When I found out I was expecting my second child much sooner than my husband and I had planned, I was thrilled. But when I looked at my firstborn, I became nervous and totally guilt stricken. She was a baby herself, only 8 months old. Was she ready to share her life with a little sister? How could I help her with this transition? I had to plan.
I read books and blogs about introducing a new baby. I bought her a fancy outfit to meet her new sibling in, and told her all about the new baby in my belly that she would get to help take care of and play with. I told her, “Big sisters are very important, and get to help with all sorts of special jobs!”. She just drooled, and stared at me with those big blue eyes.
At first, making them into best friends seemed easy. My oldest wanted to snuggle and kiss her newborn sister all the time, and we had many blissful naps in my big bed. But their ‘sistermoon’ began to fade, and hugs and kisses that started sweetly, turned into headlocks and screaming matches.
My oldest started daily battles over toys she had long forgotten about, as soon as her new sister touched them. She didn’t want to share – her toys, her parents, period. I tried everything. There is simply no good way to prepare a toddler to share. They have to learn by doing, and that can be painful. The more I tried to referee, the angrier she got at her sister, and the more I coddled the little one, the harder she cried. Despite all my good intentions, I had become part of the problem.
So I stepped back, and let them fight a little. They wrestle over the push car that they both love, or the cheese cracker from yesterdays snack that someone found under the table. I try to mind my own business, and let them be sisters. It’s not pretty sometimes. The majority of the time, after some screaming and scrunched up faces, they end up sharing. They are being themselves, and they are learning to live together.
Once in a while, when the planets align, I find them quietly playing together – or making each other laugh. In those moments, I’m sure they really do love each other, just like I planned.