I haven’t run across many parenting books that discuss specific examples of how older children, toddlers in particular, will adjust to the birth of a new baby. Given this obvious oversight, I thought I would try to bridge the gap since we brought a new baby home 9 weeks ago and our older daughter is two years old.
Please keep in mind, though, that I am not a parenting expert and these are not necessarily real-life scenarios. I mean, these are just things that could happen that I thought up in my head. Mmmm hmm.
Your older child, more than likely, will really like the baby. Especially because newborns don’t yet pose a threat to their toys and territory. For example, your older child may want to kiss the baby, hug the baby, and say “I love you, Bean,” all the time. Other common phrases include, “I love you baby sister,” and “Funny baby.” She also may ask to kiss the baby’s belly button, tickle the baby’s feet, or nuzzle the baby’s head. Occasionally she may want to hold the baby, but then after a couple minutes remove her hands quickly from around the baby’s waist so that the baby flops over to one side. She also may lean on the baby, partially sit on her, or gently whack her in the head with a book. The latter actions should not be construed as acts of aggression toward the baby, but merely a lack of awareness of her own weight and proper baby etiquette. And just plain curiosity to see what happens when she whacks the baby in the head with a book.
A new baby in the home also may spur interest in common baby activities, such as feeding the baby or changing the baby. For example, one night when your toddler is supposed to be sleeping, you may enter her room an hour after her bedtime to find her walking on her bed with all the spare diapers from the closet strewn around the room. Upon questioning the child, she may exclaim, “The baby needed a change!” in reference to the baby doll on her bed.
You may find that while your toddler loves the baby, she does act out for attention from you, the parents. Your toddler might regress and begin performing previous undesirable behaviors, such as throwing cups and silverware during meal time, not going to bed promptly, and answering “NO!” to every single thing you ask her. Sometimes she may even scream “NO! NO! NOOOOOOO!” over and over again.
Your toddler also may demonstrate new undesirable behaviors, such as smearing maple syrup all over her face while you’re gone checking on the baby.
Or, finger painting with her poop.
The first time she finger paints with her poop, you may discover it first thing in the morning, in her bed, smeared all over the sheets and pillowcases (perhaps on the morning you’re supposed to go to the hospital to deliver the baby). You may think she just had a diaper explosion, and that it wasn’t done intentionally. The second time, when she smears it on a pillow in the living room (on the night you get home from the hospital from having the baby), you’ll still think the first time is an accident and that this was just a little experiment. Your spouse may be very, very angry. But, when he expresses his anger, he might be carrying a baby doll and have a little girl’s barrette in his hair (because he was just playing with your toddler), and it will be very difficult for you to take him seriously. In this situation, laughing and waxing poetic about “these are the days,” will not be appreciated by your husband. The third time, when your daughter smears it all over her bed and sheets again, you’ll know for sure that these incidents have not been accidental. The fourth, fifth and sixth times, when she smears it all over her play kitchen and the gate in her room, when you’re home alone with her, you may be very, very angry. You will then understand why your spouse got even more upset when you couldn’t stop laughing at him because he had a barrette in his hair. Ummm, all I can say about this is that you might want to think about potty training.
The Just Plain Odd
Finally, your toddler may exhibit some totally off-the-wall behaviors. For example, after fooling around in her room for more than an hour and a half after her bedtime, you might check on her before you go to bed and find that she’s … well, naked. As in, COMPLETELY naked. And sleeping. Naked. You might find a completely naked sleeping child.
What might happen is, you and your spouse will enter the darkened room and walk up to the bed to lovingly tuck the child under her blankets. Your spouse will use his cell phone to illuminate the child in the darkened room. As he’s doing this, your eyes may have trouble adjusting to the darkness and you’ll be thinking, “What pajamas did I put on her?” While you’re pondering this, your husband will quietly shout “SHE’S NAKED! SHE’S COMPLETELY NAKED!” And then you will realize, indeed, she is completely naked. Upon which you will die of laughter and collapse on the floor. Once again, your spouse will not be amused by your tendency to laugh uncontrollably in inappropriate situations. He will become angry with you because he’ll be afraid that you’re going to wake up your naked sleeping child, get her all riled up, and that it will take her a long time to fall asleep again. But his anger won’t be enough to squelch your laughter. You’ll still be dying on the floor. At which point, he’ll throw the pajamas and diaper at you and say “You do it,” and walk out. You will diaper and dress your child, still laughing, during which she will wake up, see you laughing hysterically, give you a cutesy little smile, and WAVE at you. OMG.
Again, these are only hypothetical scenarios. The aforementioned to which I really have no solutions for. I just said I would tell you what might happen, not what to do about it.
Oh, and one other thing — the “negative” and “just plain odd” behaviors, may have little, if anything, to do with the fact that you brought a baby home. It might just be because your kid’s a toddler.