I have three little girls and D3 is just 3 1/2 months old. D1 and D2 are 7 and 5 respectively. D1 and D2 like to help with their little sister. It is great that they are so engaged and helpful. They like to play with D3 and try to get her to smile. They pick out her outfits for the day and keep the diaper stockpiles around the house well stocked. They like to sit and hold her and they are willing to entertain her if she is awake and we need to shower or cook. So far no one has suggested that we send her back. I think they have decided that she is a keeper. All of that is fantastic. However, they are cramping my style.
There are times when D1 and D2 are “helpful.” They think they are being helpful as only big sisters can be. They want her to learn how to do things faster. They want some ownership over this kid. They want her to do things right and sometimes they treat her like a toy. Often this involves getting too close. They crowd in and try to entertain her with multiple rattles, balls, etc. Then she gets overstimulated and starts crying.
We just started D3 in her Jolly Jumper. D1 and D2 both loved the Jolly Jumper as babies. They would sometimes spend an hour in it jumping up and down, spinning around and laughing. Now we have introduced D3 to this fun machine. The girls want her to jump and try to help her do this. They bounce her up and down to show her how to do it. They stand right in front of her and jump so she can imitate them. They seem to want to be touching her while she is in the jumper. I have to keep telling them to back off and give her space to figure it out. When I first put her in it I bounced her a bit to give her a sense of the potential awesomeness. Now they are imitating me and trying to bounce her when she is starting to figure it out. I want D3 to have the space to learn on her own. I want her to have the opportunity that her sisters had to sort it out on her own.
Obviously three month olds go through more than a couple of diapers a day. I enjoy changing diapers – at least most of the time. It is one-on-one time. It is time that I can chat with her and entertain her. These days I play with her bare feet when they are freed of the sleeper. Sometimes I zurble (not sure if this is the technical or official term) her bare belly. Diaper changing time gives me the opportunity to test the sensitivity of her skin and various body parts to see if she is ticklish or has gained awareness that the feet at the end of her legs belong to her. Since changing typically happens before feeding time, it is a time for me to play and distract her while Laura gets ready to feed her. Lately D1 has started sliding in to kiss her feet and tickle her while I am in the midst of changing her. She is stealing some of my usual lines and saying them instead of me. All I want to do is tell her to get lost. I feel like she is taking my time with my daughter. I was surprised to discover this feeling the other day. These days I am working two jobs and so my time is somewhat limited with my girls. I want it to be quality time and because babies change so fast I am feeling more protective of the time with D3 and especially the time when she is awake and not crying.
I know she is imitating me and learning how to interact with her sister. I am happy that she wants to engage with her baby sister. I know that they both want to help to show their love for their sister. I don’t know if they will remember any of these specific experiences if they become babysitters or parents/aunts. I’m sure this is how we humans learn to parent. We learn by doing and observing others. All important things for sure. I also want to be able relish this time and the trick is finding the balance.