I Dare You

What a whirlwind month! Thanks to all for sticking with me as I navigated the first thirty days of new motherhood! An especially large thank you goes to my two friends, Lindsay Eckert and Chantelle Behrens, for writing a couple of posts for me while I was away. I hope that you enjoyed the break!

Things in the Topping household have been interesting as we all try to find our place in our new family. We weren’t entirely prepared for Eggs’ birth so things were…a little out of sorts for the first week or so. He was due on January 3 and, since Monkey had come on time, we figured that Eggs would too. We were wrong. He showed up a week and a half early, which ended up being Christmas Day. I’m sure I’m going to hear about that for the rest of my life once Eggs understands what that means. Oh boy.

We had many visitors, little sleep, and a whole lot of work to do. We had a bunch of doctor appointments, gifts to put away, decorations to clean up, and a toddler who had no idea what was going on. I thought 1 year old was too young to feel jealousy. It’s not. Monkey’s personality did a total 180 in the week after Christmas. He forgot how to sleep through the night, he whined constantly, and he wanted to cuddle with me, which is something he’s never been fond of. But I was feeding Eggs so there wasn’t enough room on my lap for the two of them so Monkey starting to punish me.

Constant high-pitched whining gets on your nerves fast. There’s no more effective torture than a whiny toddler. Not just for minutes. Not just for hours. For days. I’m serious. When he wasn’t sleeping, he was whining. Thank God both my husband and my mother were around because I was getting ready to lose my mind. There are many things I can handle, toddler whining being one of them, but not without sleep. And with a new baby, you have to wake them every 2 hours to feed them if there is a chance they could get jaundice. I was desperate for quiet and a nap.

The whining wasn’t the only problem. Monkey was getting into things more than he ever had. Cupboards torn apart, garbage picked through, and constant spills became my life on top of a newborn that was having tummy troubles and spitting up everything he ate. I spent days trying to nurse Eggs and begging Monkey not to touch that or to close the cupboard or to put this down from afar. He knew I couldn’t come and stop him. I was at the end of my wits.

 

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The little troublemaker.

So I did what any exhausted, exasperated mother does: I Googled for help. There were lots of women out there dealing with the same thing I was, but their kids were usually older. I guess few people choose to have their kids spaced 1 year, 10 days apart. There was talk of potty training regression, toddler-on-baby violence, talking back, etc. Things I was thankful not to deal with, but then I found one piece of advice that has seen me through the worst of Monkey’s adjustment period: your child is daring you not to love them.

Monkey was afraid of being replaced, afraid that we no longer loved him and was acting out to get us to prove him right. And therein lied the challenge. Of course nothing had changed about my love for Monkey, if anything I loved him more because I was now reliving all the memories of when Monkey was an infant. But I was torn between wanting to show him love and feeling like I should be disciplining behavior that I didn’t like. I tried following the advice in the Alpha Mom column (seriously, one of my favorite places to turn when I don’t know what to do with my kids) and constantly praised Monkey for the good things he did. Did he close the cupboard when I asked him to? Yay! Such a good listener! Did he give kisses to the new baby instead of slapping him upside the head? Yay! What a good big brother! Did he finish his food without upending the bowl onto the dog’s head? Yay! Big boy gets a treat!

He learned a lot of tricks this month now. He opens cupboard doors just so he can close them when we ask. He gives kisses to the dog and to Eggs and to his teddy bears and to his books and, well, pretty much anything he can put his slobbery little mouth on. The constant whining is gone now and has been replaced by three new teeth (yes, the birth of our second child coincided with two molars and a lateral incisor. Lucky us).

He dared me not to love him and I proved otherwise. Not every day. Some days I couldn’t prove anything because I was exhausted and emotional and weak. But most days I showed him that he was still so very special to me. Most days he went to sleep knowing that his father and I love him very much. Not because of his behavior, whether good or bad, but because he is our son.

So overall, I’d call this month a success. There were ups and downs, highs and lows, but this two kid thing is actually not as difficult as I was led to believe. Do you agree? What were your experiences with older children’s reactions to their siblings? If you have siblings, what was your reaction to a new sibling? Or what was your siblings’ reactions to you? Tell me below!

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5 thoughts on “I Dare You

    1. Aw thanks! Yeah, sometimes it’s as my mom likes to say: “People ask for love in the most unlovable of ways.” So Monkey’s actions may be a bit on the unlovable side sometimes, but I’m definitely rewarded when I show him that I love him anyways. Like yesterday, he brought Eggs his soother when Eggs was crying. So cute!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I loved having my kids so close together, it was all about managing my expectations and like you, finding every opportunity to shower my firstborn with love and attention. I just figured out what my goal was; help Lindsay feel secure in her place in the family and then chose to do things in a way that would further that goal and skip things that would hinder it. It meant I was pretty house bound for a while, but it made the transition so much easier and established a secure foundation for my kids so I was happy with that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There is definitely an aspect of expectation management in parenting. I definitely think that by making both your kids feel secure in their place, you strengthen the relationship between the two of them as well as between you and them.

      Liked by 1 person

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