When I fell pregnant with my second, I was so scared that there would be jealousy between Xeresh (my eldest) and Xavier (my youngest).
I’ve heard and witnessed it so many times and that was not what I wanted for them, as siblings. I wanted to see them love one another, care for one another, play together, laugh together, cry together (though they have been crying in unison, its not the type of crying I was hoping for😆) and comfort each other.
For a long time it was all I thought about. How was I going to cultivate affection and not rivalry? I started reading up, as usual. I read every article I could get my hands on. I started working on a game plan, because, I felt, that if I didn’t have, at least, an outline, I was bound to make costly mistakes.
These are the things we put in place and I hope they might help some moms who are adding another sibling to the mix. It might not work for all family dynamics, but it worked like a charm in ours.
I made Xeresh a part of everything from the very beginning. We talked about Xavier all the time and how much fun it was going to be to have another little person joining the family. I let her touch and kiss and squish my belly as much as she wanted. If she wanted to lift up my shirt to see her brother, I let her do it…many times to my embarrassment (but kids and embarrassment, often times, go hand in hand, so that was nothing new).
We also taught her to be quiet and talk softly from the moment we found out I was pregnant. We told stories in whispers, we sang songs as softly as we could and before long she grasped the concept. This was so that I never had to scold her for being too loud when the baby came (we all know the desperation moms get when all we want is a little quiet, so that the newborn can sleep, even if it is just for an hour).
When Xavier was born we involved her immediately.
I let her help getting the baby room ready. She helped setting up the dresser, pack out the bath products fold the clothes (although that turned into double the work, as a 1 and a half year old is more of a ‘piler’ than a ‘folder’). She went shopping with me and I let her choose some gifts for Xavier. We also made a big deal of her moving to her ‘big girl’ room. We turned it into her special place, so that she also felt like she had a beautiful place that was just hers.
When Xavier was born we involved her immediately. We let her touch him, kiss him hug hime and hold him (before any one jumps on the ‘germ wagon’ let me just add, that sanitizing hands became second nature). We always did it under supervision, of course, but I never stopped her and reprimanded her for touching Xavier a little harder, than we would’ve allowed with her. I knew then that babies were tough and he also didn’t seem to mind the hugs and squishes. She helped with all the routine things, even if it took twice as long, I knew I had to be patient so that she felt included.
The most difficult thing to manage was consistency. She didn’t understand the concept of Xavier pulling her hair, because he didn’t know that it was hurting her. If she hurt Xavier and we reprimanded her we had to do the same with Xavier. So every time he did something that hurt her we had to ‘discipline’ him, saying: “Xavi, we don’t hurt each other, that is not nice. We love each other”. For her to witness this made her feel safe, because she saw us practicing fairness.
We make them apologize even if they don’t feel like it and then we let them hug it out. Even more important than apologizing we make the other one say; “I forgive you”. This teaches them to make peace. We also made it clear that nothing is a competition. If the one finished all their veggies and the other doesn’t, we compliment the one, but we don’t discredit the other. We try our utmost best to never say the words; “look, they ate all their vegetables, they are so obedient. Why aren’t you eating yours?”. Not playing them off against each other, makes it very hard for rivalry to take root.
This is a mouthful, but these things cultivated such a beautiful relationship between the 2 of them. Yes, they still fight, but at the heart of their relationship there is only love.