If you have been following Heart Mama for the last few months, or reading my posts for Mumgo, you will know that we have recently welcomed a baby, Eve Rose, into our home, and Little Elka has become Big Sister Elka. It’s a huge transition for any small person to make.
Elka hasn’t ever been jealous of her baby sister. She loves her and is mostly kind towards her. But there have been changes in my relationship with Elka. I anticipated this, and I have grieved the time we spent together – just the two of us.
The first few nights, lying with baby Eve in a separate bed to the rest of the family, I missed sharing a bed with Elka – cuddling up with her – her little hand on my face. I missed being able to play games with her spontaneously through the day. I missed strange things, like being able to take her to the toilet, because I was breastfeeding.
She adapted amazingly to her new role, and took to asking others to help her with things like going to the toilet. She asks adult friends she trusts to take her swimming. She goes on play dates with people she knows, without resistance. I have been proud of her, but I have found some changes hard.
For instance, ever-obliging and cooperative Elka has taken to saying ‘no’ to many things. I ask her to do something or not to do something, and she often does the opposite. When she is over-tired or hungry she has emotional outbursts I have no idea how to respond to. All these changes have come with age, but I also feel that the shift in our relationship and our connection has contributed.
Some days, I don’t feel connected.
Some days, she’ll ask Gregor to take her to bed, instead of me. This is new. Some days, she pushes me away. Some days, she won’t let me kiss her hurt better. Admittedly, I don’t take rejection well – although I am working on how I respond.
The hardest week was the mad lead up to Christmas. Dragging her around the shops with baby Eve was difficult. For the first time ever, we couldn’t sit at a cafe with her, because her melt downs were ‘unsocial’. I found myself one part sorry for her and one part mad with her.
Our connection had shifted.
I longed for her friendship and our comradeship. We have been a team, she and I, and that week, I felt we split. Since, I have paid special attention to our connection.
Ten ways to connect with the older child
1. I hug her when I can. Sometimes, she pushes me away, but the offer is always there
2. I put more effort into constructing activities she will enjoy, particularly craft
3. I read to her while breastfeeding Eve, or at least engage in a conversation with her
4. I look her directly in the eyes, as much as I can
5. When she’s emotional, I observe my own emotional reaction, and try to respond like an adult
6. I try and see the world from her perspective
7. I engage her as much as possible in baby-related activities, like changing nappies
8. I have moved back to the family bed
9. I put on music we both enjoy and sing and dance and do emu impersonations – we laugh
10. I run back home in the rain, carrying her, showering her in kisses – the two of us laughing. I love you. I love you. I love you.
As my wise husband says, with every challenge is an opportunity to grow. Children are our greatest teachers, and if we pay attention to their lessons, we can become better people. I love her with every gram of my being. She glows with a lightness, which is contagious – a lightness and joy, which makes grandparents weak at the knees and stops strangers in the street.
Taking the time to reconnect has been important to our relationship. Since Christmas, we have had more fun together, I have had more tolerance, and there has been more harmony in the sunshine house.
What ways do you connect with your child when there is a disconnect?
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