Shin guards, cleats, bottles, diapers, and newly assumed roles of responsibility. These are the new things in Ana’s life currently and I have to say, so far she’s handled them better than I ever have. When my second brother was born, the legend goes that I didn’t talk to my Mom for a while because I wanted a sister. And if you tried to get me to run at any point in my life, I would have done everything I could to avoid it. Not Ana though.
Truth be told, we didn’t do any of the stuff they tell you to do to prepare your child for a sibling. We didn’t read books about it, we didn’t role-play, and we never visited people with small babies. We were about the laziest we could possibly be about it. Don’t get me wrong though. If Ana didn’t just seem mildly upset about having to share the limelight, we would have done those things. Sometimes I think its simply because she’s older and could comprehend what was happening, that she slid into sisterhood so easily. BUT! I will share what we think made a difference in preparing her and how she’s managing.
Lets start from the beginning. When we told Ana she was going to be a sister, we did it at the same time we told family because she is a terrible secret keeper (thank God.) We wrapped up a ‘big sister’ shirt and a toy and gave her that to open with my mom, while my Dad and siblings opened up a little box with baby booties. The two funniest reactions were:
My brother, who thought the baby booties were for dogs and was super confused when everyone started crying and said: “If I knew dog shoes meant that much to you, I would have bought some…”
And Ana’s, which previously mentioned brother caught on tape promptly breaking down and yelling “I DON’T WANT TO SHARE MY TOYYYYSSSSS!” when my Mom explained to her she was going to be a big sister.
Great start, right?
So everyone in the room assured her she wouldn’t have to share if she didn’t want to and kept the storm at bay. Let me mention now what I believe has made the biggest impact on her acceptance though: no one forced her to accept it. We had 9 months ahead of us to let her process this enormous news.
You see, up until a little less than a year ago and a little while before we moved back to GR, we lived with family because we were pretty damn poor, whether it was during the welding years or barber school years. During all those times, we lived with older kids. All the kids feel like Ana’s older siblings, whether it was her cousins, my siblings, or her great aunts. So in a way, she was used to having “siblings” and she had a ton of people she could emulate. When she asked one of her “what if sister did this” questions, we could point back to a past experience she had and how her make-shift-sibling handled it. So life kind of prepared her in a way I couldn’t have even begun to teach her.
Ana also has a super ‘fact-y’ personality. She loves learning new facts about pretty much anything and it boosts her confidence about subjects. So when I downloaded The Bump and the Babycenter apps, we read off how big baby was each week, the new developments, and we answered her questions about baby. We also took her to almost every OBGYN appointment, except for 2. She was there when she found out she was getting a sister (her response was “oh noooo,”) heard sisters heartbeat every appointment, and learned about what was happening to my body and why. She was there for my glucose test and took great joy in telling me how much of my blood they were taking, and she was there the last appointment when they told me it was time to go to the hospital. We let her be a major part of the entire pregnancy and it made her feel prepared.
That’s about all we did really. We let her be upset when she wanted to be, we assured her almost everything would remain the same minus having to share us, and we waited. During the pregnancy, Ana was never like, “OMG, I CANT WAIT FOR BABY!” She acknowledged it was going to happen inevitably, but that was about it. She had fun picking out baby stuff, but when you asked her if she was excited for sister to get here, she pretended as if you never said anything.
When Chris’ sister brought Ana to meet Eleni for the first time, she held her in my lap and pointed out how small all her features were, and that was it. She was ready to go. She wasn’t mushy gooshy and “oh how cute,” she saw her and was ready to go to her godmothers house and have fun. You bet your ass I was a little concerned inside. I should have assumed this was going to be her reaction based off her attitude towards pregnancy, but I was still a little freaked out she didn’t seem too attached to her sister. But I let it go and hoped for the best.
Chris has been taking her out and about with him as he went after we got home and being a Dada’s girl, she couldn’t be happier. She occasionally wanted to hold Eleni and towards the end of our first week as a family of four, she told her sister she loved her. It was hit or miss on if she would agree to help with Eleni, like grabbing a diaper when we realized they were all upstairs mid diaper change or giving sister her pacifier in the car seat, and she started with small, obnoxious behavior, like climbing on people and generally invading people’s personal space.
We’re currently a couple days shy of 3 weeks as a group of four. Chris has been back to work for about two weeks and it’s just been the three of us. Ana just got her flu shot the other day and right after the shot, while still crying, she asked to hold sister before we got off the table and left. She held her for 30 seconds and said, “Okay, take her back,” and was ready to go. She still tells people Eleni is her brother and his name is Boom-Boom, but she will also lay on the floor with her during tummy time and talks to her and hugs her constantly.
Having a second child is hard.
We’ve relied HEAVILY on screen time during this adjustment period, I feel like a shit mom because I don’t spend the same time with her as I did before, and a little because she doesn’t seem to mind this kind of alone-time. I constantly wonder if she feels left out (when I asked if she felt left out she told me she felt like there was TOO MUCH love…) and when I snap at her for acting out the instant chastising of myself for not being more understanding while she’s figuring out this change too, is unreal.
But we’re getting there. Sure some days I just feel like crying because as a high-functioning perfectionist it’s very difficult for me to accept that things aren’t getting done like I feel they should, but we’re getting there nonetheless. It’s not always pretty (my make-up bag has collected dust, along with anything other than my jogger or pajama pants) and it’s hard, but I try to remember that one day, these will be the good old days. So we just breathe and watch fish documentaries and give sister boob milk.
Oh, and soccer is fun.
Ana seems to enjoy the challenge. It’s also kind of funny to watch her coaches face whenever she talks about “kick ball,” which is what she has branded soccer despite many attempts to correct her. We also will have to undo some of the sharing we taught her trying to be decent parents so she’ll actually try and kick the ball away from the other kids though…
(I’ll do periodic posts about our adjustments over time, too.)