I have always had a love and even a fascination for child development and the science of family. Perhaps it’s because my parents divorced when I was young or maybe I was just born this way. I enjoyed every moment of studying these and other related subjects when I was earning my bachelor’s degree in child development.
I very much enjoyed the developmental stages that my first child experienced. When we decided to have another, I felt very ready to take on the challenge of another. I was not mentally prepared for the transition that would soon be mine.
Let them cry
It hit me the day my sister told me she was leaving to go and tend to her family in Arizona. She had acted as a postpartum doula for me. I tearfully asked, “what do you mean you’re leaving?? What do I do if they are both crying at the same time??” She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Susie, you let one of them cry for a minute while you help the other, not to mention they will strengthen their ability to self soothe.”
“Oh,” I thought. That had never occurred to me but ended up echoing in my ears, giving me peace and permission all at once whenever both children needed me at the same time.
Morning Moments and Nighttime Nestles
I remember one time I was putting Gracee down for the first time since my son’s birth--it had been about 3 weeks. I was laying there next to her and I was singing to her. It was dark, but I could feel her little chest starting to bounce into a sob and felt the tears coming down her cheeks. I asked her what was wrong. She was trying to find words to express it, but was struggling. She was only two and a half. But I knew. I knew because I felt it too. I said, “Is it because you miss me?” She sobbed, “YES!” I told her I missed her too. She and I decided at that point that I would not only put her down more often, but that I’d be sure to spend time first thing in the morning and last thing at night before she went to sleep. That helped immensely and formed a pattern in our home that is still in place today, two more kids later. Being able to connect with each one of them in the morning and at night has helped our bonding and increased our resiliency when we are going through a hard time.
Empowering by asking for help
Another thing that helped not only this first big adjustment, but other proceeding life changes, was asking the older sibling(s) for help. This helps them to shape and redefine their role with each new addition that comes to the family. A little “Can you grab me a diaper?” or “Can you help get baby dressed for bed, you’re so good at getting him to calm down while I do the lotion”--goes a long way.
Share older siblings’ accomplishments with baby
One of my favorite books, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, teaches the importance of speaking to your baby about all that you are doing. I often had people ask me why I was saying so many things to my baby that they cannot understand. The short answer: I spoke to my babies to connect with them and to help the older sibling be part of the dialogue. One of my favorite ways to use language in this regard was to praise the older sibling as I am speaking to my baby. “Isn’t Gracee an amazing big sister? Maybe someday she can teach you how to hold a bottle that way. She takes such good care of you, huh?”
Open your heart and set things aside
I strongly believe that nobody is better fit to be your kids’ parent than you. That being said, I applaud parents who open their heart to whatever truths resonate around them to inspire their parenting. Trust your instincts and ability to receive guidance. As you read blog posts (like this one), listen to podcasts, dive through books chapter by chapter, and digest earful after earful of advice, take a deep breath. Embrace the things that resonate with you with gratitude. But then-- this is the most important part--set aside the things that do not ring true to your heart. That will leave more space for the things that do. Let them reside and take root as you, principle by principle, become the kind of parent you were meant to be.
You’ve got this!