Our first few days as a family of six went by in a blur of trying: trying to get everyone fed on time, trying to figure out the best nap/bath schedule and sequence, trying to get dressed before seeing other adults, trying to encourage Tess and Remy’s great older sibling behavior, trying to get the dog out on time.
When Tess woke up from her nap on Sunday, she joined us in the babies room. Griffin had a tummy ache and was upset his binky fell out. Leah was convinced we’d trapped her in her crib forever and would forget she was there. (We were still in sight, mind you.) Tess looked from one crib to the other as I frantically unpacked, and said gleefully,
Maman! There’s TWO crying babies!
She kindly followed up on that pronouncement with a lot of help moving stuff from changing table to laundry hamper to baskets of clothes. In between, she’d go sing to Leah and plug Griffin’s binky in. It actually looked like a silly little game, as she ran between the cribs. She takes direction very well when it means helping with the babies! By Tuesday night, I realized we needed some significant adjustments. Dave and I stayed up working out the kinks, prepared for another marathon Wednesday.
What I got was the most beautiful morning of my life. Tess got up first, and read quietly in my room while I got an extra ten minutes’ sleep. Bless her. Then Remy woke up, so we got dressed and fed the big kids. We took the dog out together. As we were coming back in, I saw Leah waking up on the cam. We all went up there and got her dressed. On previous days, she’s clung to me like a life raft. Today, she wanted to get down and play with her older siblings. Seeing her adjust to their boisterous play and her curiosity grow makes me so happy. She kept looking over to check that I was there, but seemed to be having a lot of fun.
Then Griffin started making noises, so I drew a bath for him. Remy decided to play with Leah and keep an eye on her, while Tess came to observe the baby bath. At times, both were leaning over the tub or had slipped around the door to get Leah a fun toy. (Whoever invented Jack and Jill bathrooms, thank you. Sight lines from the tub were excellent!)
Joy popped in and we got the three older kids set up for music class – Leah in the reclining infant seat so she could hold her bottle, Remy in the lower big kid seat, and Tess holding one of those daycare handles you can attach to the stroller. (We’re not getting a quad stroller, but we needed something!) They headed out about 20 minutes earlier than normal, as Tess was walking. She was not excited about that plan. After a lot of tears, I explained that big sisters got to do everything first but have to give things up. she looked at me very seriously and responded, “no thank you!” She looks so sad while saying it I couldn’t laugh, even though I found her polite refusal of her role a bit entertaining. Shadows of me; apparently I hated getting new siblings. We finally got them out the door. They arrived just in time for class, happy as clams! Phew. I don’t know who was more relieved – me or Joy.
When Griffin joined the family, Tess and Remy seemed really excited about a baby. They still find him really cute, but I think they realized he can’t do much yet. In that regard, Leah is fascinating. She can do all kinds of stuff! But that means she can do lots of things that they like to do, which means more sharing. They are so delighted to have a sister, they are astounding us with their generosity. They’re toddlers – generous is not a natural state of being. This patience and kindness with staying power has Dave, Joy and I all puffed up.
Overall, we are a bit stunned at how fantastically they transitioned. Still, both big kids are having moments of growing pains. For Remy, not being the baby wasn’t hard, but not being the smallest big kid is. He’s always love to be held and cuddled, and needs a lot of comforting. With Griffin, he just climbed right up with him. As Leah has been attached to me around the clock for her first couple of days, Remy has had a harder time finding an empty lap. Last night, he lost it over something little. Despite the chaos, I took him in a different room kicking and screaming, and held him until he calmed down enough to talk. I explained that even though I make the rules, I will always love him even when he breaks them. He was mad. I let him decide when he was ready for a hug, and when he gave in, I asked him if we could spend a quiet special moment together every day. He said yes and snuggled in a little closer.
The workload for the parents has grown exponentially; so has our kids’ desire to help us. So little errands and chores are now being examined for their potential as one on one time. Walking the dog? An excellent chance to make the kids feel special. They love to hold her leash. The nightly watering of the garden and weeding? Absolutely. Getting dinner ready? Holding a bottle for Leah? We’re easing them farther into helper zone while finding ways to make them feel proud of themselves. Wish us luck! It’s a big task.
Update: so far, the new plan is working fabulously! Tess and Remy loved getting to choose kitchen or garden helping before dinner, Leah hardly cries at all now because she’s getting our rhythm (also, she’s seen that we do come back to get her after putting her down for a nap or bed!), and the dog isn’t hiding upstairs. This morning went just as well, as did dinner and bedtime last night. Today was again totally fun. For the win! We’ve got this.