Thursday, January 31, 2013
I can't say it has been an easy walk for him. But we never expected that.
Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish mention in her book "Siblings Without Rivalry" one situation:
"Imagine that your spouse puts an arm around you and says, "Honey, I love you so much, and you're so wonderful that I've decided to have another wife just like you."
At first I thought this might be a little exaggerated. But the more I thought about it and the more I watched Leander being referred to as the "big boy" or "big brother" even before the baby was born so often I realized - this is exactly how he must feel!
As soon as it is clear that your bump is surely not just too much chocolate and ice cream but in fact a growing baby belly people ask you about you're well being, the due date and the sex of the baby. And if Leander was around people almost always turned to him and said: "So you're gonna be a big brother! How exciting!"
He usually just looked at them slowly reaching for his thumb to put in his mouth.
And so it begins. Mom is the center of attention and everyone keeps talking about "the baby". Until one day you come home from kindergarden and there it is. The baby. The "little sister" called Mona. And before you can grasp it, before you get to realize what this tiny little bundle comes with it all goes on.
"So you're a big brother now!"
"How do you like your little sister?"
"Are you excited?"
"What's her name?"
"You need to be really careful around her!"
And they all say that with a glance of joy and excitement in their eyes. Only Leander was not so excited. So joyful. So happy.
He did smile when he saw her. He wanted to hold her, hug her, kiss her. He was very very gentle. And although it was so adorable to watch I found it really important not to get too excited. I wanted it to be normal and natural. And not something we had to act all surprised to. I didn't want him to feel as if I did not trust him to be like that.
And I also knew he needed time. And he didn't know yet what this all meant for him in the long term. That Mama would be cuddled up with the little sister for many hours of the day feeding her. That whenever Mona would wake up Mama would have to "leave" - may that be during play, meal times or bed time rituals. That this apparently fun little sister wasn't so much fun yet. Basically just lying there sleeping or eating being all cute and adored by the whole family and everyone who came to visit.
And so slowly you could watch Leander become a little less interested in his sister. And not excited by people referring to him as the big brother.
It was just all too normal that he fought. That he "acted out" and asked for every bit of attention he could get. Using all sorts of strategies he knew would get our focus. And while I was tired and lacking patience it made me so sad seeing him like that. Because the thought of my husband coming home with another beautiful and adorable woman, preferably a few years younger, maybe funnier just makes me want to shout and scream and throw things too.
And again I was thankful to be prepared. To not say things like "You are a big boy now you have to be ..." (choose one from the list of responsible, reasonable, quiet, careful, loving etc...) or something like that. Because these are the sentences we know from our own childhood, from relatives and our own parents. Sentences we say quite often without even thinking about. And I am not blaming the grandparents who came to visit and say them all. Let's say I am just glad to have quickly erased them after they have left and filled the blanks with a hug, a cuddle or a "This is all very new and confusing for you I guess?" that was usually answered with a quiet thumb sucking nod.
So together I think we made it through the first struggles quite ok. We are still trying to find a routine so that everyone gets his piece of the Mama/wife cake. But with little Mona growing and finding a rhythm we will get there. And one day Leander will be the proud big brother. Until then he is and stays my little boy.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
The first times I got really mad was when wooden toys like cars, trains or blocks hit me. I would shout or yell, run off in order not to hit him. Then it drove me mad that he threw things on the floor. For one thing I am very sensitive to such loud noises. The other thing is that I would love to get as much of our deposit as possible back when we move out. And at some point I went mad already when he just lifted things up in the air. And he knew. He knew that was all he needed to do and I would become serious and drop everything I was doing in that very moment.
When we still went to the playgroup I was very nervous because he almost hit other kids with wooden objects when throwing things there. My fear and also anger would accompany us both and only now while I write this down I actually understand how much this was between us. In the air. I sent out those signals and he responded accordingly. As he does. With everything.
In the parent consultation group that was part of that playgroup I raised the topic and we made a little role play out of it. And when I played myself and another woman played Leander I had to laugh a lot. I behaved like a clown jumping up and down trying to stop him from throwing objects. It was all about stopping the throwing. For good.
So in order to stop me from behaving like a clown and him from even having a chance to throw I would take large or wooden objects away. I would offer lots of soft balls or chestnuts, corks or baskets. All stuff I was capable of watching fly through the living room. And there were times when it was better and I said to my husband: "I think the throwing has stopped."
Well - guess what: it hasn't. Over Christmas when we spent a lot of time together and some of it indoors due to some illnesses keeping us down we experienced some more of our little olympic athlete in discus throwing. And a little more of me going up the walls.
Yesterday it all had its peak when I suddenly took him, went to his room, sat him on the floor, left and went to the living room not very gently closing the doors in behind me. I heard him cry. I took three deep breaths and went back in. I hugged him and told him what had happened. And when AGAIN I tried to convince him to just stop the throwing I couldn't even listen to myself anymore. Because it wasn't just the throwing. And it wasn't just him. It was us. Mainly me. And a lot more.
One thing I tend to do when he throws things at me is either try and catch it or pick it up quickly and (here it comes): madly smash it on a wall or door or anywhere to get rid of the first anger that hits me. If I am still mad as hell I leave the room banging the doors (they must be in good shape cos none of them broke so far) and calming myself down while he either cries or silently waits for me to come back. And while I realized that the answer to throwing isn't necessarily throwing I tried hard to restrain myself from it. Resulting in even harder door banging. Or yelling even louder.
But yesterday another thing occurred to me: The way we behave in our house with objects. When I tidy up I don't just carry things to the place they belong. I might throw some books on the sofa to clean up from there later. I throw the dirty clothes around everywhere in the bathroom or bedroom to collect before I put them in the washing. Our shoes lie around everywhere in the entrance. I throw scarfs and hats up onto the hat rack. I might gently chuck the cheese from the fridge onto the table. You know not the heavy throwing but I don't always put things down gently and quiet. Especially when I am having a bad day or when I am in a hurry. I know what I can handle how and I know what books I want to be careful with and which I am about to bring to the second hand shop. Stuff like that.
Well - we are role models here aren't we? When Leander gets (un)dressed his jumper, his jacket, his trousers - they all fly. In the evening I don't care cos I might just pick it up on my way out of his room to take it to the bathroom. In the mornings it drives me mad. And these are the objects that fly that won't hit or hurt me. But what about his cars. His trains and tracks. His building blocks. His books. Or our stuff. How is he supposed to know what is ok to gently be thrown and what not? It's like trying to teach him that when no car is approaching he can cross the street although the lights are red. It's not possible. And not safe.
Today when he threw books around I remembered what I had learned in the Montessori course I did: That we want to give our children materials that are of nice quality and shape. To show them how much we worship them by letting them use real cups, glasses, ceramic bowls and stuff instead of just cheap plastics. But they also should learn that these things are somewhat worthy. And that we should be gentle with everything around us. May that be books, our clothes, plants, animals or humans.
So everything I am lifting and shifting, everything I am touching I am trying to be gentle with now. I always admired those people who have this silent aura. Who move quietly, talk slowly and silently and have this calm self. It all goes hand in hand doesn't it? And with my actual really crazy spleen of hating loud noises (having someone eating an apple next to me drives me nuts) I should have gotten there a long time ago shouldn't I? Well. Better now than never is my hope.
But after yesterday I wasn't relieved and happy with those thoughts. Leander was well upset all evening and when we were reading a book about the little mole and the mouse in it crying cos her house was broken he said to me: "I am sad too." And when I asked if it was because of me being so angry and loud he quietly nodded along.
In the evening when my husband went to sleep and I couldn't due to some kicking baby in my belly I read two of Janet Lansbury's wonderful posts on toddler behavior.
- "No bad kids - Toddler Discipline without shame (9 guidelines)"
- "No angry kids - fostering emotional literacy in our children"
Because I know it's not just about the throwing. It's way more. It's tiredness. A call for attention. Frustration. Overstimulation. A wake up call for me. You name it. And as long as I don't find a way to control my own response to it I can offer him more soft toys that are safe to fly. But the actual problem will not be solved. And hoping that it might lead to a career in discus throwing might be a tad too early I guess. (Despite the fact that it isn't really funny, I know).
Thursday, January 3, 2013
The countdown says it's only 18 days to go until the due date of the little baby sister. So basically it could happen any time. And I'm torn. Torn between being excited and happy to walk this journey altogether again but also being sad and terrified of having to split my time and energy between two children. I have no doubt that I will be able to love them both as much as possible. I don't fear loving Leander less than I do now or being able to feel for his sister any different. But what about those 24 hours a day has. Not a second more, no matter how much I wish for it to be possible.
I'm also torn between wanting another 6 months of pregnancy just to be alone with Leander and his little sister to arrive RIGHT NOW so this whole walrus-life finally comes to an end. I'm not that big and round. But I feel big and round. I move slowly. I need a toilet around every corner. I can't hop up and down on the bed. I can't chase him around anymore. I can't drive his cars and trucks around the living room without aching and puffing. I can't join the boys to go to the swimming pool or spa. And I have my moments. When all of this occurs to me and I want to scream and be fun mommy again. When I want to jump into puddles with him because I used to loooove this as a kid AND as an adult too. I want to stand in front of every sparkly shop window and look at the bright and shiny Christmas decoration with him without needing a toilet or having the feeling of the baby falling out any second. I want to go to the parks and forests around Vienna to be closer to nature than just in the dusty grey city but portable toilets for the pocket have not been invented yet. I don't want to hold and protect my belly when lying next to Leander on the sofa.
But the worst part is - how do I tell him? I don't want to mention the baby all the time. So I'm tired. I was ill - ok that was reasonable. I'm exhausted. And yes - sometimes I just DO have a baby belly that stops me from doing things. And now Leander is saying things like:
"Mama - no toilet no???"
"Mama - not tired no???"
"Mama - where are you???" while I'm sitting right next to him.
So - where am I?
I'm in a place of letting go. I have watched the two boys here bond even closer over the past few months. Fun Daddy who takes him out when it's too much. Who goes swimming with him and who picks him up when he is too tired to walk the stairs to the top floor. I am happy for them but I feel left out at times. I feel like losing my little boy although I know this is not true. But when will I be back?
The baby is coming soon. She will need me. A lot. If all goes well I will be her main food supply during the first 6 months. I will spend the mornings with her and the afternoons with her and Leander. If I am lucky I get to spend some time in the evening with Leander. When he is tired and exhausted from his day. And I will be tired and exhausted too, let's face it.
Jesper Juul, a wonderful Danish educator, said that it is important for the first born to have lots of quality time with his dad. Because both are missing those moments with the most important woman in their life. They are sharing something common. So yes - they are lucky to have each other. But it is tough for me to watch that and not being able to do much about it. To let go. For a while at least.
But somehow I hope it will work out. And that despite of less sleep, my baby brain and the challenge of being calm and respectful to two children and a husband I will be fun mommy again. Soon.
Any experiences and advices are highly appreciated. Thank you!