Tuesday, December 7, 2010

An interesting family dynamic

Our oldest, C, was just over a year old when I got pregnant with M. I immediately began to worry about how C would react. He was still a baby and needed almost constant attention. How would he handle a mother distracted by a squeaky, scrawny newborn?

M's birth didn't do much to relax the situation. Born nearly two months early, M had to stay at the hospital in the NICU for a few weeks. Due to the fact that I had a C-section, I wasn't able to drive. Those weeks, coupled with the fact that I had not been able to pick him up for a month already, made C very upset with me. While I shuttled back and forth to the hospital, C was shuttled back and forth between our house and my parents' house. On one occasion, I returned from the hospital and went to give C a hug and kiss both of which he refused and he wanted nothing to do with me. Throw in the ridiculous tsunami that is postpartum  hormones and I became a wreck. One baby in the hospital and one baby that hated me.

I really needn't have worried. Once we brought M home, C couldn't keep his hands off. He wanted to feed him. He wanted to hold him. He wanted to kiss him. They have been close every step of the way (except when they both want the same toy, but that is for another post).

Flash forward another year. I got pregnant again. This time, there would be even less of an age difference. M was only about ten months old and I had already been warned that another premature birth was in my future. The worrying started again, but I was hopeful that M would like his new brother and everything would be sunshine and daisies. What I didn't take into account is that M is very, very different from C. To expect that same reaction was just wishful thinking.

We were ready for an early arrival this time, so I was able to explain to the kids what would happen, although at such a young age I doubt they grasped the concept. This time, we had planned for my mother-in-law to stay with us, which at least meant that the kids could be at home and not so displaced.

F arrived early. Few weeks in the NICU (déjà vu anyone?). We brought F home. C was delighted. M wanted nothing to do with that little bundle. He didn't get mad or even particularly jealous, but he didn't take note of him either. It was, and I am not exaggerating in the slightest, almost three months later before M acknowledged F's existence.

I wouldn't have been surprised by jealousy or aggression, but completely ignoring that F was in the house was not something I had considered. So now F is just over ten months old and M still doesn't like him most of the time. When he has decided to acknowledge him, he usually calls him "it." The rest of the time, M goes out of his way to avoid F. This is getting more difficult now that F is crawling. I have, on more than one occasion, found M perched on the stairs where F cannot get him. M cries when F pursues him.

The best part of this relationship? F loves M more than anyone else. He thinks that M is hysterical and it is a game that they are playing. My husband and I usually just sit back and enjoy the show. We particularly enjoy it when F pins M in a corner. F happy to play with his beloved older brother and M screeching to "get it off!!!!"

Nick and I often speculate when this phase will pass and M will accept F as a part of the family and not an invader. While I do find it entertaining, I do hope it is soon. The thought of F chasing M around the house when they are teenagers frightens me. I mean, I know that the teen years will be interesting, but I would hope that M no longer fears contact with F. They should have other, more ridiculous things to fight over by then.

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