Thursday, January 31, 2013


Last night I told Leander that today I will come to pick him up from the kindergarden with his Dad. Since I've given birth I was rather resting at home and Jan had done the kindergarden round. From next week on this will be my job again so today is gonna be a first trial. Leander seemed happy and when he told me: "Mama picking up. Papa picking up. Mona picking up." although I hadn't mentioned her before I realized that he has now accepted his sister as part of the family.

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.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this experience. This is the most clear and understanding writing I have ever seen about this experience and I thank you again for writing it. Often adults say so many things without thinking. The guilt that often comes for the older sibling before the baby even arrives from the messages we convey about how great it will be to have a new baby in the family and how they must look after this precious baby etc.
    Thank you again!

    1. Hi Katherine,
      thanks for stopping by and reading!
      I guess this is one of the biggest challenges in parenting - to overcome what we have experienced ourselves and to honestly question what we have learned is right or the way to go (or the right thing to say). It might also be a bit of an effort but well worth it if you ask me.
      Glad you enjoyed what you read and thanks again for commenting!

  2. Dear Nadine,

    I am also grateful to you for writing your experience of the arrival of a sibling. It is so touching to hear your sensitivity to Leander's perspective. We so often overlook the older siblings feelings at this exciting and yet challenging time in families. I particularly like this sentence in your writing:

    "This is all very new and confusing for you I guess?" that was usually answered with a quiet thumb sucking nod."

    It is an acknowledgement of how Leander might be feeling and he can feel he is heard and understood without any expectations. We can't change the situation for Leander, however, we can let him know we support him and he's allowed to have his feelings.

    I know a lot of parents who contact me with sibling concerns will greatly appreciate your experience and I will share it with them.