From “The Little Prince” to Big Brother: A Relatively Smooth Transition

For more than five years, my much-longed-for son has been my primary focus to the extent that my husband and I call him “The Little Prince,” and, according to his preschool teacher, who has more than 30 years of experience teaching children ages two to six, we have an exceptionally close mother-son relationship. So I’m daily asked how my five-year-old has reacted to his baby brother, born April 5, and to having to share my attention. The answer is exceptionally well, with only a few negative comments.

NOTE: The members of my writers group had an intervention with me, in which they said that, while they understand my disinclination to use my sons’ real names in my blog, it’s distracting—and emotionally distancing—to not refer to them by some names, rather than identifying them by age, as in “my 14-year-old stepson” and “my five-year-old son.” So from now on, I will refer to my 16-year-old stepson as Vlad, teasingly cursing him with the “sexy vampire name” he wanted to give his baby brother; my 14-year-old stepson as Elvis, for they share a birthday; my five-year-old as Patrick, his middle name; and my newborn as Luke, since Patrick was desperate to name him Luke Skywalker, and, while he didn’t get his wish, he may be appeased that Luke will be his little brother’s pseudonym.

Since the day of Luke’s birth, Patrick has been sweet, gentle and protective of his newborn brother.

For the first few weeks of Luke’s life, he kept declaring, “That baby is so cute.”

When, on Day 3, the hospital photographer came to our room to take pictures, he noticed that Luke was squinting every time the camera flash went off, so he walked over to him and, cupping his hands, he placed them like tiny umbrellas over Luke’s eyes, shielding him from the light.

When I walk even a few feet away from the baby monitor, Patrick will yell, “Mama, don’t forget the baby monitor,” and run it over to me.

If I hear Luke fussing, I’ll enter the room to find Patrick leaning over him, putting Luke’s pacifier in his mouth and singing made-up songs to try to soothe him.

On Sunday, my husband was watching Patrick and Luke, while I visited a pregnant friend in the hospital, and when my husband went outside to grill hamburgers for dinner while Luke was asleep in the swing, Patrick said, defiantly, “You’d better not ignore him!”

And Patrick claims Luke as his own, asking his five-year-old friends, “Do you want to look at my baby?”

While I’m sure that he has felt ample jealousy, Patrick’s negative reactions have been rare.

Shortly after Luke and I returned from the hospital, Patrick, Luke and I were lying in my bed in the morning, and Patrick asked flat-out, “Why does he have to be around all the time?”

“Because he’s a member of our family,” I replied. And that was that.

But about two weeks after he was born, Luke was crying at Patrick’s bedtime, our special time together each night in which we read books, tell stories and talk about his day. I told Patrick that I was sorry, but that I needed to feed Luke, and he asked me to do it in their bedroom. I said no, explaining that because of my still-painful C-section incision, I couldn’t get comfortable breastfeeding Luke from his bed. As I left the room with Luke in my arms, Patrick, feeling slighted because that cute baby brother of his was now affecting his time with me, said, “Stupid, stupid baby.”

The following week, when Luke was crying from his crib at bedtime once again, Patrick said, “That baby is so annoying. We never should have gotten that baby. I will never be able to sleep with that baby in here.”

I agreed that it is annoying when babies cry, explained that it is the only way Luke can communicate—and assured him that Luke will cry less and become more interactive and fun over time. Patrick has since admitted that Luke is more annoying than cute at this point, but that he is still glad that we have him.

I have little time to spend alone with Patrick now, and I repeat, “Give me a minute,” and “I’ll be right there,” to him dozens of times each day. But I’ve learned that the key is our successful transition is to maintain my special nighttime routine with him at all costs and to empathize with his very normal negative feelings, rather than make him feel guilty for them. And while I have a needy newborn, if I enlist Patrick’s help in caring for Luke, he rarely feels left out or displaced or resentful.

The Littlest Prince in a Castle Made by His Big Brother

The Littlest Prince in a Castle Made by His Big Brother

In short, I now have two “Little Princes,” and I am blissfully happy to spoil my two sweet boys.

No comments yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.