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“I’m a Baby, Too!” Working Through Big Sibling Regression

Today’s post is from Reno Moms Blog guest contributor Megan Annis, a former California girl who moved to Reno in 2005. She and her husband, Kevin, are raising an outgoing 3 -½ year old son and a firecracker 13-month-old daughter. The following outlines Megan’s current battle to meet the ever-changing needs of her little ones as her daughter meets new milestones and her son shows signs of regression and sibling jealousy.

My now 3-½ year old son adjusted relatively easily to his sister’s arrival 13 months ago. He loved her instantly and he was proud, sweet and gentle. With the exception of a few months of wakeful overnight sleep and his need for some extra attention from me and my husband, he transitioned beautifully to the role of Big Brother.

So I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s been a little rough lately in the Big Brother/Little Sister department. Save for walking, Hailey is about as mobile as can be, and she has no concept of personal space. She knocks over his toys, colors on his drawings, grabs his clothing, yanks trains from his tracks, pulls books from his lap when he’s reading and follows him around like a little puppy, prompting him to frequently demand, “Give me SPACE, Sissy!” We appreciate Connor’s use of words rather than hands to express his frustration, and encourage him to continue to do so; as a result, we do our best to respect his requests and remove her from his vicinity when he’s becoming annoyed. But then, cue Hailey’s complete meltdown to be moved away from her brother, and suddenly we have a whole separate battle to wage.

At 13 months old, it’s something new every day with Hailey. New words spoken, additional seconds standing independently, a coordinated shimmy into a formerly daunting chair, a climb onto something she never could before. She lunges out of our arms to signal she wants down. She shakes her head no and yes, follows our instructions to bring things to us or eat this or do that, can quickly cruise around any piece of furniture and disappears down the hall faster than we can turn around. Without saying anything, she communicates everything.

In the exact same way we did for her brother at this age, Kevin and I cheer wildly when Hailey meets milestones. We clap and praise and hug and snap pictures and roll video. And sometimes, as we cheer, I glance over at our big boy and find that he’s fallen silent. The look in his eyes is different from anything I’ve ever seen from him – it’s jealous and defeated. So we turn the attention to him, asking him to show us how he can do what Hailey just did, and then we cheer and clap and snap pictures of him doing something he’s been doing for years, all to see that beautiful smile return to his face.

We do that a lot more lately than we ever have before. But he continues to push and act out. We continue to correct and redirect. We try not to rush him. We try to focus on what he’s doing right rather than wrong. And it’s often hard, in our frustration, to be patient.

Last week before bed I told him that he needed to clean up his toys. He sulked in his room as I gave him a pep-talk, reminding him that cleaning up was an important part of growing up. I was mid-sentence when he suddenly flopped down on his bed, closed his eyes and started fake snoring. And last night, as I scolded him for not listening, he looked at me and said boldly, “What did you say? I have a banana in my ear.” (THREENAGER.)

We’re in the throes of “three”, and some of this is par for the course. Lovingly, we refer to our boy as a “threenager”. But he’s going through something, too. I can feel it in my Mama heart. He’s started fibbing, telling me he didn’t do something when I watched him do it with my own eyes, or saying he washed his hands after going to the bathroom when I can see they’re stained with dirt. When we tell him to eat, he’ll respond with, “I will NOT eat!” Several times, he’s pushed his sister and then looked right at me to see how I would react. He’s using baby talk in the place of his normal speech when we’re focused on Hailey, and three times in the past two weeks, he’s wet his pants.

BabyConnor

And so we’re grateful when he emerges from his room on his hands and knees, bib around his neck and a teether between his lips, because it provides us a much-needed moment of clarity. “I’m a baby, too!” he says. Yes. Light bulb. Because Sis is a baby and she’s getting a lot of attention lately. So yes. You be a baby, too, sweet son.

If there’s one thing I’m learning about parenthood it’s that the bone-crushing love you feel for your babies means that what they say and do can break your heart a million times a day. And a lot of it is painful heartbreak. Heartbreak when someone at school isn’t nice to them. Heartbreak when they have hurt feelings. Heartbreak when they say something that makes the guilt close in so tightly you can scarcely breathe.

Like the other night when Connor was telling me about an episode of Winnie the Pooh that he had watched, and I told him that sounded like a fun episode. “Yes,” he said. “But you never watch TV with me, because you’re always nursing Hailey.”

Or on Saturday, when I had to nurse Hailey and put her down for a nap and Kevin took Connor to gymnastics without me. I met them as class was wrapping up and Connor asked, “Why are you here, Mommy? You never come to my gymnastics.”

Ack.

And so lately, I’m trying hard to give him more of me. To be more cheerful and engaged in our precious moments together. Less distracted by Hailey or housework or mounting piles of laundry. At night, after he’s tucked in and I’m leaving his room, he asks me, “If I need you, will you come in?” And I assure him yes, of course – I’ll always come in if you need me. And when he tells me he misses me when he’s at school, I spend extra time telling him that I’m always thinking of him when I’m at work, and how picking him up is my favorite part of the day. I spend more time in his room before bed because he still needs his Momma, even if he is a big boy. He’s stalling from going to sleep when he tells me he wants me to sing to him, but we giggle and sing together anyway. He asks me to tell him a story about Oscar the Grouch and on a whim I manage to make a pretty good one up that even has a friendship “moral of the story” at the end. He asks me to tell it again, and I do. He tells me he wants to “do exercises” and even though it’s getting late, he hops out of bed and we touch our toes in the dark and reach our hands high to the sky on our tiptoes. I help him do a headstand against his wall and we collapse into fits of giggles so loud that Kevin pops his head in to gently say, “I thought it was bedtime. What’s so funny in here?” And we try to quiet down. But we play because we need this time together. He goes to bed later than he should, but as I leave his room and he asks for just one more hug and kiss, and his little body is so warm and soft in my arms, he whispers in my ear, “I had fun doing that with you, Mommy. Can we play again tomorrow?” And I fight the lump in my throat, and I soak in the feeling of the good kind of heartbreak, and all is right with the world.

Dad&Connor

It’s clear to me that right now, in this phase of his life, he needs more of me. Of Kevin. More time, more attention, more play. And so on days like these, we pay closer attention. Daddy cuddles him and lets him pretend to sleep in his arms, just like a baby.

A threenager, yes. But ours, and we wouldn’t have him any other way. Through it all, we just keep loving. We give extra time and extra snuggles and we know that this, too, shall pass. The toys everywhere, the three year old ‘tude – one day, when my Littles are out in the great big world on their own, I’m going to miss this. I’m going to long for the messy house and the babies who need me so desperately and the complete and utter chaos that is our life right now. And so I try to soak it in. The bedtime giggles, the cherished nursing sessions, the messy faces and hands, the way my little ones smile at me, the peacefulness that washes over me when I watch them sleep.

Mom&Connor

It’s chaotic. Yes.

But it’s our beautiful life.

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