From she’s the only, to she’s the oldest

It’s coming, in about 14 weeks, my baby girl will go from being ‘the only’ to ‘the oldest’. I’ll be listening for 2 little voices in the grocery store, at church, or at grandma’s house. I’ll have 2 armfuls of love.

I’ll be so busy I won’t know which end is up.

… but I will wonder, what if we’d only had HER? Don’t get me wrong, we’re all excited about baby #2 coming along, but what if Keeley had been an only child? Certainly she would have gotten more ‘stuff’. Going forward, she would have had more time, money, and one-on-one attention to devoted to her. At some points I have to think, are we doing right by her? Is giving her a sibling a gift or a lifelong ticket to torture? Will she blame us? Will she hate us? Will she hate ‘it’? or will she be just as happy and well adjusted with a sibling? I don’t have a crystal ball. I’m not sure I would want one anyway. We were getting into a good groove, the 2 of us. we played, we ate, we danced, we laughed. Then came the never-ending sickness, the headaches, the popping vitamins, tylenol and tums. She could no longer barrel into me at full steam. She has to hear ‘don’t do that you could hurt the baby’– it’s sad but true, she’s a little rambunctious sometimes so if we’re not careful, we get hurt around here. All of us.

What can I do to help her? Should I do anything at all? Do I distance myself from her play even further so she doesn’t expect it, or should I soak up the last few weeks that I have, on the floor, tears in my eyes knowing that for better or worse, this is the end of her ‘me’ time? She’s old enough to know the difference. She’s old enough to care. She’s old enough to be jealous and angry and spiteful about the whole thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean she will be, but who could blame her?


  1. It happens. Has happened through history.
    It also sometimes works out that the big sister is a HUGE gift to give to the baby. 🙂

    Play with her now and later, too. There will be a time at first that you’ll have to tell her that your hands are busy (I think that’s preferable to saying ‘the baby needs me’ because that fosters competition. Blaming it on your hands seems to help.)

    You will do fine, you know. You’re a thoughtful parent.

    Email me your address. And clothing size for the big kid. If I do tie dye for the baby, the big sister needs to get a gift, too.

  2. Stacy Wolfmeyer

    I’ll try not to give too much advice (and you know if I do, it’s take it or leave it, I’m not offended), but I’ll give you my feelings about my own family.

    I always knew I wanted several children. A singleton was something I knew I didn’t want, and I’m glad that God’s plan agreed with mine. Still not sure yet if I feel complete with 3 or if I want to go for 4, which was always my plan. There’s some time to figure that out.

    There was a time when we were expecting Lauaren that I was scared to have two kids. It was silly, but I wasn’t sure I had enough love for two kids. I loved Jacob SO much, how could I possibly love anyone else that much? And how unfair would that be to the 2nd child? And then Lauren was born, and I fell in love with her, just like I had Jacob. Maybe even faster. She was easier when we were still in the hospital 🙂 Mom’s don’t always fall in love with their kids as soon as they are born, but it sure does help. I was lucky enough that it happened before we took them home with all 3.

    Jacob was only 14 months old when we got pregnant with Lauren. That’s when the TV watching started. I remember feeling so crummy the first few months of the pregnancy and thinking “Don’t touch me, talk to me, look at me.” How fair was that? It wasn’t, but it wasn’t MY fault I felt that way either. Yes, MY choice to get pregnant again, but I never would have chosen to feel like crud all the time. We made it through. Not the best parenting I’ve ever done, but nobody can always be their best. He was always safe, always cared for, and he learned to be independent.

    The rest of my pregnancy was easier. I was more tired, but was lucky that she was born in February, so we were inside for the winter months anyway. There’s no way I could have let him play outside alone had it been nice. Too little and we lived on a busy corner. Though I was so tired, I could still read plenty of books and roll cars around with him (even had a nice hill for him to roll the cars down….) and we were happy.

    It was hard that we had to have him be careful of my belly. I’m the parent who roughhouses. And he had to stop doing that with me, when he had come to expect and enjoy it. He was also a kicker at changing times. He was obviously still in diapers. And he was so big that I couldn’t always hold his legs. My hand really couldn’t hold both ankles at the same time. I learned to change him standing up as long as the diapers were just wet. Can’t kick near so easily that way.

    When Lauren was born, Jacob was 22 months old. Still such a baby. I did wonder some if I did him a disservice by having a sibling for him when he was still young. But other than needing to feed her and change her, the transition from 1 to 2 kids wasn’t near as huge as from none to one. Still a big change, but you mostly just adjust some priorities and everyone has to become more patient, and you move on with life. The hardest times were when we were getting in and out of the car. At home, it wasn’t a big deal, but in parking lots, he couldn’t be trusted to stay next to me while getting Lauren out of the car. I learned to get the baby out and in to the cart first, and then get him. So he either came out holding my hand or went straight into the seat of the cart, if Lauren’s seat fit inside the cart. He had a terrible habit of suddenly needing something as soon as I sat down to nurse Lauren, and he had to wait. I always checked first to see if he needed a diaper or snack or help with anything before sitting, but he saw her getting that attention and suddenly wanted it, too. But unless he was hurt, he just had to wait. Not always fun for him, but kids have to learn it’s not all about them, even though that’s a normal stage for them. And we made it. BTW, I REALLY liked Ami’s phrase “my hands are busy.” I’m going to remember that one. It takes away the blame on the baby.

    Jacob was hardest while he was 3. WAY harder than 2 or 4. I’m glad we didn’t have brand new baby at that age. It was good that she was a year old already and past that super needy baby stage when he turned in to a monster. He knew better, but suddenly everything was a huge deal. It’s so frustrating. Throw potty training in there (underpants all day finally at 3 years 2 months, but you already knew that), and it was rough. Lauren had little to do with that. If I had been the working parent, I’m pretty sure I would not have felt like going home to the chaos and crankiness that was at our house while Jacob was Keeley’s age.

    It took a little while longer after having Lauren for me to get my energy back than it did after Jacob. She didn’t sleep through the night quite as early, and caring for two kids just takes more out of you than caring for one. But it did come back, and I was able to give them both what I wanted to give them eventually. Then of course, I got pregnant with Rachel when Jacob was 4 1/2 and Lauren was 2 1/2, and I was dealing with a difficult pregnancy. Couldn’t lift, had to rest more, wasn’t supposed to do anything strenuous, and my backside hurt all the time from the shots. Then 14 weeks-about 30 weeks were great. Felt good, not too hot, and no more stress in the pregnancy. Then it got so blasted HOT (I know what you’re facing this summer after my August baby last year!) and I got huge and I couldn’t do anything any more. Just too tired. I felt like I was cheating them out of their fun, but they were fine. After Rachel was born and I got less tired again, things improved again. Then we started on all this painting and staining, so I had no time and energy again. I suppose that’s another story, though. Point is, things weren’t ideal, but we all made it. Everyone had to give a little, which may not have been fair to expect out of the kids, but that’s how it was. And we’re fine!

    Jacob and Lauren are best friends. They also know how to push each other’s buttons. They are so normal and I’m so glad they have each other. They wouldn’t know what to do with out each other. Who knows for how long they will be this close, but regardless, they will always have the experience of counting on each other and the memories they have made together. I don’t think JAcob really ever had time to feel resentful of Lauren. She’s been around for all of his remembering life, and he’s always loved her. He can’t remember what it’s like to have us to himself. And I wondered about Lauren being resentful, but she’s just so happy to have Rachel around that it isn’t an issue at this point.

    Now for Lauren and Rachel. She was 3 days shy of 3 1/2 was Rachel was born. While I wouldn’t have wanted a new baby while Jacob was 3, Lauren was pretty easy. But about the time she turned 4, things got tougher. Now things that used to be easy for her to handle is super big drama. Yelling about everything. Had to crack down on her. One warning, and then after that, timeout every time she fusses. Some of them are official (you know, on the couch, with a timer) and some are just “Yelling hurts our ears, so if you’re going to yell, you need to go in another room. But we’d love to have you back when you’re ready to use respectful words.” It worked with Jacob and it’s working with Lauren. Sometimes she still chooses to be yelling in a room all by herself, but usually she’d prefer to get to be with us. With Rachel, really. I’m not enjoying this phase of hers, but we’re working on getting her out of that phase (though who knows what the next one will be….it could be worse!), and it isn’t really affecting the other two kids. So we just keep on keeping on.

    The only problems we’ve had so far with Rachel and the kids is that everything takes longer with 3 and Lauren won’t leave her sister alone. Ever. I spend a lot of my day saying “please let go of your sister” “don’t pull your sister up on you” “Get your feet OFF your sister!” I have to banish Lauren from Rachel’s presence sometimes, and then I get the ” I NEVER get to touch her!” tantrum.

    They don’t always like waiting for me to take care of their baby sister, but they love her to pieces. They don’t want her in their stuff (so now that she’s crawling, I don’t know that they are going to like her as much any more!), but they like to try to make her happy. I have told them that she’s “our” baby. Sometimes that’s backfired, like when Lauren tries to pick her up like I do, but usually they like to take part in her care. Bringing toys, diapers, picking out oufits for her or what baby food she’ll eat. They also enjoy “baby-sitting” her when I’m doing laundry, cooking, or using the bathroom. They volunteer to baby-sit her all the time. And they are so proud to be the big sibling when we are around their friends.

    With each child, I clearly have less time to spend with the others. For example, I wonder if it’s my fault that Lauren couldn’t identify all the letters and their sounds by the time she was 2 like Jacob could. But she learned them just fine and before she was really supposed to anyway. I couldn’t spend all day reading books to Lauren like I could JAcob. Though I could read to both, once she stopped yanking on the books. I loved (and still do) having them both on my lap. And now I fit 3 kids! When Lauren was a baby and took 2 naps, I always spent one of those naps taking care of the house (the one where they were both sleeping) and during her morning nap, it was all about Jacob. Whatever he wanted to do, I was all his. Since Lauren doesn’t nap, I have to balance my work and my special time with her during Rachel’s one nap. But with Jacob in school all day long anyway, it’s always “girl time” around here, which she loves.

    It was an adjustment every time our family expanded. Priorities had to change. They had to be on their own more and learn to be more independent. And the kids did lose some of me when that happened. But they gained each other. And they will always have each other. Even if they don’t always like each other (I’m not so starry-eyed that I think they’ll all be best friends forever, but wouldn’t that be nice?), they will always have that brother and sister bond and they’ll have each other longer than they’ll have Mark or me. And I’m so glad I was able to give them the gift of each other.

    I didn’t address much of what you said, but I was trying to avoid advice. I guess what I want you to know is that it’s normal to have doubts and “what-ifs.” You will spend your entire life questioning if you are doing the right thing with/for your kids. However many you have. There is no real right or wrong (short of right is loving and taking care of your kids and wrong is beating and neglecting them), you will make fabulous decisions and some mistakes too, but thankfully kids are resilliant (darn it, can’t seem to spell that right, but I imagine you know what word I’m going for!).

    You will be super busy, but after the first few months of babyhood with the new baby, things will calm down, get in to a routine, and you can go back to a little more one-on-one with Keeley. I know you like your house just so, but you may have to let that slide some to get in the time you want with your kids. It’s a balancing act. And maybe you’ll balance things way better than I do, but I just wanted to say how normal it is if priorities shift.

    As for now, don’t stop playing with Keeley. Just change how you play. If you’re tired, sit on the couch and play restaurant. Order food from her, and have her “make” it and deliver it. Or play house with her, and let her be the mommy and you the baby. Read. Have her read to you. Color at the table. Or at a tray in the living room while you rest. Sit in a chair outside while she plays on the swingset. There are many ways to play with her while taking it easy at the same time. Teach her now how to be gentle to your belly. “Let’s pat the belly now” or “kiss your brother or sister.” Have her be your helper, if she’s interested. Most kids are aiming to please. If she doesn’t have a baby doll, get her one. Lauren spent a lot of time diapering, feeding, and burping her babies right after Rachel was born. We both took care of our babies when it was time and she was interested. Her favorite part was wiping the doll’s bottom with the “baby wipes.” And don’t worry about tv ruining her. Totally up to you how much time you allow her to watch, but my kids have gone through streaks where they watch a lot, and then don’t watch any, and no matter what, they’re still plenty creative and active. And it can be wonderful to snuggle and watch a movie together!

    As for wondering if she’ll be resentful, maybe she will. But my belief is a lot of that is determined by the relationship you try to foster between your kids. They don’t have to like each other, but they have to respect each other. And they’ll have a lot more fun together if they learn to get along!! I talked to Jacob adn Lauren a lot about how God decided our family needed another person and He was giving us a gift. And a baby is an amazing gift for our family!

  3. Stacy Wolfmeyer

    Wow, that was a book. I didn’t reread it. I hope it’s coherent! and that you’ve got time on your hands when you tackle reading that!!!!

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