Monday, December 6, 2010

On how being a big sister is hard

My Zoelle's heart is hurting and it makes mine hurt for her. We've been having some major trouble lately with Zoelle hitting, bossing, or pushing Meridian. Meridian in turn has taken to biting Zoelle back when Zoelle does something to her. Needless to say, we were confused as to why Zoelle has started this and obviously don't want either girl to think it's okay to hurt each other.

Last night however, Zoelle came up to me right at bedtime and said something to make me pause. She said, "Mom, sometimes I'm really sad because you don't give me enough attention". I got down to her level and asked her what I could do to help make sure I'm giving her enough attention. Ever the communicator in our family, Zoelle told me that, "You could put Xiomara down, and not hold Meridian, and just hold me instead". My heart hurt. In 14 months she had gotten not one, but two major life changes in the form of babies. When she was really still just a baby herself at barely three.

Sometimes I look at Chris and ask him if we did the right thing. I know we wanted our children close in age and I know that God gave us the other two when He did for a reason. But, I can't help but look at those with only one child and envy that time again. I want it to just be us (Zoelle and I). For it was when we were the closest. She and I connected like we were a part of each other. When Meridian came along, it changed. While it had gotten much better before Xiomara was here, it still has been tough on her. On me.

If I could do it all over, I would have spaced our children out further. But then, I would not have Meridian, or Xiomara. It's a hard balance to handle and I'm struggling figuring out how to give this little girl what she wants, no needs, all while taking care of the other girls as well.

I don't ever want Zoelle to feel left out, or displaced because of the other girls. I'm trying very hard not to automatically blame her if Meridian starts to cry. Trying very hard not to put all the responsibility on her because she is the oldest. Trying very hard to give her the attention she needs. But sometimes I fail. And then my heart breaks.

I bring it to God. My heart, my hurt, her hurt. And pray that He can fix it and guide both of us in the path we are to next take together.

Did your oldest child have a tough adjustment to being a big sibling? Any idea on how to help one through the process?


  1. What great words she shared with you. I'm so glad she feels comfortable sharing her hurt with you.

  2. Oh man, Vanessa - this is what our house is like right now too. Josiah gets in trouble for doing this or that to his sisters or acting out in some way - and its so hard not to feel guilty for bringing this upon him. In our case it was babies and other big changes, but still - its very hard on the first child to have to start sharing attention. I don't know about the spacing thing though - I almost wish we would have been able to have them all crazy close. Josiah was an only for 3 1/2 years - and I think for him that made it harder to adjust to adding someone else. With Eden, she notices that there is a baby around, but she is not old enough pay too much attention to the fact that she is sharing most of the time... I guess maybe there is no 'right' answer...
    The bottom line is that as hard as it may be to remember, some of this acting out is, as you said, from jealousy or from divided attention - and to not blame the child as much but try to make more time for just them... Easier said than done perhaps! Thanks for sharing this Vanessa. Its not just me and that is comforting ;)

  3. I often think of you Tami and realize that you probably feel the same way as me. Maybe you are right on the spacing. I think the "grass is always greener on the other side" happens alot for me, while you are thinking the same way towards me. Either way, it now is what it is and I don't regret the other two AT ALL! I just want some normalcy again and to me normal was one child. It's great to know that I am not alone (although that probably isn't that great for you now is it?)! :) Thanks Tami!

  4. Yes. When Abram was born Ethan was 3y2m and he felt the same way. I started weekly dates with Ethan and to this day we still have them. I get to spend a lot of one on one time with Abram since he isn't in school yet and Ethan feels left out so our weekly dates are perfect for that. We talk about all kinds of stuff. I let him pick the location of our date and it's rather enjoyable. I get to find out all about his 3rd grade class, his friends, feelings...his life. I wouldn't trade our date days for anything! Maybe you could start doing this with Z. It has made all the difference in the wordl for Ethan :)

  5. Salena-Thank you for sharing with me. It really is a comfort to know that I'm not the only one that had a little one struggle. Chris and I have talked about a special date day for her. And now that I think on it, Chris used to take her out each Saturday morning, but he hasn't done that in a long time. I've also thought of taking her with me for grocery shopping some night, as just a special time for her and I. Thanks for sharing! :)

  6. I think all of my children went through this to some degree and at times still need that one on one attention. I always felt it took me a whole year after each child was born to find a new normal -- so your feelings for "normalcy" are normal. ;) I found that taking time with each child helped -- it could be reading a story just to him/her, rocking, playing a game, putting a puzzle together, having a "tea party", having them "help" in the kitchen. Having some time together when the baby slept. Most of the time all that was needed was 5-10 minutes of personal, uninterrupted attention. Usually to accomplish this the baby needed to be in a playpen/highchair/crib/exersaucer and they would be ok -- even if they fussed a little -- it meant a lot to my older children when I told them they had me all to themselves. Sometimes I'd even set a timer -- especially during the school day -- and say this time is just for you, sweetie, and when the timer goes off I need to go back to my work. I haven't done any ECFE classes lately, but every once in awhile it was nice to get out in the winter months and have a real fun place to go. The classes vary, some are one time classes -- I always liked to take my 3-5 year olds to the gingerbread house class. :) Lance took the kids to a Daddy and Me class at night -- those I think were about 3 or 4 weeks (one night a week) At that age those were real special date times. :) The last one I took was one where you could take baby through age 5, so I took my girls. Faith thought that was the most special time. She painted, we played kitchen, she played with play dough and we read books, sat in a circle and sang songs and got to play in the gym and ride bikes inside and do all sorts of fun things! Ok this is bringing back a lot of fond memories...I need to take Hope again before she gets too old!!

  7. Angie-Thank you for sharing! :) What great memories you made. I'm really glad I posted this because I basically realized that I need to really work on getting more one on one time with all the girls (but espcially Zoelle right now). You ave me some good ideas on how to do that. Oh and the not feeling normal for a whole year thing-yeah, I feel the same way! So basically it's been 3 years of not being normal, ha! :)

  8. Once again, I'm coming back to a post to comment after I've had a chance for my thoughts to "mull" a bit.
    My #4, #5 and #6 were the same ages as you described: Andrew(#4) was not yet 3 when Elijah(#6) was born and Christopher(#5) and Elijah are 14 months apart. Didja get all that?? :-)
    I have never experienced any sibling rivalry with any of my children. I'm not sure exactly why that is.
    One thing I have told all the children with each new pregnancy/birth/baby is this: "God knew/knows just who needed to be in our family and in what order."
    You may think "whoa--she's only 3! I can't expect her to understand that!" Trust me, if she can come up to you and say "Mommy, I need more attention" she can grasp the idea.
    My advice would be to really underscore the important role she plays as your firstborn and their older sister.
    I would also never give voice to the doubt you feel about having done the "right thing". Were Meridian or Xiomara ever to read this, they might really wonder.
    You have to know that there is no going back. You are the mommy to all three of them. All the time. You are a family--parts of a whole, all put together by the Creator, just as He saw fit.

    I wanted to comment on Angie's words...I have done a similar thing, too. It's easy to want to jump when the baby cries, but I have found that finishing up with the older one makes them feel very important. For example, while reading a story/doing a puzzle, etc. with the older child, the baby wakes and starts fussing. (In our house, it's sort of a stampede of siblings rushing to be the first one to grab the baby from her bed. She gives the best smiles to the fastest one!) Anyway...I have found that the older will usually look up at me and say "Baby's awake, Mama." All I have to do is sort of call out, "Just a minute Baby! Mama will be there in a minute! I'm finishing up this story/puzzle with ___________ right now." Of course I know the baby can't understand--but my toddler can. (That baby isn't going to be harmed by fussing for another minute or two.) And usually it's the toddler who says "Mom--I think we should go get the baby now." Then we do!
    When I am pregnant, I spend a lot of time preparing the children that things will be different...that babies need lots of attention...they cry sometimes to tell us what we need...but they are SO sweet and so much fun. Things may get crazy sometimes, but we are a family and Mama and her older kids need to work together and when we all work together, things go much smoother.

  9. Melissa-Great advice you gave (and yes I followed you)! :) Zoelle has actually no problem understanding why we adopted, or had Meridian when we did. And it's not the baby who is getting all the attention (as she rarely cries, no kidding). It's just a combination of me trying to take care of both Meridian and Xiomara, all while helping Zoelle with what she needs. She often gets frustrated when I don't answer her, or come to her right when she feels she needs me too. On top of that, I have the house to clean, laundry to do, know how it goes. :) One of Zoelle's love languages is time spent with her, so I am taking her words and trying my best to spend more time with just her.

    I wanted to also add, that never have I doubted having Meridian or Xiomara! Rather, the time in which we had them. If they read this one day (and they will as I get blog books made), I know that they will see my honesty and know through my words and actions over the years that I love them just as much.

  10. Absolutely. I know it's hard sometimes to type out just how we feel about things...a blog is a place to share our thoughts and our feelings and sometimes those can be misunderstood by others. It is very hard to balance all that is required of us, isn't it? It is a constant battle to keep things as balanced as we can--for ourselves, our husbands, our children and our homes.
    Bless you.

  11. Oh yes, so very hard to balance it all! :) Thank God for a loving God and for a gracious husband and forgiving kids! :)


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