My oldest son turned four right after his first brother was born. Four years of alone time with his parents. Four years of extra mommy time during the week. Four years of having toys to himself, extra attention from family members, and more. I didn’t plan a four-year age gap; it took our family a lot longer and a lot more help than we expected to have our second son, but age gaps aren’t everything.
When my second son was finally on the way, I heard a lot of opinions about how our oldest son would feel once he finally became a big brother. And the most shocking part of it: most of the advice was negative. I was told that he would be angry, act out, try to hurt the baby, cry about getting less attention, be more stressed out, feel competitive with his brother, and more. I was warned over and over again about how terrible the transition can be, and that I should be prepared.
I wasn’t scared. I have always believed that much of that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Does he get upset sometimes? Yes. Does he crave alone time with me? Sometimes. But I was determined to make sure he felt positivity about being a big brother.
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There were three big things we did to make sure we focused on the positives, while still addressing any concerns: focusing on the wonderful things that would change, never blaming the baby, and setting aside alone time with our oldest son. These three things have made a huge difference for our family, and it’s allowed our boys to have a closer bond.
Talk about how change can be wonderful. Instead of focusing on all of the negative comments and advice I was given, I focused on all of the wonderful things that would change. He would have a friend in the house. He could help with diaper changes, feedings, and more. He would be able to show his brother how to do all of the big boy things he already knew how to do. He could watch him grow and see what it looks like as someone learns to talk, walk, and more. And my oldest son was so excited.
Never blame the baby. The second, very important part of keeping the peace in our household is never blaming the baby. This has been a big thing for my husband and me since day one, and it makes a huge difference. We now have three little boys—ages six, two, and one—and this is a game changer. For example, if we cannot go to the park yet because his brothers are napping, how I explain it to my oldest is important. Instead of saying: “we can’t go because your brothers have to nap,” I say “we can definitely go to the park once your brothers wake up, but we can also play together while we wait!” He gets alone time with his parents and he gets to look forward to the park—win-win.
Mommy/daddy dates are important: go on them! My husband and I started doing this when our third son was born, and it has been wonderful for all of us. Since our oldest son can do more activities than his brothers and craves alone time with both of us, we started doing mommy/daddy dates. Some days it’s me and our oldest, some days it’s my husband and him, and sometimes it’s all three of us. He gets the one-on-one attention he craves, is able to do the bigger kid things his brothers can’t do yet, and he comes home refreshed. In fact, by the end of these days, he can’t stop talking about getting home to see his brothers. It’s been wonderful.
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Here’s what I’ve learned: big brothers don’t have to be jealous. Yes, our son needs extra time with us, and he gets frustrated sometimes. But he has never once blamed his brothers for that. He loves them more than anything, and they love him back endlessly. I know they might go through struggles together as they grow up, but they’ll always have each other’s back. Becoming a big brother was one of the most exciting things in the world for our oldest son – and he still cannot wait to greet them every single morning. It’s incredible.