‘This is mummy penguin. This is daddy penguin. And this is Bobi.”And where is Bodo?’, I ask him. ‘He is not there.’ ‘But he is part of the family.’, I repeat. ‘He is not there’, Bobi insists as he takes a black pen and aggressively draws across the entire page of his colouring book. This is probably one of the lighter tantrums since the little brother was born. But how does a mother deal with this? I am not sure how many times I have asked Google the same over the past weeks. Here are a few tips that I have come across and that I have put under the real-life test.
- The baby brings a gift – eases the beginning.
‘The first days were ok. I even got a present when he came. A truck for all my cars. But now it is about time that he goes back to where he comes from and leaves my mummy alone’. I would interpret my son’s thoughts to be somewhat similar to this. I have been naïve enough to think that a gift from the baby will immediately set a solid foundation for a mutual everlasting brother love – exactly 2 weeks this utopian dream has lasted. Then the gentle kisses and touches turned into hair pulling and eye poking. And this, what I was so afraid of, slowly started to take over – the jealousy. The gift is a nice idea to ease the first moments but it certainly does not solve the issue. Nevertheless, it was totally worth it to see his happy face as he opened it. And besides, what had I expected anyway?
2. Involving your first-born – has to be the classic one.
‘Make him feel useful and proud.’ Of course in theory this makes a lot of sense. In practice however not always a success-guarantee. Whenever I ask Bobi to help me with changing the diaper, he runs to get one just to then throw it in Bodo‘s face. In principal this wouldn’t be such a big deal, if the diaper was the only thing flying towards the baby’s head. Helping me to bathe Bodo is equally challenging as Bobi thoroughly enjoys to pour as much water over Bodo‘s face as possible – and the more the little one cries, the more the big one laughs. That’s why I have now moved the bathing time to the mornings. In any case, I would probably pass on the same advice to others if they asked me – probably because there is not much else I could tell them and chances are that it works better for others.
3. “Allow evil thoughts” – say what?
‘Ask your child if he wants to hurt the baby and allow him to have evil thoughts’- that’s what is says in one of the numerous articles on parenting. Honestly speaking, I really have an issue with this statement. In fact, I have asked Bobi this same question several times now and several times he answered with “yes” – and now what? I found myself immediately in an emotional conflict and of course wonder how it can be possible for a 3 year old to carry so much hate inside him. Of course, I want to try and be understanding but equally I insist that he must learn to accept and love his brother. Of course you can argue here what is the best way – because I don’t think there is a right way – of dealing with this. Personally I don’t find a way for myself to accept this and therefore don’t see this as a way of overcoming the problem. Consequently I concluded for myself to never ask this question again.
4. Don’t tell him off, remain calm – easier said than done.
This is in fact my daily challenge – on numerous occasions. When the car once again just about misses the baby’s head, it is not easy, not to burst into rage – should I wait until he achieves his mission? Is it only then that I am allowed to raise my voice? I guess the right mix is key. It doesn’t make it easier though to know when to speak up and when to stay calm as it is mostly within seconds that you need to decide one way or the other. In any case, the best thing is probably to take a deep breath to prevent an impulsive reaction. Other than that, I suppose that everyone needs to find their own way of figuring out what works best. Day after day.
5. “You can do so much already” – an absolute “No Go”.
Showing your first-born the advantages of being “so much bigger” and “being able to do so much more”. Disastrous in our case. Those words are actually the trigger to release all the suppressed aggressions. These probably need to come out one way or another however I would prefer if he could blow off his steam kicking a punching bag, not me. The only thing that works for that matter is when I propose that we go out with the bycicle, just the two of us as “only big boys are able to ride a bike”. I don’t actually think that he agrees to my proposal because he enjoys feeling superior over his brother here but more to seize the opportunity to spend some alone time with his mummy. And how could I blame him for that?
In summary, I guess there is no “one-fits-all” solution to prevent jealousy amongst siblings and I am concluding for myself to be patient. And wait. And to continue to love unconditionally. But to teach compromises. Bobi ought to learn and understand that not everything is about him. But equally it’s important to accommodate time, just for him- even if only a short trip to the supermarket or a stroll with the bycicle.
I would love to hear the outcome of your reality-check. It is always good to know that you are not alone. And that eventually everything will become easier. At least until the parenting demon confronts you with the next challenge.