Before London was born, I felt like I did everything the right way to prepare Cruz for impending big-brother-hood. We talked about the new baby constantly. We checked out books from the library, watched videos about brothers and sisters, played with friends who had new babies, and even spent a significant amount of time diapering Big Lion. On paper, he was very, very prepared to welcome a new sister into his home.
But reality is never the same as our wishes, and after the initial buzz of welcoming in a new baby wore off, our happy, easy-going toddler devolved into an impossible tantrum monster.
I’d never seen anything like it. Loud, public, unending tantrums every time Cruz didn’t feel in control. So many people advised me that having a second child was chaotic. I always thought they meant the newborn, not the toddler. Our baby was easy and our toddler was hard. Day after day, it felt like tantrums were ruling our lives. I started going for long drives in our van, just to keep everyone strapped down.
It just hurts me thinking back to that time. This bone-of-my-bone child, that I have loved and nurtured and laughed with and stayed up all night for, that he would be so confused and scared and thrown off by this decision that I had made to have another child, another child that I was rapturously in love with… I did a lot of crying in those days.
But I also did a lot of praying. I had a vision that Cruz and London would be close, that they would love each other fiercely, protect each other, and have fun together.
But, reality. “Stop nursing the baby,” Cruz would tell me. “When can London go back to the hospital?”
I didn’t try to force anything. We stopped asking Cruz if he liked being a big brother (no). We didn’t ask him to hold her (“I’m done!”). But we kept talking about sisters and praying and reading those books from the library. We felt like we were parenting two children, instead of siblings. But we hoped. And then months and months later, we started to see his heart change.
“Let’s go get London,” he tells me when she wakes up from her nap. “I just want to hold her. She’s my baaaaby.”
When we picked up the kids from church on Sunday, London’s teacher held my hand. “The cutest thing happened today. Cruz’s class was coming back inside and he ran down the hall to the nursery. London saw him coming and crawled over to the baby gate and pulled herself up. He leaned over and gave her a kiss! Cutest kids ever.” And they are. It’s kisses and snuggles and playing together all day around here. On our recent vacation Cruz and London shared a room for the first time, and I can’t tell you how big Tovi and I would smile when we’d hear them chatting together each other from their beds. They delight in each other.
But also true story, it’s fighting siblings around here too. Just this morning they got into a huge tussle. London wanted the bathroom door shut. Cruz wanted it open. I just wanted everyone to leave because I have a dream that someday I’ll go to the bathroom without an audience. Anyhow…
I thought that welcoming a new baby to our house would be fairly easy. Cruz is a good kid and I thought he’d transition without too many problems. I pictured a doting big brother and snuggles and kisses. Clearly, that wasn’t what we got. For a time, it was really heart-breaking. A year ago, there was nothing I could post on Instagram about their relationship, and it hurt that this part of growing our family didn’t look the way I’d hoped. Can you relate? Has something that seems so easy for everyone else felt really, really hard to you?
Let’s pretend that we’re out at coffee together, and here’s what I would tell you, sweet mama:
This is not meant to scare you. It gets better. The beautiful thing about children and life and grace is that there aren’t just second chances, there are as many chances as there are sunrises. God’s promises to us are sure and that means His mercies to us are new every morning. Our kids are not stuck in a behavior. It takes work and perseverance, but change is always possible. In between all the beautiful, joyful parts of life (and yes, there were still plenty of those even during this season!), there can be hard, tender places. And when we work through those, and allow healing and growth, the end result can be far more beautiful than we ever imagined. You might even end up with siblings.