Oh Debbie, I am so sorry you’ve fallen prey to the toddler-who-received-a-sibling-torture. It’s horrible. I wrote about it last month when I was still buried in a toddler shit-storm on a daily basis.
I’ll be honest, the first few weeks I was like, “Hey he likes his baby brother, this is good, we’re doing GREAT” and then? My worst parenting lows. I could see no resemblance of my sweet firstborn. He was a monster and I had nothing but negative feelings towards him. I felt like I was always yelling or kvetching at him. He refused to listen to me and would do NOTHING that I asked. The tantrums were horrible. Meals? WORSE. My angelic boy who was my entire world was gone and I cried wondering if our relationship was changed forever.
Our pediatrician said things would get progressively worse and then better after six weeks. I hoped that EXACTLY at six weeks all of our issues would melt away and we’d sing Kumbuya and be a happy family of four. The reality was that weeks 5-8 were the hardest. My husband’s job is very demanding and left me alone to cook, clean,
shower, and care for both boys all day every day with no break. All that and an overtired toddler screaming in his bed until well after midnight had me in tears most nights (thank goodness for breastfeeding hormones and snuggly newborns to give an upside to things on those hard days). But then a fog lifted and Big Brother forgot he was ever an only child. I started to see glimpses of my sweet boy and he began listening to me again.
I second all of Carla’s wonderful advice with these additions:
1. Let the little stuff slide. Our pediatrician advised not to give time outs for food throwing, spitting, talking back–really BAD stuff like touching knives or kicking your brother in the head required usual discipline, but we let stuff slide, gave lots of reminders about our behavior expectations, and tried to redirect away from the bad behavior and take it as a plea for extra love.
2. Don’t push back. This was our mantra to ourselves when I found myself getting frustrated and engaging in his ridiculousness–I’d think “don’t push back” and try to speak lovingly and listen harder to what he was telling me. It’s hard and there were many times I had to set him in his bed and walk away. But an overabundance of love and hugs did seem to work.
3. Walk away. Yep. There comes a point when you find yourself wanting to shove footed pajamas in their mouth to make the screaming stop. Just take a deep breath and calmly walk away. I have a bag of Hershey kisses in the pantry. I hide in there, eat some, and then hyperventilate into the bag. It’s awesome.
4. Don’t let her emotions become YOUR emotions. If she wants to lose her shit, fine, but try not to join her. Be sure you are acting on your own emotions and not just matching hers.
5. YES on the helping: We let Big Brother help get diapers, put clothes in the hamper, push the button on the swing, etc. LOTS of praise for helping and even moderately good behavior.
6. Big kids do fun big kid stuff. We point out all of the things that big kids do that baby can’t do–eat pizza, put on shoes, eat ice cream, jump, and run. Our toddler loves to list these things for us.
7. Reinforce how much you love her. I always tell my son, “I love you more than all the stars in the sky.” I had to tell him this LOTS.
8. Who gives a flying shit about your house? As long as both children are alive at the end of the day… you’ve done good, Mama!
9. Nap. I found I had infinitely more patience on days I was able to nap. Try to get the kiddos to nap/rest at the same time so you can also nap. Also try to put baby down to nap or in the swing during meals and bedtime so you can give your undivided attention to your toddler.
10. And lastly, email your friends. NOT the childless ones or the filthy rich ones–the ones who get it. Carla and Mayim were both HUGE helps to me during this transition. We are so lucky to have each other.
The other day my husband was tossing our toddler into the air and they were both smiling and laughing. We thought the baby was asleep in the swing but he was awake and watching them and started giggling hysterically too. Those giggles, of both my boys, made me burst into tears.
It’s worth it. It is truly worth it but the price is high, and hard and totally SUCKS at first. I’ve rarely heard anyone say adjusting from 1 to 2 children is easy; most people say the first year with two is the hardest year of their life. Somehow that’s oddly comforting.
(p.s. we’re 12 weeks out and my toddler still parties in his crib until almost 11–bedtime is a total shit show. Some things get better; other things take time I guess…)