New motherhood is hard. I think anyone can tell you that. As I prepared to welcome our second child, I looked forward to life with baby. After a couple years of tantrums, power struggles and general toddler challenges, the idea of a baby who just eats, sleep and poops, doesn’t mouth off and generally aims to please seemed like a walk in the park. And while he hasn’t been the easiest baby, he has lived up to my expectations and then some. Getting through the early days of babyhood the second time around has been much easier. What hasn’t been easier, however, was figuring out how to do this while juggling the needs and high flying emotions of my 2.5 year old.
All the preparation in the world – books, conversations, countless viewings of Daniel Tiger’s new big brother episodes – none of it could have prepared Colin for the shock of big brotherhood. Mostly because sharing is so challenging for toddlers, and with a mother who has been home with him nearly full-time for over 2.5 years, suddenly having to share her attention has been tough.
During Asher’s first month, Colin was still on a big brother high. He was thrilled with the attention that came with being a big brother – our wisest friends brought him gifts, everyone showered him with praise when he would be a big helper, and he flaunted his “big brothers rock” t-shirt with pride. He would wake up each morning and ask excitedly, “Is baby Asher still here?” and rush to his room to give him a kiss or sing another rendition of Rockabye Baby.
But the allure slowly faded. Colin’s excitement shifted to a sentiment of general disinterest. Babies aren’t particularly interesting, so I understood his disinterest, but what emerged in the wake of the excitement was budding resentment He would ask, “when are you going to take care of me?” as he noticed that Asher’s lack of self-sufficiency meant that I had many tasks surrounding baby care: feeding, burping, changing diapers, rocking to sleep. Colin’s relative independence frustrated him, and in turn, he began protesting tasks he would ordinarily do on his own: walking up and down the stairs to our apartment, taking off his shoes and jacket, feeding himself lunch. “Help me!” with heavy emphasis on the “me” became a frequently used phrase. Suddenly, Colin’s already weak ability to entertain himself independently fizzled to nonexistence. He wouldn’t even walk across our apartment from room to room without me by his side.