In the last three months I spent a lot of time thinking about the major life events coming up. Getting the house ready for a newborn and having helpers living with us, getting my mind and body ready for the birth, doing things we wanted to do before we entered newborn land and one of the things I spent the most time thinking and preparing things for was getting Graham and Miles ready to be big brothers.
In some ways their transition to sibling-hood is easier than most. Since they are twins neither Graham or Miles know what it’s like to be the only kid in the house, the center of attention. But they are used to being the only grandkids in town with all the adoring attention from dozens of adults. When they are in the room, they’re the ones that everyone wants to talk to and play with and they (pretty much) get what they want when they want it.
And so in anticipation of little sister rolling onto the scene, Graham and Miles would have to learn to share attention. Especially from mommy and daddy, perhaps most importantly. No longer would they have the un-divided attention from mommy and daddy. There would be this new little being in the house, crying, getting so much snuggle time with mom (while nursing) and lots of time with daddy getting diapers changed and walked around being burped. And for what? A crying creature that can’t talk and isn’t any fun to play with.
We checked out books from the library about babies and being a big brother and we had a lot of conversations about how things would be different. How babies cry a lot, how babies can’t play with toys right away. We worked in a lot of sentences about things they CAN do that baby sister wouldn’t be able to do “You can eat an apple and sister won’t be able to.” “You can pick out a toy to play with and sister is too little.” We tried to emphasize how being a big boy is “better” than being a baby and how even if sister takes up a lot of our attention how it’s still pretty neat to be who they are and that we wouldn’t love them any less.
We also did a sibling class at the hospital where we were giving birth which was a great chance for them to see the hospital and have a tour. We talked about how when it was time for sister to come that mommy and daddy would be staying at the hospital for a few days and that they’d stay with Nana and Papa at their house and then they’d be at our house with Grandma and Grandpa staying with us and helping out.
Then as we set up our house and made space in our bedroom for baby things we included them in the equation. We are very fortunate to have a large master bedroom. There was space for a mini crib, changing table, nursing chair and a spot for toys and a table and chair for quiet activities when the boys wanted to come visit. We took the child lock off the outside of our door and started an open door policy making sure they knew they could come into our bedroom during the day whenever they wanted.
The last thing I did for the boys before Alice’s arrival was created little gifts to help distract them during the week of her arrival. I made a couple trips to the dollar store and the dollar bins at Target and took brown paper lunch sacks to create daily prize bags. For four days each of them got their own bag with a couple of little toys or a simple activity to play with. I did things like super hero masks and their super hero capes they got at Christmas, a toy fishing pole and those grow an animal capsules and coloring books and crayons. I gave our grandparents instructions on where the bags were stashed and to give the boys a bag each morning (or whenever seemed right during their day) once we were in the hospital. I hoped it would be something they could enjoy and know that mommy and daddy were thinking of them.
I had intended for the boys to go shopping with daddy to pick out a “welcome” gift for sister but we ran out of time before she was born. We did (with grandma’s help) get an awesome pirate ship gift for Alice to give to the boys. I boxed up the figurines into two boxes and Grandma wrapped them up for me (I had it on my to do list but went into labor before I was finished) and brought them to the hospital. Then when the boys came to visit us at the hospital we had a gift from sister for her big brothers. The boys picked out toys from things Grandma picked out and they too had gifts to give their sister.
Alice was born at 10:30 at night so we had Grandma and Grandpa bring the boys to the hospital the next afternoon after everyone had the chance to have a good morning and be ready to see each other. We had Alice in her bassinet when the boys entered the room so that we could have our full attention on them if they wanted hugs or if they were stand off-ish about the whole thing, we didn’t force them to pose with their sister for pictures and we didn’t tell them how to react or feel about her “Don’t you loooove her? Isn’t she beautiful?”
Basically we made ourselves ready and let the boys set the tone and take the lead. They walked in to the room excited to see us and they took to looking around the room right away. They wanted to know where mommy was, where was daddy, where was sister? Graham right away wanted to give Alice her toys and Miles came over to my bedside to say hi and started asking about the buttons on the side of my bed. He played with the buttons for a little while as Graham climbed all over the window seat that Joel slept in the night before. Then they wanted to be lifted up to see into the bassinet and started asking about holding sister. We made arrangements for them to sit with daddy and pillows to hold her and somehow at the same time the gifts for them came up. So Alice got to give the boys her gifts and the attention was on the gifts for a good portion of their visit. Graham held Alice. Miles sat next to daddy and looked on before asking to hold her too. Then it was a few more minutes before they were getting squirrely and time to move on. We had a plan for Joel to take the boys out of the room and over to the hospital play area when it seemed time so that my folks could have time to visit with me and hold Alice.
All in all it was a very low key visit. We took very few pictures and did our best to have a “no big deal” air in the room. I was happy with how it went. We spent another night in the hospital and came home in the afternoon around lunch time the next day. Again I made sure to not have Alice in my arms when they first saw me, just incase they were wanting to run over for hugs or were worried about mommy being occupied with baby. So, when we got to the front door I came in on my own and Joel carried the car seat with a sleeping Alice strapped snuggly inside.
We were off to a great start. It hasn’t all been roses though, the boys have been fighting with each other A LOT. I’ll have to post a separate article on their daily behavior. But considering they’ve done the transition out of cribs, potty trained, started pre-school and had a baby arrive on the scene all in the last three months we’re doing a pretty dang good job.
Aaaand now some pictures!
Graham comforts a sleeping sister while we get settled in to our room.
The first diaper change at home. Graham wanted to get really close and check it all out. Miles keeps a safe but interested distance.
I had just finished nursing and was checking into the world on my phone. Joel was doing a diaper change and Graham decided to create a cave under the blanket on my lap and started to play with a toy. Okay, kid, if that’s your chosen activity, have at it!
I’m set up nursing and the boys work on quiet puzzles and activities in our bedroom to have hang out time with mommy.
Graham does coloring at the activity table in our room.
If you’re wondering how to make the transition for your children to get ready for a new baby coming into the house I hope this post has given you some ideas or helped you out. I don’t regret any of the extra steps we took to make the transition smooth for Graham and Miles and nothing has felt like a waste of time. Both the boys are growing into their role of big brother very well and it’s so sweet to see them taking interest in Alice, to care for her and want her to rest quietly or stop crying. Now we just need to figure out how to stop the fighting between the two of them!