Odds are on Lily, since she’s the bigger of the two. She has already kicked, slapped, pinched, stepped on, squeezed and generally ruffled her baby sister. She does these things with a smile on her face, as though it’s funny to hurt the baby. She hurts me on occasion too, but Anya really seems to be her focus these days. Every once in a while Anya will randomly swing a limb and land one on Lily and, as a little sister myself, I’ll silently cheer the happy accident. I like to think that she’s already learning to fight back.
But then I start to worry. What if these little episodes of aggression advance? What if she really hurts her sister? Then I read this article: "And the Dragon Shall Lie Down with the Lion": A mother and son's dance when the new baby arrives and it rang very true. It reinforced what I had been suspecting all along: Lily is struggling with dual emotions. She is simultaneously infatuated and infuriated with this new draw on our attention. And for a toddler, having two very conflicting emotions at the same time can be downright confusing. How can she be loving and jealous all in the same breath? It’s advanced stuff; even I’ve been less than graceful when faced with this kind of emotional conflict and I’m supposed to be a mature adult.
We’ve been reading Siblings Without Rivalry and it’s twin, How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk, both by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish and have been thrilled with what they have to offer. But Lily is only two and while her language skills are growing everyday, some of the methods just don’t translate yet. I can’t quite get her to understand that conflicting emotions are OK. I can’t tell her what to do instead of hurting the baby, at least not in a way that she has been able to fully comprehend and latch on to. I’m trying. I’m also remembering that when a toddler lashes out, they are not trying to be bad. They are telling you that they need your focus, right now. But this can be so challenging as the mother of a new baby as well.
I am trying to be everything my children need me to be and trying to remember that the focus of that sentence is “need” not “want.” I am trying to give them the tools to do for themselves as well as know that I will be there for whatever they need. Anya’s needs are so immediate: milk, new diaper, to be held, etc. But Lily’s needs are becoming so dynamic; it’s hard to know where to focus.
Today, Lily is hanging out with Grandma as so I am taking some time (while Anya sleeps) to just examine my own needs. Because I needn’t forget that I have those too. After all, the saying goes, “If mama’s not happy, then nobody’s happy!” I think I will bake a cake… pregnancy weight be damned.
While it bakes, tell me how you help your single child transition into being a sibling. I could really use some encouragement… and some tips on emergency room decorum, ‘cause we could be hanging out there any day now.