It's not just us
The responses to my post showed me that it wasn't all so unusual. I talked to a lot of people and suddenly realized that many many children reacted the way Leander did when a sibling was born. I wondered why nobody ever talked about it. I mean you read about a little bit of jealousy and that it's important to know what is going on in the firstborn's mind (e.g. the second wife). But nobody seems to mention HOW bad it can get. Until you write a post about it yourself.
Nevertheless that last weekend was mad. Maybe because we now knew it was all normal and we had to sit it out. Maybe because we were so trapped in a bad downward spiral and didn't see the surface anymore. But whatever it was - it changed. Somehow.
Time for myself
On Tuesday I had a day to myself. After the boys left the house in the morning it was just me and Mona as usual. But in the afternoon I had a meeting with our future neighbours from our housing project. And I was very happy to be back talking about ANYTHING else but parenting, siblings, explosions or any child-related topics. I couldn't stay for the whole meeting but I was out till the evening so when I got home I felt refreshed and a little bit more me and myself again.
This "day off" also helped to get a new perspective. Finally I was able to step out of this downward spiral and go back to life without the attitude of it all being so crap anyway and us having to wait until things would change eventually. I had found new energy and hope that WE could change things actively.
On Wednesday I was standing in the sunshine reading "Siblings without Rivalry" while waiting for a friend. I was still a bit refreshed and awake when I read what may have changed EVERYTHING. Maybe not everything but a major part of it.
Very early in the book they talk about how we get so focused on what our children do (to each other) and say and how we can stop that. And then they mention what could happen if we would see what our children's actions and words are actually trying to tell us. And then I saw it too.
We had been so careful with Leander ever since he was born. We allowed all sorts of emotions and feelings, acknowledged them and helped him through tough situations by simply being there for him and with him. But now - during one of the worst struggles in his life - we didn't see it. All we did was focus on stopping the yelling and screaming and hitting and spluttering. As soon as he yelled at his sister we asked him to stop. Then he yelled at us. We yelled back. He snorted and spluttered at us. We exploded. Over and over again. And now - was it the sunshine, was it me having had a "day off" I don't know - I saw it. The yelling. The spluttering. That was his language. That was all he could find to let us know how unhappy, how sad, scared and desperate he was. And we didn't listen. We just told him to stop. Hold back his feelings. The feelings that were bad and abandoned.
In this moment I may have dropped a few stones and hovered a few inches above the ground. This was it. If I could allow the yelling maybe I could get through to him. All I had to do was give him words instead. And this was when the next penny dropped.
We didn't even have the right words for what he was feeling or what we were feeling. Sad. Mad. Desperate. Alone. Hopeless. Scared. All we ever said was "You are angry, right?" over and over again.
Angry. Angry. That wasn't just it. There was much more. But he didn't know how to say.
What we had to do was see the situation itself. "You are sad because I have to nurse Mona again. You wanted me to play with you now." He needed to be seen. In Detail not in general.
I was so relieved that I was looking forward to the afternoon with him again instead of having stomach aches by the thought of a few hours with both kids alone. And what can I say - it was great. All afternoon I was ready for the yelling and screaming. But it didn't come. Ok there was the occasional very loud "MONAAA!" he shouts at her every now and then - but I just let this happen. We got home and all went smooth. When he got a little upset because I had to nurse her again after I had just done it half an hour ago and he thought I was done with her I told him "You are upset. You don't want me to be with her again." He nodded, went away and played with his cars. It was almost spooky.
It has been like that ever since. The rest of the week and this weekend was almost quiet. When he yelled at his sister I checked her reaction first. I didn't stop him right away. So he didn't have to yell at me. I didn't have to yell at him. He didn't have to splutter. I didn't have to explode.
Go with the flow
When it comes to sleeping we don't argue or discuss with Leander. If he needs us at night he gets us. At the moment it's my husband who moves in with Leander when he calls at night. The bed is big enough and cosy. We went through times when he called EVERY night. And we just let it happen. Because we learned that if we don't argue with him and don't make a big deal all goes back to normal in no time.
Why we don't do that when it comes to playing I don't know. I got so focused on him playing by himself and how important that is that I forgot to simply drop the laundry and sit down with him. So this is what I do more and more often now. And this leads to him playing. Even alone for a little bit. I think this is all I can do right now. No more battles. No more discussions. Just going with the flow. If we try to "work" on too many construction sites at once we might end up forgetting what really is important.
In order to have an appointment with our family counsellor we wanted to talk to his teachers in kindergarden first. We haven't had a proper talk yet but a quick chat in the morning was quite surprising to us. Apparently Leander is doing fine and laughs and jokes with the other children. He has not changed since the arrival of his sister. But most importantly - he plays. He works with the material there and can concentrate for long periods of time. So it is "just" us. And the kindergarden is his safe place right now. Where he might enjoy the daily routine. Knows how things are and that nothing will change that rapidly again.
And that was all I needed to know for now.
Well - he still does not like his sister very much. He still gets upset when I am with her more than he wants me to. But that's ok. That's what I expected and what I can handle.
And I am sure there will be more tough days to come. Especially with a week of bad weather and a closed kindergarden ahead. Because what hasn't changed is that he follows me around the house EVERYWHERE. That he needs me ALL THE TIME. And that he can't play for long on his own. So we'll see. On the other hand - who knows what this week will bring? Maybe it's a good thing having him at home for a few days. Until the grandparents come. Easter. And his birthday. And spring.