Monday, October 14, 2013

Put She Down

I assumed that having another baby seven and a half years after my last would be easier--my two elder daughters would not only be largely independent, but helpful.  Both are true--Big and Little Sis have been making their own breakfasts, getting themselves organized in new and exciting ways, and holding and entertaining the baby, changing her diaper, and feeding her bottles.  One of them pushes the stroller while I push the grocery cart. It's awesome.

What I didn't anticipate was the jealousy.

When I was pregnant with Little Sis, my mom (mother of five, remember), warned me not to buy too much into fears of sibling rivalry.  If you anticipate it and talk about it, she suggested, you almost encourage it.  Just assume it will all be okay.  And it was--Big Sis loved her baby sister, and at two-and-a-half-years old, was mature enough to understand her little sister's needs most of the time.  There was one poignant moment when Big Sis needed something, and Baby Little Sis was crying, and in frustration and with recognition that she just wanted her Mama right then, she cried and implored me, "Put she down, Mommy!"  I remember my own tears as I lay Little Sis on the bed and hugged my firstborn.

My daughters are accustomed to having an active, energetic mother available on weekends for outings, projects, and attention.  In our former life, weekends were a blank canvas waiting for Fairy Festivals, hikes, swimming, family sailing, and cooking.  Tootsie's fragility, and the inappropriateness of her going on a boat or to the beach at this stage, has certainly affected our mojo.  During the first few weeks Tootsie and I were back, I cringed each time we had to say, "Sorry; we can't...because of the baby."  And yet, it was true, and I reminded them that this tender time would pass.

The girls are old enough to express quite articulately how they're feeling.  Big Sis will state hesitantly,  "I love her so much, Mom; I am so happy she's here.  But...I miss..."  And then there are moments of duress:  "I feel like you don't care about me anymore.  All you do is take care of the baby."  Little Sis grappled at first with being unthroned as the baby.  Lately though, because of her bold confidence in holding and carrying her baby sister, she has been subject to quite a bit of monitoring.  Our admonishments to "Be careful!" and "Watch out!" give an impression we're more concerned about the baby than about her, or that we don't trust her.  Meanwhile, Tootsie, still "primitive" with continual basic needs, is an apparent and immediate concern nearly all the time.  Even I am weary of saying, "Hold on; I need to feed the baby."

When Husband has been home on weekends, and he's taken the girls off for some skurfing or swimming, it's been my turn to feel a little left out.  I'm trying to think of our new life in terms of evolution versus sacrifice.  

This morning I hungered for a long snuggle with each of my gangly girls.

So we've made attempts for me to have one-on-one time with each of the girls, even for just 10 or 20 minutes.  We're having lots of conversations about our feelings (exhausting, I tell you!), and at the end of the day, I often feel I have four people (and a dog and fish) all needing me, with not enough Fer to go around.  When I return to work, I'll add the needs of school to the mix, but I will hopefully learn to compartmentalize.  School needs at school; home needs at home.

As Big Sis bonds and forms her own unique relationship with Tootsie, I feel the emotions shifting.  Little Sis continues to be an exuberant big sister and great help.  Husband is solid as a rock.  Tootsie's cheeks are growing chubbier.  We're doing all right.

1 comment:

ASuburbanLife said...

My oldest was 8 when our twins were born and I, too, was surprised by the sibling rivalry. When one of the babies did something amazing when my husband or I marveled "look how strong you are!", our oldest child was quick to say "I'm strong too!" My girls are now 10 and 18 - and the rivalry is as strong as ever! Good luck to you and just keep talking!