Sunday, March 24, 2013


It's been a week since my last post. A week since I felt desperate and sad and was close to falling apart. But I didn't. And here is why (I think).

It's not just us
The responses to my post showed me that it wasn't all so unusual. I talked to a lot of people and suddenly realized that many many children reacted the way Leander did when a sibling was born. I wondered why nobody ever talked about it. I mean you read about a little bit of jealousy and that it's important to know what is going on in the firstborn's mind (e.g. the second wife). But nobody seems to mention HOW bad it can get. Until you write a post about it yourself.

Nevertheless that last weekend was mad. Maybe because we now knew it was all normal and we had to sit it out. Maybe because we were so trapped in a bad downward spiral and didn't see the surface anymore. But whatever it was - it changed. Somehow.

Time for myself
On Tuesday I had a day to myself. After the boys left the house in the morning it was just me and Mona as usual. But in the afternoon I had a meeting with our future neighbours from our housing project. And I was very happy to be back talking about ANYTHING else but parenting, siblings, explosions or any child-related topics. I couldn't stay for the whole meeting but I was out till the evening so when I got home I felt refreshed and a little bit more me and myself again.

Stepping out
This "day off" also helped to get a new perspective. Finally I was able to step out of this downward spiral and go back to life without the attitude of it all being so crap anyway and us having to wait until things would change eventually. I had found new energy and hope that WE could change things actively.

On Wednesday I was standing in the sunshine reading "Siblings without Rivalry" while waiting for a friend. I was still a bit refreshed and awake when I read what may have changed EVERYTHING. Maybe not everything but a major part of it.
Very early in the book they talk about how we get so focused on what our children do (to each other) and say and how we can stop that. And then they mention what could happen if we would see what our children's actions and words are actually trying to tell us. And then I saw it too.
We had been so careful with Leander ever since he was born. We allowed all sorts of emotions and feelings, acknowledged them and helped him through tough situations by simply being there for him and with him. But now - during one of the worst struggles in his life - we didn't see it. All we did was focus on stopping the yelling and screaming and hitting and spluttering. As soon as he yelled at his sister we asked him to stop. Then he yelled at us. We yelled back. He snorted and spluttered at us. We exploded. Over and over again. And now - was it the sunshine, was it me having had a "day off" I don't know - I saw it. The yelling. The spluttering. That was his language. That was all he could find to let us know how unhappy, how sad, scared and desperate he was. And we didn't listen. We just told him to stop. Hold back his feelings. The feelings that were bad and abandoned.

In this moment I may have dropped a few stones and hovered a few inches above the ground. This was it. If I could allow the yelling maybe I could get through to him. All I had to do was give him words instead. And this was when the next penny dropped.
We didn't even have the right words for what he was feeling or what we were feeling. Sad. Mad. Desperate. Alone. Hopeless. Scared. All we ever said was "You are angry, right?" over and over again.
Angry. Angry. That wasn't just it. There was much more. But he didn't know how to say.
What we had to do was see the situation itself. "You are sad because I have to nurse Mona again. You wanted me to play with you now." He needed to be seen. In Detail not in general.

I was so relieved that I was  looking forward to the afternoon with him again instead of having stomach aches by the thought of a few hours with both kids alone. And what can I say - it was great. All afternoon I was ready for the yelling and screaming. But it didn't come. Ok there was the occasional very loud "MONAAA!" he shouts at her every now and then - but I just let this happen. We got home and all went smooth. When he got a little upset because I had to nurse her again after I had just done it half an hour ago and he thought I was done with her I told him "You are upset. You don't want me to be with her again." He nodded, went away and played with his cars. It was almost spooky.

It has been like that ever since. The rest of the week and this weekend was almost quiet. When he yelled at his sister I checked her reaction first. I didn't stop him right away. So he didn't have to yell at me. I didn't have to yell at him. He didn't have to splutter. I didn't have to explode.

Go with the flow
When it comes to sleeping we don't argue or discuss with Leander. If he needs us at night he gets us. At the moment it's my husband who moves in with Leander when he calls at night. The bed is big enough and cosy. We went through times when he called EVERY night. And we just let it happen. Because we learned that if we don't argue with him and don't make a big deal all goes back to normal in no time.
Why we don't do that when it comes to playing I don't know. I got so focused on him playing by himself and how important that is that I forgot to simply drop the laundry and sit down with him. So this is what I do more and more often now. And this leads to him playing. Even alone for a little bit. I think this is all I can do right now. No more battles. No more discussions. Just going with the flow. If we try to "work" on too many construction sites at once we might end up forgetting what really is important.

He's ok
In order to have an appointment with our family counsellor we wanted to talk to his teachers in kindergarden first. We haven't had a proper talk yet but a quick chat in the morning was quite surprising to us. Apparently Leander is doing fine and laughs and jokes with the other children. He has not changed since the arrival of his sister. But most importantly - he plays. He works with the material there and can concentrate for long periods of time. So it is "just" us. And the kindergarden is his safe place right now. Where he might enjoy the daily routine. Knows how things are and that nothing will change that rapidly again.
And that was all I needed to know for now.

Well - he still does not like his sister very much. He still gets upset when I am with her more than he wants me to. But that's ok. That's what I expected and what I can handle.
And I am sure there will be more tough days to come. Especially with a week of bad weather and a closed kindergarden ahead. Because what hasn't changed is that he follows me around the house EVERYWHERE. That he needs me ALL THE TIME. And that he can't play for long on his own. So we'll see. On the other hand - who knows what this week will bring? Maybe it's a good thing having him at home for a few days. Until the grandparents come. Easter. And his birthday. And spring.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Today when I was picking up Leander from kindergarden I had to nurse Mona in order to get both kids home without major screaming issues. We went inside and sat down in the cloak room area. Leander surrounded me all the time and even tried to sit on my lap while I was nursing. He kept leaning over and squeezing her onto me. Kissing and stroking her a bit more than gentle. I asked him to be careful or to stop it. At some point I just yelled "Stop it!" A teacher sat next to me and in that very moment jumped in and said to Leander "Oh you wanted to kiss her. That's sweet but you need to be very gentle with her."

I thought "Oh is this something I should have said?" And then realized - I have said things like this. A million times. But at this very moment I felt nothing but tired and exhausted.

The usual contact Leander has with his sister is yelling her name directly into her face. Really loud. Or simply yelling. When we ask him to stop that he yells at us. Or spits. Or hits. Anything. I don't know how often I have told him that I don't want that. That hitting is not ok. That I won't let him do this or that. To his sister or to us. To be honest I think I may even have said it far too often. So I keep not responding because I feel like a parrot repeating everything over and over. Without actually meaning it. Because what I really wanna do is get up and yell "FOR F***s SAKE STOP IT !!!"

I'm sorry. But this is exactly how I feel right now. Exhausted. Tired. At my very limits.
From morning till evening I am trying to be responsive and respectful. Loving. But whatever I do - it's not enough. NEVER ENOUGH. I hear the word "Mama" around 10 times in a minute. If I respond or not doesn't make a difference- it keeps coming. I am being followed around the flat wherever I go. And since Leander is not very gentle with his sister I even allow him to follow me to the toilet. Just to know her safe.
When I nurse her he surrounds me. As soon as I stop he asks me to put her away and play with him. When I play with him he sits on my lap and wants me to play for him. Even when he plays he asks me to help him with everything he is doing while he is doing it himself without any help. When I lean back he wants to sit on my lap again. When I get up he jumps up too. And follows me.
He has realized that I won't ignore his needs so if I don't come with him when he asks me while I am caring for Mona he says he is hungry. And then watches me juggle her and his needs at the same time.

I am telling him when I need breaks. I am trying to have breaks. He won't let me have them. He will stand next to me saying "Mama!" a million times while I am trying to have a break.
I am saying No. I say it nice but strong. He does not accept it. Then I say it louder. Then he yells or spits and that drives me so mad that I yell. Or leave the room in order to stay somewhat sane.

I watch him struggle and fight with sadness. Pure sadness. But at the same time I think he needs to learn and understand. I know that at some point he will but WHEN ??? Because right now I feel close to a nervous breakdown. I wanna run into the forest and scream. Very very loud. I wanna smash things and cry my guts out. And then I want my son back. The one I used to have.

I don't even know how much of his behaviour is the almost 3-year old in him and how much is the recent arrival of his baby sister. And then there are other issues I don't know where to place. That he can't play. Not on his own. Not self directed. NOT AT ALL. It makes me sad and angry at the same time. He is almost three and should happily explore the world.

And somewhere in there I am trying to be me. In the mornings when he is in kindergarden and his sister is asleep I have a minute for myself. And the laundry. The dishes. Lunch. The closer it gets to picking up time I keep building up patience and hope for a better afternoon together. We get home around 3.30pm. By 4.30pm I am so tired I could drop dead on the sofa. If somebody would let me. Leander is exhausted too. Today he fell asleep on my lap at 5pm. And then I look at him. Stroke his hair and hope for a better day tomorrow.

I try and talk to him. But when we have a minute I am lacking words. What is there to say? "I love you now matter what?" Why would I then care for that little creature and not for him? How would he understand that better? So often we sit there and not mention her at all. Because after her being the big issue in the house all day I don't want to mention her name when it is quiet for a moment. I just want... to be together in peace and silence.

What to do? I don't know. I am at loss here. We are thinking of seeing a family counsellor we have regular group consultations with. But this time a whole session just for us. With the kids. And some springtime with visits to the playground so he can release some energy. Some sunshine. Outside and in the house. Our hearts. That would be nice.