When I was pregnant with our third child, my children, who were about to become the older siblings, were 6 and 4. They were old enough to wonder how things would change when they had a baby brother or sister. When they asked my husband what it would be like, he told them, “It will be different. Sometimes it will be harder, but it will always be better.”
My husband was right. Here’s what it’s meant to my kids and to me.
Routines changed. For example, once the children outnumbered the parents, one child always had to wait while the other two were being tucked into bed. Some families do group book reading, but our children have been firm that they each want individual attention at bedtime.
I went back to having a child in diapers. I had adjusted to life with potty-trained kids. Once again, I had to manage diapers on outings and road trips. It was easier to get everyone ready for outings this time around, though since the older kids could dress themselves, and I’d been through it before.
Maybe because of their ages, the older siblings in our family didn’t have so much trouble with jealousy. As older kids, they understood that the baby needed a lot of energy and attention. They also didn’t seem worried about the presents our youngest got. To be on the safe side, my clever husband gave each older child a gift that was officially from the new baby.
A bigger challenge for us has been managing illnesses. When all three kids have been sick at the same time, there has been a lot of running back and forth. Planning playdates has been near-impossible during cold and flu season because it seems like one of the three is always sick. Sometimes I’ve felt ridiculous having to cancel playdates several times in a row.
As our son began to crawl and then walk, we had to worry about him getting to his older siblings’ toys, some of which were fragile or dangerous to a toddler. We created different zones in our house, so the older kids knew where they could have their toys and where was fair game for the toddler. Even with our youngest at age five, we still call one part of the living room “the safe area.”
I went from multiple kid-free breaks a week (when the older kids were at school) to none. I worried a lot about that. The time to walk, read, and write had recharged me.
For the older siblings, there was someone new to teach. We’d seen that before when my daughter was born and my oldest was two. He’d watched a tv show called Jakers! The Adventures of Piggly Winks. In one episode, Piggly discovered that he liked teaching his little sister. We talked about that with my oldest son Ken, and it must have stuck. A few days after we brought my daughter Bonny home from the hospital, Ken walked up to her, stuck out his thumb, and said, “Bonny, this is a thumb.” Important knowledge to pass on.
Here’s the best part: we’ve all had someone else to love. I noticed a decrease in squabbling when my youngest was born, and I think it was because Ken and Bonny turned part of their focus away from bugging each other and toward loving this tiny little person.
I have had fewer kid-free breaks, but I’ve also had lots of special time with our youngest, time he doesn’t get when his brother and sister are home. I’ve taken breaks on Saturday afternoons, and during the summers I’ve hired a babysitter. Next year my youngest starts kindergarten, so I’ll be back to more breaks. (At least when all three kids are healthy.)
4. Different, Harder, Better
Our lives have been different with the arrival of each child. Sometimes they’ve been harder. But they have always, always been better.
How have you prepared your children (and yourself) for the arrival of a new baby?