Any kid will tell you that having a new baby around the house is not always a plate full of cookies. Big brothers and sisters can think of some pretty good ways of letting us know that they do not approve of a new baby or the parents who delivered her.
As parents, we can do our best to reduce sibling rivalry with sibling preparation classes, books about having a new baby, and time spent listening to an older child's feelings. But sometimes it just doesn't sweeten the vinegar.
One friend told me that when her husband's baby brother arrived years ago, he calmly wrapped the baby in blankets, set the bundle in his little red wagon, and carted it up the street to his friend's house. When he rang the doorbell and his friend answered, he gave his pitch like he'd been selling door-to-door all his life, "Wouldn't you like a baby brother? He's right here and ready to go!"
Another friend, now the mother of three, said that when her eight-year-old was told that they were going to have another baby "he burst into tears and was so mad at us that he didn't speak to us for a whole day. He was angry the entire pregnancy and often said things like, ‘I wish the baby would go away' or demanded, ‘You don't have to have a baby, so why are you?!'"
In my own family, our third baby became another weapon in the on-going rivalry between our two oldest. One day I came into the living room and heard my five-year-old singing into the baby's ear in the sweetest little lullabye voice, "Ree-memm-mber, I am the niiiiice brother. Your other broooo-ther is soo meeeean."
I really shouldn't have been surprised. My new "middle child" was looking for a way to gain some power and control in situation that had changed without his consent. His baby brother was the perfect ally to enlist in the fight against a big brother who could always run faster and answer quicker"”who always seemed more powerful.
And that's what it comes down to "” kids like to feel power and control just like we do. Which is why sibling classes, books about life with a baby, and listening to our children's feelings really do help. They are simple ways to give older children a toe-hold in family planning. If a big sister knows she can make a difference by picking out the baby's first outfit or by singing to the baby (appropriate words only, of course), she can feel a sense of control over a situation that otherwise seems decidedly unappetizing. It still might not be a plate full of cookies, but at least it won't feel like drinking a glass full of lemon juice.
Winona Public Library Children's Department"”good selection of children's books about a new baby in the family
Lewiston, St. Charles, Winona Early Childhood Family Education"”lending library and parenting classes with parent-child activity time for families with children birth to age five.
Baby Connections "” visits with a Baby Connector to talk about any issues parents are concerned about when they have a new baby.