Before I had two kids, the dynamic in our home was different in a lot of ways. It was generally a lot easier to fill the days with useful and fun stuff to do, because I didn’t have to try and mediate between what’s age appropriate for a kid who is 3, and what’s age appropriate for a kid who is 1. I try and be as fair as I can, but I do recognize that a lot of the time we tend to fall on whatever is best for the baby. After all, he’s the one who is at an age where he is constantly looking for creative ways to get hurt or destroy things. Having a sibling has been the most amazing thing for my daughter and she absolutely loves him, but there are days when she gets jealous and probably gets bored because we sometimes have to do “baby stuff”. Going from being the only child to suddenly having to share everyone and everything can’t be easy, especially for a toddler. Sharing is not exactly their passion, most of the time.
When I actually started to realize that she has become so aware of everything and has started experiencing a lot more feelings than I’ve given her credit for, I decided to try something new. Once a week, we have a “just you and me” breakfast (or cupcakes) date. We go to a great little café in our neighborhood and eat, and then we spend an hour or so at the park by the river. At first, I wanted to do this because I felt guilty that she never got time alone with me where I wasn’t half paying attention to her brother and half to her. But after a while, it honestly became good for me too. When you’re a parent to more than one kids, it becomes really hectic sometimes. Any time that you spend with just ONE of those kids, it honestly almost feels like a break. Especially now that she is old enough to sit at a table and actually participate in some form of conversation, it’s really refreshing.
After a few weeks of having our little date, I noticed some really positive changes in her. She started being really nice to the baby. Maybe it’s just the fact that every day she’s getting older, but part of me really believes that she’s getting more of the time and attention that she needs and as a result, she’s not feeling frustrated having him around. And to make it even better, now that she’s being more patient with him and actually engaging playtime with him, I don’t have to constantly pull my hair out trying to keep him amused. Let’s face it, kids and babies are WAY more entertained by other kids and babies than they are by adults. I know you might be wondering whether a couple of hours a week could have really had this wonderful impact on us, but really …it has.
I think every kid needs that little bit of time to know that they are individually important and valued. Whether it’s time with you doing a special craft, baking something, or just a walk around the neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive or take an entire day. It just needs to be uninterrupted time that tells them, “I see you”. When my son gets a little bigger and more aware, I plan on doing the same for him in whatever way he’d enjoy. I think it’s really easy sometimes for adults to get lost in things that are difficult or stressful because grownup worries are a lot different than kid ones. How can stressing about toys or feeling a little jealous possibly compare to the things we have to manage on a daily basis, on top of keeping these other little humans alive and happy? But I’m sure if we all just took a second, we’d probably be able to remember a time as a kid when something really trivial felt really big.
It’s all they know right now, it’s who they are. The role I play in helping them understand that their feelings (big and small) are valid and that there are ways through them, I believe that will have a large impact on the kind of kids I send to school and the kind of adults that they become after those days have long passed. For us that starts with a little weekly date at a little local café, and maybe in 10 years that will still be our thing and she’ll know it’s something she can count on from me when she needs me the most.