If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that we’ve been going through some changes lately. It began with my mom’s move to our home as a permanent member of our household. Then it was our move to a larger space to accommodate our growing family. And finally, this baby that has been in my belly for the past nine months will eventually join us in a couple of weeks. All of these changes are hard enough on adults, but for a 2.5-year-old?
Once easy-going and good-natured, Little Miss became a little terror for awhile, especially around my mom. When interacting with her paati (grandma), the first word that usually spilled out of her mouth was “No!” She was rude and obnoxious, and very unlike the friendly, charming little girl she usually was around our friends that we hardly knew how to curtail her defiance.
Then it dawned on us that she was mostly that way when we were around too, so we began to carve out more alone time for my mom and Little Miss. After a week of spring break from her preschool at home with paati, she was back to being herself again. At least her normal toddler self with the more predictable tantrums and misbehaviors. Now they actually have conversations that make me smile. What a relief!
At the time around the move, Little Miss also experienced more night wakings and had difficulty falling asleep. That too stabilized after our house of boxes became more a home, although she continued to be a little more clingy than usual around bedtime whereas she used to kick us out of her bedroom after the last bedtime story. I complained about her not being a snuggly kid before, and now that she doesn’t want me to leave her side, I complain about that too. Happy medium in parenting is apparently a myth.
As for the last big change, we are careful not to mention her baby sister’s arrival in any way that would threaten her place with us. We usually try to incorporate positive statements that would prepare Little Miss for Thumper and so far, I think it’s been working rather well. She talks about Thumper all the time and even tells strangers about her with a twinkle in her eye. At restaurants, she points at an empty seat at our table and gleefully announces to the servers, “Baby Thumper is going to sit right there!”
But just like her reaction with my mom and the move, where it was great one day and appalling the next, I wonder what she would do when Thumper arrives. She likes to touch my belly and feel the baby moving, asking if her sister needs milk. I marvel at how, even at this age, she is able to grasp the concept of a growing baby in the belly. Then she moves my hand to her belly and asks me to feel Thumper kicking her too. Perhaps I’m wrong.
Of all the out-of-character behaviors, the one that mystifies me most is the way she addresses me. Little Miss has been calling me Mommy for over a year now and suddenly, she has reverted back to calling me Mama - in a baby voice, nonetheless. When once she would proudly declare herself a big girl, she has now taken to correcting us, “No, I’m not a big girl, I’m a baby!” Is this regression? Is this her way of coping with the general stress of all the changes or is this purely Thumper related? I don’t know.
I can’t blame her for reacting badly to the new baby’s impending arrival, but her conscious and subconscious reactions are so radically different sometimes that it puzzles me. No matter how careful we’ve been around her, a toddler losing her place at the center of everyone’s attention will be hard on her. As we transition into the new family dynamic, we can try to prepare her with books, gifts and sweet psychologist-approved words, but in the end, we can only hope that she has the fortitude to weather another change with which we have unwittingly burdened her.
She has surprised us at many turns so far by hitting her milestones with flying colors and eventually accepting the changes that have upset the equilibrium of her life. She probably will surprise us again, only this time I wonder if it’ll be the good kind.
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What have you done as a parent to prepare your child(ren) for their new sibling’s arrival? How has your firstborn reacted to Number 2? What did you do to help your child(ren) cope with the baby in the house? Any and all tips welcome. Please!