a handful of times where he's been a little too rough with her, but I think it's partly he doesn't know his 'strength' (compared to baby) and he just gets so excited. He'll rough-house and wrestle with the Mr., and run over to her in the middle and flip a switch and is gentle, then flip the switch again and go hulk-smash his dad.
If we go to a different room, he'll remind us 'don't forget Harper'. His face lights up when he sees her in the morning, he loves to lay next to her on her play mat, and is always holding and kissing her hands. He's never short of, 'oh hee'sh (she's) so cuuute!!' or 'Eyyyye luhf yooooou!!'

 At one point during a hectic/loud moment with T and his cousins, near a newborn-Homegirl, my brother-in-law came in to help with the commotion; he must've been a little to close to Homegirl as T (barely 30 lbs) had his legs spread, holding his ground, pushing with both hands against his (probably 6 foot, 200-some pound) uncle, hollering 'MY SISTER, MY SISTER'. In that moment of what seemed like chaos to me, it was all I could see and like slow-motion watching T push with all his might on one of the biggest guys in the room - I have this scene ingrained in my memory. I hope until the day I die, this will be the case - big brother ready to take on the world to protect HIS little sister. Since the moment T met Homegirl, he's been THE big brother, and I think part of him knows what that means and the responsibility that comes with it, as simply and purely as a two-year old can know, and it makes me so proud.


  1. So glad you have all adjusted nicely! T sounds like the sweetest big brother. Liam loves books so we have plenty about new babies. He's also around a lot of babies. I'm so impressed with his understanding of it all and genuinely think he is excited. We shall see.

    1. Thanks Laura, I was nervous because I had heard so many horror stories..!! Sometimes it seems Tys and Liam are similar in ways, so I'm sure he will be an excellent big brother too. :) Being around other babies is so helpful. Seriously, I am so excited for you guys, it's just the sweetest thing.

  2. This made me tear up... in a GOOD way! T seems like the BEST big brother and it seems like he has adjusted well! I LOVE that he held his dinosaurs like babies and it looks like he even put napkin blankets on them to make sure they weren't cold. I think the way you handled the first meeting at the hospital was PERFECT and honestly, if we have another, I will be referring back to this post for how to handle it. I think you did everything right and it sounds like you all are adjusting well to being a family of four!

  3. I am so thankful, as it was such a fear of mine before Homegirl was born - just how it was going to go and it was so so hard to imagine having anyone else other than just him. It's been such a blessing how each of their personalities are just right and I hope they continue to be friends as they grow up. I'm so afraid of how I will handle them fighting or not getting along come teenage years (if not sooner)..