When my second son was born this past August, my first son had quite a transition to make.
He turned three years old exactly one week after his brother was born, and even before that he was going through what might be termed the “terrible twos,” or maybe he just sensed something was going to happen because Mama was not at his beckon call the way she used to be. He was testing us, I’m sure, to see what he could get away with and also how deep our love was for him.
This “phase” continued after he realized that his baby brother was not going anywhere, and it got worse. He constantly badgered his baby brother, knocking, shaking, and pressing down on the baby’s forehead. I thought I might go crazy! I could not leave my children alone together for a second.
I don’t know when it happened exactly, but one day I realized my three-year-old had stopped pestering his baby brother. He had become the good little boy that I was accustomed to before that “phase” began, and not only that, he seemed to be happy that he had a baby brother.
I’m sure this change of attitude occurred for many reasons. One thing that might have helped was the random sticker I would give him whenever he did something good. Since I had been frustrated with him so much at one time, I decided I wanted to do more than praise him when he was good. So he has a sheet of paper on the refrigerator, and sometimes when he does something very good without being asked, I’ll give him a sticker to add to it. Now that sheet is full!
Most notably, however, is that our baby is now old enough to watch and be enamored by his big brother. Having an audience who smiles and laughs at him certainly can change a three-year-old’s perspective. My husband and I have enjoyed sitting at our dinner table and watching our children giggle at each other for no reason. Surely moments like that have got to be the best part of parenthood.
Now my eldest insists on putting his baby brother right next to him at the table or on the floor or on the bed – wherever they might be. Sometimes it takes some cajoling to get my eldest to let me pick up his brother, even when the little one is starting to squirm and cry. But Big Brother has also proved to be very helpful at times too. He likes to give his baby brother toy after toy whether they are wanted or not, and he has even run to the rescue with a tissue after an explosive sneeze.
Of course, there are still some moments of tension. The three-year-old has pushed away the baby’s highchair exclaiming that he “doesn’t like him,” and if he would rather have all my attention, he will sometimes go up to a crying baby and give him an emphatic “Shhhhhh!” All in all, however, I see these two little guys sizing each other up and deciding that they like having each other around.
Each evening at bedtime I ask my son what his favorite part of the day was. Unless, of course, he has a new toy, he usually names his little brother for the answer to that question. As a mother of two boys, I can’t ask for anything better than that.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.