Saturday, August 3, 2013

When Two Become Three, Four, Five...

I was enjoying a chiropractic adjustment yesterday. (Seriously, my chiropractor has magical hands that wipe away the piriformis/sciatic pain). She's pregnant, too, with her second. And she asked me about a really common concern that I think probably every single parent at some point has wondered: when I add another child to our family, will I be able to give enough attention to the new addition?

How will I bond with and love the new child as much as the first? How could I ever spend enough time on the new one? The new baby will never have only me. I'll be busy running after the toddler or tired out from being a mother this long already.

There's certainly nothing wrong with voicing those fears. And you can find countless articles and memes on that perspective. I wanted to mention something else that I don't often hear, though.

Worry about bonding with your older child(ren). Worry about spending enough time with the older ones. Worry about giving your first child your undivided attention. Worry about saving your energy and patience for them.

See, I can't speak exclusively or absolutely for all parents in all situations, but in general, it's actually quite easy to bond, love and dote on a newborn. Their demands are basic and clear. They need you, quite literally, to survive. They need you every moment. You won't find a moment when a newborn refuses your care and attention. Holding a tiny, vulnerable bundle in your arms, filled with oxytocin from birth and breastfeeding, you could sit and stare into your newborn's face for an hour. It won't be hard to find the time or will to love your newest.

But it will be awfully easy to miss that time for your other child. Their needs don't seem very, well, necessary. Breastfeeding for example starts to feel like an additional comfort or luxury, not a matter of keeping someone alive. Anyone could make lunch for your toddler. He has other friends to keep him entertained. Daddy can tuck him in at night. When he's grumpy or upset, Grandma can give him a hug. Toys, books, playdates and even TV or gadgets fill his every waking hour, and at night you find with a little nudge, he'll sleep through or sleep on his own.

You're not really necessary, and you're so tired from holding your newborn and you feel touched out from all that breastfeeding. It's just too easy to let go...and in fact isn't everyone telling you it's time for the toddler to grow up, be independent, cut the cord?

Take time for your first child. Find the time. Make the time. You won't regret it. Those moments when you set the newborn down for a nap and cuddle with your older children are precious. And as your children grow older, moments like that are fleeting. They still need you in different and new ways. What you'll find, as well, is that you still need them. Your journey doesn't end at one stage of parenting. You are still learning and growing with every stage. Grow together, a testament not only to your love for the older one, but also affirming to your younger one, to show that no one can outgrow a parent's love.


Tandem nursing:

Triandem nursing:

Siblings at birth:

Celebrating big siblings:

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