When you thinking about having Child #1, the typical questions running through your mind are:
‘Am I ready for such a huge responsibility?’
‘How can I handle a nothing human being?’
‘How do I make it work?’
‘Am I ready?’
‘Am I ready?!?’
‘O gawd. I don’t know! Where to start?’
Just to name a few!
And when it comes to Child #2 (and beyond_, usually the questions boil down to: ‘How will I cope?’ & ‘How will the kids be together?’
I have heard from some friends of pretty intense rivalry between their kids – the older disliking the younger, the fights, the jealousy, the behind-the-parent’s-back bullying… And truth be told, I was concerned as well.
Looking at my kids, I am relieved and thankful that they have a good relationship. Sure, there are the occasional quarrels and cry-fests, but by and large they get along swimmingly. The two boys enjoy each other’s company. It warms my heart whenever the kids get so excited seeing each other after school – with huge shrieks of joy and hugs. Or when Jay dances his silly chicken dance for Zoie and when she chuckles loudly, he is happy and goes ‘What a cute baby!’ Or how Xav doesn’t whine when Zoie pulls hard at his hair (and you know how much a miracle it is when a 3-year-old whiner doesn’t whine). Or how the boys belt out ‘Let It Go’ for the umpteenth time and getting the hubs or me to “judge” who is the better singer. Or when they insist on squeezily sleeping on the same bed (even though they have a double bunk).
Sibling love is something very precious, and I thank God that the three of them look to be getting along so well.
I don’t claim to be the expert, but these are our practical ways we take in bringing them up:
~ Each child has a different love language – and for them to feel valued, appreciated and loved, we need to speak love in a language that they understand and can “receive”. Jay’s love language is quality time and gifts. He loves to receive toys and other “surprises”, so we try to bring them out for some ice-cream once a week (this serves as a good way to ensure they behave well in school too!) and of course, toy-shopping at Target is their #1 favourite past-time. I will also give them frozen jelly-sticks or Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs on occasion, and the joy that lights up his face is priceless. Xavier, on the other hand, doesn’t enjoy gifts as much (but of course in recent weeks that has changed a tad, and he is learning to ask for toys as often as Jay!) but he loves physical touch and affection, and we shower him with hugs and kisses all the time.
~ Personal one-on-one time. With three kids, and just the two of us, we are busy to say the least. So we try to bring out the boys individually for some playground fun or to share a cone together – and as much as they enjoy each other’s company, I think they also need that one-on-one time with us. My Zoie spends a LOT of time with us (especially given her more nocturnal hours), but it has worked out (who needs sleep anyway?) cos I can then spend daylight hours with the boys and when they get to bed all happy and contented, I can play with Zoie.
~ Personal space. Maybe it was because of our need for our OWN personal space, but we try to teach the kids to have quiet fun or do an activity by themselves. No need to play together all the time. This allows them some time to do an activity on their own (Lego, colouring, book-flipping, toy banging, whatever), and it gives us… some silence in the house. I don’t kid you – this doesn’t last very long. But that 5, 10, 15 minutes of golden silence is what we need to maintain our own sanity. Especially on weekends when all three kids are with us 24/7!
~ Having fun together. Personal fun is good, but having fun as a family is something we believe in. If Xav is unhappy and whining about something Jay did or didn’t do, we will usually reason it with Jay – and teach him that compromise and harmony is more important that just doing things his way. So if a toy causes them to bicker and scream, we will calmly offer to take the offending toy away or even throw it away if the tantrum is of a “higher level”, and usually this is enough for Jay to calm down and try to work out a solution with Xav. Now, for this, it does seem like Jay is more often than not in the losing end cos Xav has no or little concept of “compromise” – but whenever the “But it is NOT FAIR” line comes out, we will also have to explain to Jay that he spent the first three years of HIS life not having to share anything with anyone as well. The boys understand that we will not be leaving the house if either one of them is in the throes of a tantrum or crying fit, and if it continues, we are more than happy to shelf any going-out plans or even skip a planned breakfast or lunch outing till the crying kid has been placated. So far, this has worked for us. And by work, I mean there are good days, and then there are the not-so-good days of parenting. So for this, we enjoy trips to the zoo, the gorgeous beach, the playground… anywhere we know the boys love!
But I recognize one thing though… There are some parents who may employ similar or even better methods or ideology, and yet the results might be starkly different, so I am immensely thankful to God for my three kids. It is not so much our parenting style, but really their characters and personalities play a huge role in this whole equation! Individually, they might be a handful, but as a group, they blend so well and get along so well together.
How do you handle more than one child? Any other tips you can share?