I am a new dad for the third time. Each birth experience has been different. I have only had a few days to get to know daughter number three and so far I would say she is a bit of a slacker. She just lies around and only really gets up to eat. She definitely isn’t willing to apply for jobs…
My five and almost seven year old have different personalities – in some way reflective of their births. D1 – our almost seven year old is contemplative and a slow eater and walker. She would rather walk than run. Her birth was induced and was an orderly affair. D2 – Our five year old was three weeks early and she would rather run than walk. She is a ball of energy and always on the move. D3 was two days late and labour was casual to start and then once they broke Laura’s water labour started in ernest and moved along quickly after that. It will be interesting to see if D3 will be perpetually late, take time to get started and really get engaged in things once she is started.
We’ve been home for four days and I am already learning things about what fatherhood of three girls is going to be like.
So far it has been about conflict. Not running street battles or screaming matches between the girls, but internal conflict for me. I have a three day old, a five year old and an almost seven year old, not to mention a wife who has recently given birth and a cat who seems to need reassurance that she isn’t being forgotten in all of this. Lots of conflicting priorities that we are sorting out.
D1 is going to be seven in a couple of weeks and she is taking the arrival of our new baby in stride. As she keeps reminding us, she has already been through the experience of becoming a big sister. Sometimes it seems like she is parroting Brother Bear in the Bernstein Bears and the New Baby.
She is excited to be a big sister again and is excited to help her poor sleep-deprived parents most of the times that we ask. She would be happy to give her sister D3 a hug whenever she can and hold her as often as possible. I’m hoping that the novelty of helping out doesn’t wear off…
D2 is on a bit of a roller-coaster. she is excited to be a big sister and not just a little sister. She has a lot of energy and has trouble containing her excitement. We have to keep telling her to move back or stop jumping on the bed/couch when D3 is being fed. She is so eager to help that she can’t contain herself. Her version of helping is different from her big sister. She wants to do things her way. She doesn’t want anyone telling her how to hold a baby. She wants to change the diapers herself. She wants to hold her baby sister without any guidance. She gets frustrated that she can’t be in charge. I had a little chat with her the other day because she was getting frustrated and defiant. I asked her if she was feeling left out and she said she was and that she wasn’t feeling like a big sister anymore – this was on our second day at home. When I asked her what she thought being a big sister would be like, she told me that she thought she would get to snuggle with D3 more. So we are working on building in more time for them to hang out.
The challenge is that we are relearning and remembering how to be new parents. We need to get back in to the groove and figure things out for ourselves before we can teach and hand over tasks to the girls. My first day of diaper changing was awkward and inefficient. D1 and D2 have both indicated interest in helping to do the diaper changes or even do them on their own. Whenever they are around when I am doing a diaper change I talk to them about what I am doing and why. I give them opportunities to do all the pieces other than the actual diaper removal and replacement. I think that will come as we get comfortable with the idea of letting a five year old change a diaper…
We have lots of adapting and negotiating and figuring out to do as a family as we shift into our new reality as a family of five. There are opportunities to be mined for D1 and D2 to take on new responsibilities and take some ownership for how we function as a family. I think that we will see them mature a couple of steps over the coming weeks and months as they participate in parenting/big sistering our new family member.
What have you done to help integrate a new baby into your family?
I’d love to hear about your experiences and lessons learned.