It’s so funny how we often think we have it all figured out. We think we know what to expect from our kids at every turn, like we have them waxed to the tee. But like with most things in life, we realise all to quickly how we don’t always know our kids inside out and how they are going to react to things or just how they will respond to big life changing events, like the birth of another sibling.
I was convinced that Brody would be the one to feel it the most. I thought that with him being the “baby” of the family he would be the one to have his nose bent out of shape as he made room for the new baby and that he would feel my lack of attention as I took on my role as mom to a newborn. But it’s taken me 6 weeks to realise that it is in fact Noah who has taken the hardest knock and I’ve realised only recently how easy it’s been to overlook his needs and feelings about all the change. Not because I don’t consider his feelings but because i just assumed he was bigger and therefore more mature and ready to handle change of this magnitude. I guess i just had so much faith in him that he would be ok. I still do.
For the last four weeks we have noticed a change in his behaviour. He’s been more defiant and cheeky but also more emotional when things don’t go his way. And being the strict mom I am, it really doesn’t sit well with me when my kids have tantrums when things don’t go their way. I usually handle it it head on with a time-out or stern talking to. And so for the last few weeks, with every emotional outburst I’ve handled it with the same stern no-shit approach i would have any other time.
But talking to friends over these last few weeks I began asking myself the question: Is he learning this stuff from school and just asserting his independence or is he responding out of hurt and lack of attention? One friend whose little boy is in Noah’s class also noticed her son acting out more than usual since starting Grade R, but another friend told me how her eldest son (also in Noah’s year) regressed a bit when their third child was born and played up for a month or so.
I’ve always wanted Noah to know he could tell his parents anything and that we are his safe place, but what had I really done to encourage him to open up? What was I doing to show him that he could find comfort in confiding in me? Truth is I wasn’t doing very much. As usual i was just interested in nipping bad behaviour in the bud and making it known i didn’t tolerate it. But was I really asking the right questions?
So we sat up with Noah one night last week and asked him directly how he was wa feeling about it all. I mean, its great I was getting advice from friends but maybe it was time i sat down with this little guy of mine and actually heard what he had to say. And not in the heated moment of yet another altercation but in the calm space of him knowing he could tell me anything. And this is what he said:
“I don’t not like the baby. I love Hunter. But sometimes I feel like you don’t ask me what I want.” I wanted to stop him right there as I felt my defences go up and say ‘Hey mister, what do you mean we don’t ask you what you want? We give you everything you want and more”, but something said to me “Just be quiet and listen!” He went on to say “Like the other day, you offered Brody toast first but didn’t ask me. You always see to Brody and the baby first. Or you tell me to be quiet and that you will come read or play with me later, but you never do.” He was choking back tears as he tried his best to articulate to me the fact that he feels a bit pushed out.
And guys, I cried. I looked at Brendon and we both just felt our eyes well up. Here was this big boy of ours who was feeling neglected. We realised that we had overlooked him and his need for affection, his role in all of the change. You see, he went from being a big brother to be an even bigger one to a little baby. And while we were so focused on trying to see to it that Brody didn’t take the hardest knock, we forgot to be extra cautious with our big boy. We explained to him how sorry we were and how we had no idea he felt that way. I told him i just assumed he was ok because I think the world of him and see him as strong and brave and capable of helping himself. But I told him how much I LOVE to be needed by him and that it was wrong of me to think he didn’t need me that much.
Then he did what Noah does well: he forgave us quickly and we were engulfed in huge beautiful Noah hugs. The kind of hugs that you don’t ever want to end, where you feel like the most special person in the world. He kept saying how much he loved us and kissing my hands. I could not believe this child really just wanted our affection and attention. Not the “lets go for ice creams and treats and over-compensate for not being present kind of attention. The kind where i ask him about his day or if he needs me for anything. The kind that lets him know i really see him and accept his sensitive heart. Despite me thinking he had my attention 100% I realised how different i had treated him to Brody when in actual fact he needed to be treated with just as much care and caution.
I’m finding it so much easier now with communicating these feelings, but I also really needed him to know that certain behaviour and attitude wasn’t going to be tolerated. So just because there has been change, a bad attitude, not listening and blatant disrespect are just not going to fly.
And so we have adopted a good behaviour incentive in our home which (touch wood) has really made SUCH a difference. I realised that Noah (more than Brody who generally likes to follow orders) thrives on positive affirmation and so I began racking my brain for ways we could incentivise him to keep on track when it comes to doing chores and showing respect. I will be sharing this in a whole separate blog post but if you are struggling with your kids and them not obeying orders, you are going to want to keep a look out for that post. I will give you a detailed look into how we have set up a system in our home that is specific to each child and one that aims to get them into good habits. It’s not science or completely earth shattering. It’s probably something every mom has trued once, but with a twist! Yup, it’s beautifully simple and the best part is that it’s working!!!
So here’s a public shout out to this gorgeous free spirit who I call my first born. I’m so proud of you for opening up and being brave enough to talk to me. I’m even more proud of what a wonderful big brother you have been to your new little sister! Keep up the good work my boy xxx