I am so excited to introduce you all to Sara of bonzo, chooch, mushy and me. I've been reading her wonderful blog for a long time now. She has a beautiful parenting style and absolutely gorgeous children. I feel so grateful that she is sharing her experience as a mother of two with all of us today. I know I plan to to use all five of these tips daily! Be sure to visit Sara's site and follow her on Pinterest and instagram.
hi, small + friendly readers!
i'm sara from bonzo, chooch, mushy and me and i'm not only so excited to have a guest post over here but i'm so excited that carla's welcoming a second little bundle into her sweet little family.
it's such a special time – going from three to four. the happiness and excitement is an amazing, dizzying blur. doing it a second time feels familiar and wonderful but the newness of integrating a baby into the household with your firstborn isn't without its challenges.
so, with that said, i wanted to do a little round-up of five tips that really helped us when my family of three became four nearly two years ago. (and how it's been almost two years is beyond me! the dizzying blur doesn't just apply to the early days of the new baby, clearly.)
it may seen counter intuitive at first – the new older sibling has had their world rocked by the addition of a new baby so it might seem like easing up would make it easier on them. but the reverse is actually true. their world has been rocked indeed and, as a result, they're filled with some pretty big feelings that probably don't make complete sense to them and will likely show themselves by pushing and testing the limits in a major way. keeping limits in place firmly but gently gives them the structure they need to feel secure but also gives them something to push against. when they're met with a limit that's lovingly not budging, it's a great way to let out those big feelings. a new baby means so much change for everyone and the limits you make and hold actually create a safer feeling space for the new older sibling. too much freedom doesn't feel safe or secure for kids and almost always exacerbates off-track behavior. and giving too much freedom always winds up making it worse for me, too because i'll let something go and go and go then totally snap because it's not working. no good. we set limits and keep them in place for bonzo – and paid triple attention to it when mushy was born. he'd either accept the limit or when there were big feelings that need to be released, it would almost always do the trick. being there to hear his feelings calmly and non-judgementally helped so much. it's such a healthy and important way for them to be able to release their feelings of anger, jealousy or hurt – even if it seems like it's over not being able to have crackers for breakfast!
2. special time
before mushy was born, i thought it would be so easy to fit in special time for bonzo once she came along. leading up to her arrival, i craved the very thought having him to myself because that was all i knew. i couldn't imagine the alternative. but once mushy was here it was like my little roadmap of how things were going to be was written in a different language – and in invisible ink. i imagined spending tons of time with bonzo while newborn mushy just slept and nursed. but once she was here, that time just wasn't materializing like i'd imagined it would and i beat myself up for not being able to devote as much time to bonzo as i'd hoped. it took me a short while but then i finally snapped out of it and realized that the quantity mattered so much less than the quality. it felt so much better for both bonzo and me to have our time to be just us be focused and intentional – even if it wasn't always as long as either of us would have liked. and, while adjusting to that change, sometimes having to put a limit on our time together helped him get some big feelings out (see above!). if i knew i'd need to get back to mushy at 2 o'clock, i might wrap up our time together a little after 1:30 so i could be there for the tears that might arise at the end of our time and be there for him while he cried without having to rush off to the baby – that would be total insult to injury!
3. make room for two on the center stage
when a new baby is born it's so exciting for everyone and it's natural and normal for it to be all about the baby. i mean, when bonzo was born it was all about bonzo and i wanted mushy to have her time to shine, too. but it was different when she was born because, well, bonzo was here too. so we made a big effort to make sure that there was a balance. mushy deserved her time in the spotlight too but it was really helpful to have the grandparents and a few close friends who were all regular visitors to acknowledge bonzo before the new baby when they came to visit. it's not possible (or natural – or realistic!) to script people's interactions when they come see the baby but it felt good knowing that bonzo felt like he was the first person some visitors wanted to see.
4. highlight the negative
okay, another one that might not feel very intuitive. it's easy to think that if we don't mention something, it won't make it worse. but, in this case, it's so totally helpful. being a new big brother is hard. obviously i talked to bonzo a bunch before mushy was born about babies – we talked about how cute and little they are, what they could and couldn't do and we talked a lot about what might not be so fun about having a new baby. and after she was born we kept it up. when we'd be out and about, well-meaning and good-intentioned people would ask bonzo if he loved being a big brother, if he loved playing with his baby sister, if having a baby at the house was great – you get the idea – all the time. but i took lots of opportunities to bring up that having a new baby was a big change and that it was okay if it felt really hard or if he felt sad or even mad about it. because that's the reality. it's a big change and it's so important that they know that the feelings they're having are okay – even if they're not warm and fuzzy towards the baby all the time.
this one's so important – and admittedly a work in progress for me still. it's not always going to be go smoothly regardless of how prepared you feel. some days are going to be harder than others, sometimes it's going to all feel like a little too much and you won't parent in the way you want to every second of the day. and that's okay. forgive yourself and know you can start again in five seconds, five minutes, five hours or the next day.
both my babies taught me so much about myself. before mushy was born i couldn't imagine loving another being as much as i loved bonzo – though i knew i could and most certainly would. bonzo made me a mother but having mushy sealed the deal. i grew and loved more than i could have ever imagined once she was born. having a second baby felt to me like going to paris for the second time: still every bit as magical, special and wonderful but with a enough familiarity and comfortability to give you a confidence you might not have had while exploring first time.
savor this special time, carla! and thanks for having me at small + friendly... xx