Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gentle, Patient and Kind...sibling (and parent) readiness!

Well, just a quick post to say...I'm late! I've never been on known for being on time, so it is fitting. My due date was 2 days ago. I had a checkup yesterday and everything looks great, so we are just waiting and this point. People ask me if I'm antsy, but really, no. I can wait for this baby to be ready. I have plenty to do in the clean, work on some blog posts, heck, I even have some 'work' to finish up and a church website that I am helping put together. I am almost hoping for an extra week or 2 actually! But even if I didn't have that, I still would have my other kids to play with and spend extra time with. Which I am trying to do now.

When my older ones were 3, and we were expecting the second set of twins, I really didn't do too much 'prep' that way. I simply tried to keep them involved in the pregnancy, looking at my belly and feeling the babies kick. Asking them what they wanted to name them (Ellie and Jo were the answers! Not bad for 3 year olds I guess!) Talking about what the babies would look like when they are born. Dispelling myths about how they would not be able to play with the babies much until they were older. And how little babies put things in their mouths and can choke so it will be important to keep the little toys upstairs in their room (really, you don't have to worry about this until the babies are about six months old!). We talked about how the babies would drink milk from my breasts, and how they might cry alot and how mom will need lots of help getting diapers, blankets or towels. 

After the babies did arrive, I also made sure to spend some extra fun time with my big girls on a special outing every week or 2 for that first month or so after the babies arrived. The grandma's were glad to help babysit the little ones so I could take the big ones to the zoo for a few hours, or even just to the mall or the grocery store.

And in fact, when the little sisters arrived, I don't remember having any problems of jealousy or indifference or anger. Both the big sisters were nearly four years old at the time, and were really quite proud and interested in this phenomenon of each having a baby sister (they basically claimed who belonged to who! But the concept quickly faded over time!). Not that we didn't have problems! Just not those ones...

But what's been on my mind now, is how crazy life in our house is already, and how much crazier it  is going to be very soon. How to manage 5 different kids with various attention spans, anxiety problems, emotional regulation difficulties and cognitive ability to understand why a baby needs my attention more than they do for the moment.I've been paying extra attention to the things that are going to be hard - like teaching my kids to be patient when they need something from me. Right now, I am usually available quite immediately. But with a tiny baby, I've explained to them that I might be feeding her, or getting her to sleep, and that they may have to help themselves or manage to wait PATIENTLY for a few minutes. In fact, most times that there is fighting or crying in our house (remember, the twins are ages 3 and 7!) it is almost always because someone is not being either gentle, patient, or kind. I guess it's my new version of how to prepare your older kids when you are having a baby, or babies...

I've focused on three character qualities. "Gentle, patient and kind" has become a mantra in our house. Every time someone teases their sister, fights over something or simply has a meltdown waiting for a turn or waiting for me, I start asking them, "Is that the way you should behave?", "You need to be gentle, patient and kind...which one are you having trouble with right now?". If it is a fight between the two older ones, or an older and younger one, I will ask the older one "What just happened?" and "What should have been done differently" and while they are quick to point out the faults of the other involved, I also point out how their own kindness, gentleness or patience was lacking, and then usually tell them to practice saying or doing what they should have.

Is this working? I don't know. So far, perhaps for one of the older ones...a little. We'll probably have to keep it up a long time I guess. I figure, it certainly can't hurt! Meanwhile, I am practicing those traits myself! The best way to learn is by example, and it is really hard to expect your kids to not yell at one another, if you yell at them. Or to wait patiently for things, when you are not patient when you want them to get their shoes on and get in the car, or to be gentle and kind and when your voice gets strained when you tell them for the sixth time to do something or push them away abruptly when they are teasing their sibling. I found the bible verse to be very true - before you remove the spec from your brother's eye, you must remove the plank from your own eye! After all, could I really blame my kids for saying 'shut up' to each other, when they heard it from me first? I could say similar things about my husband's habits. It is really an exercise for all of us I guess. Here's hoping that it lends to a more peaceful atmosphere in our house...

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