I have pretty high expectations for how I'd like my own kids to love, play, and fight with each other...and anyone who knows our family gets that because it's obvious that my parents knew what was up when it came to raising siblings that got along. There were things that I remember growing up that my parents did that taught us about loving and taking care of our sisters. Like when we fought with each other, my mom always made us hug each other afterwards - which at the time was the absolute last possible thing we wanted to do, but once we hugged it became us vs. mom as we couldn't believe she would make us hug when we were so annoyed with each other; setting us back on a common ground. I also remember throughout growing up hearing many times that "your sisters will always be there for you. Your friends will come and go, but you will always have your sisters."
|how many amazing early-90's fashion cliches are represented here?! so fantastic.|
Whatever other things they did or said while we were growing up, worked wonders because my sisters and I still have a relationship that makes other people ask us, "don't you guys ever fight?" Which the answer to that is, yes - of course we fight occasionally, but we also know that we will never have a closer friend than each other, so we get over it pretty quick and get back to laughing and finishing each others' sentences.
And now I want the same kind of relationship for our own kids. I want them to feel like they have built-in best friends that you play with, and fight with but at the end of the day you love and laugh with. I want them to feel like they are part of our family as a whole and also that sometimes it is them (kids) versus us (parents). I want them to keep secrets from us and to stand up for each other and to simultaneously roll their eyes at us and look out for each other when Brandon and I can't be there. And since a lot of these things can't really happen until they're more grown - we're doing everything we can to make sure that they know they're friends AND family right from the start.
Just like we've taught our son to drink from a cup and put his clothes in the laundry hamper, we want to also teach him how we play with and take care of his sister (as in how our family plays with and takes care of each other). Mostly we're just making sure they spend time together during the day, but more specifically, here are some of the ways we are trying to foster this feeling of sibling friendship and love. [For reference, this is what we're doing as Greyson is almost 2 years old and Gemma is a newborn.]
1. Playtime: We encourage Greyson to include his baby sister while he plays. I read books with both kids in my lap while Gemma is awake after she eats. Grey even "reads" books to her (and the dogs). We ask Greyson to show Gemma how her toys work (like rattles and blocks). When Gemma is "too little" to do something Grey is doing (like playing basketball or coloring), we let Gemma "watch" how Greyson does it so when she gets bigger they can play together. We also invite Greyson to join in on Gemma's playtime/waketime; which right now consists of him watching her look around saying, "Whatya doin, Baby Gemma?" and singing songs to her.
|the 2 of them chatting away in our bed in the morning|
|Greyson counting for Gemma|
2. Physical Closeness. We make sure Grey and Gemma get time to spend near each other, which means Grey gets to "hold" her at least once a day and whenever he asks ("Booboo hold her?"). We encourage him to hug and kiss her and only have to remind him to do it "nice and easy" since she is still so small and fragile. Grey has started now taking inventory of Gemma's body parts by saying, "Little fingers...little knees....little nose..."
3. In the way we speak. Kids take notice of every single thing out of our mouths; what we say, how we say it, and in what context. This is perfectly exemplified in the fact that our almost 2 year old knows how to use curse words in the right situation...something I'm not proud of, but apparently we have used the word 'shit' enough times in his presence so that when I told him that 'Baby Gemma peed on the bed!' he looked at me with his head turned sideways with a smirk and said, 'aw, shit, mumma.' So as we're trying to break his potty mouth before he blurts something inappropriate out at church, we are making every effort to talk about being a family in front of both kids. Throughout the day, I am announcing things like, "Gemma is your sister, honey, that means you take care of her and love her." And when B gets home from work, and we're all sitting together on the couch, I say things like, "this is our family! we take care of each other" which sounds 100% like a cheesy preschool cartoon, but that's the point:)
So far, we've had an easy transition period with Grey from an only child to a sibling; we haven't had any tantrums due to jealously (not to say we haven't had tantrums...good Lord, terrible 2's are in full force over here...full on meltdowns if he can't get his sock off). I'm trying my best to make sure they both get alone time with me, time for all of us together, and "alone time" for the 2 of them (me observing but not participating in their 'playtime'). As the kids get older, we'll continue to encourage the same things only in new ways that match their age level and hopefully show them that they can play together (even if they like doing different things as a boy and a girl). I wish for our kids that they will grow up knowing that they have friends for siblings, just like I did. (thanks Mum & Dad)