I’ve been thinking about what I might have written if I’d started this blog when my children were much younger – say Ben at 2 and Hannah at 0-6 months.
Perhaps I may have scribbled down something along these lines, while wiping away the tears of exhaustion so I could focus on grammar and syntax…
Ben made eight attempts on his baby sister today, getting close to injury-time with five of them.
1 – A wooden train to her head from the other side of the sitting room.
He’s a good thrower, a skill his father was encouraging until now.
2 – A slap across her head at feeding time. I slap him back in a hand-jerk response that’s a long way from my preferred parenting methods. Tiredness is my excuse.
I’m left with both of them shrieking.
I try to change the baby’s nappy on the floor, as advised in baby manuals, but it’s not so safe with an angry toddler around.
3 – A kick to her side.
4 – A leap onto her stomach.
5 – An unpremeditated slap on her head with one hand, while simultaneously wolfing down fish fingers with the other.
Feeling too worn out to do more than glare at him, I check there’s no red mark and move her out of his reach.
Where has my sweet little boy gone?
I know he’s having trouble adjusting after two years as the sole light of his parents’ life.
All the professional advice is to ignore the bad behaviour and encourage the good, but sometimes I don’t manage to rise to this.
Playground talk reveals other parents’ ingenious coping strategies.
- One mother I met told me she turned her settee round to face the wall and kept the baby in it and away from her eighteen month old for six months.
- Another bought her older daughter a dolls’ house “from the baby” when he was born; and then a bike “from the baby” for her third birthday.
We only bought him a Barney video. Perhaps that’s where we went wrong, trying to bribe him on the cheap.
To give him credit, he does say “I love my baby sister” when he’s not tired, hungry or cross.
But his precarious sleeping pattern was shattered on the day of her arrival.
He hasn’t slept properly since, and neither have we.
It’s especially tiring now they’ve got the night-shift sussed.
One of them sleeps through, while the other wakes intermittently throughout the night.
Then they reverse this the following day.
Whichever one slept through, stays awake all day and grizzles, while the one who was on night duty sleeps all day, waking only to top up on food.
But there are signs of a cease-fire as Ben approaches 3.
Entire days pass without violence being wreaked on his seven-month old sister, and I learn to spot the signs of an impending blow and deflect it with a toy car or a passing ambulance.
I start to notice that having two children, even at this early stage, shifts the balance of power, forcing the grown-ups to cede control and giving the children a more powerful say in family life.
I suppose it will mean more theme parks and fewer cutting edge art galleries, but I can look at unmade beds at home, without having to pay for tickets.