Brotherly Love

People have been asking, so here’s an update on how Silas is doing with the whole baby thing.

He is clearly very excited about her. He doesn’t seem to resent her or view her as competition. We make a big deal out of all the cool things he can do/have that she can’t (“No, sorry, Petra, babies can’t color with crayons. When you’re big like Silas you can.”). He frequently asks to lie down next to her on the couch or the floor, and wants to hug her. We let him hold her on the Boppy sometimes, too.

I would say that about 90% of the issues we’re having are more or less related to the fact that he is two. I remember when one of my friends said, of her then-two-year-old, that the little girl was so advanced in a number of ways that it was hard to be mindful of how young she was. I completely understand what she was trying to say. Silas has pretty incredible verbal skills for his age, and I sometimes forget that there is a very immature mind behind all those words. Two aspects of this (developmentally appropriate) immaturity that are complicating the whole baby thing are (1) minimal proprioception, and (2) developing, but incomplete theory of mind. In other words, he doesn’t understand how heavy and strong his body is–nor precisely where it is in space (say, on top of someone else)–and he isn’t totally convinced that other people have feelings or desires that are different from his own. I’m constantly having to remind him not to lie down on top of her.

I often have a hard time tempering my expectations to match his psychological (as opposed to intellectual) maturity. Having been a bright child, I know how hard it can be when adults expect one to act a good deal older than one really is; as a child, I never understood how they could so easily forget that I was just little. When Pam took Silas to her house on the night Petra was born, he looked so tiny and young in her arms, crying and reaching for me. When she brought him back, I swear even his syntax was appreciably improved. I’ve heard many parents report this phenomenon; I just attribute it to having spent a night with a great American playwright.

Today, when he was lying on the blanket with Petra, she started to fuss and root around–time to feed her. I told Silas that it was time for her to eat and that he could cuddle with her more later, but he wasn’t done. I picked her up at the same time as he grabbed her head. I extricated her from his talons, but not before she got a couple of scratches on her nose. After I calmed her down and nursed her, I showed him the scratches. “She has booboos because you grabbed her. You hurt her. Your fingers made those booboos.” We’ve been putting imaginary bandaids on his various barely-there injuries, so I asked him to put a pretend bandaid on Petra’s nose. He did, and kissed her gently. He seemed genuinely upset that he had hurt her.  Then a while later, he was kissing her and then bit her–hard. It doesn’t seem malicious; it’s like he is just experimenting. Toddlers are little sociopaths.

I remember that Carlos had a hard time understanding that the cat didn’t necessarily want to be held just because he wanted to hold her. At seven, he didn’t understand that animals have their own agency. He saw them as being like toys. Silas is in this same place, with both the animals and Petra. When he’s done holding her, he shoves her off his lap (we always have hands on her, too, so she hasn’t fallen). I have to keep reminding myself that Carlos grew out of it–he’s really good with the animals now. So will Silas. Right?

Silas, like the rest of us, is dealing with some huge emotions right now. We are trying to make it easier by making sure he gets focused time with each of us (without the baby). He’s doing as well as we could have hoped. For a few days, meltdowns were more frequent, but now we’re back to pre-baby levels, which are still higher than I would like, but…he’s two. He’s been waking a bit more at night, but he’s never been a good sleeper. He had almost no potty accidents for about ten days after she was born, then a ton (including one during Sunday school, right after someone had complimented me on potty training him so early…sigh), and now we’re back to one every few days, which is where we were before.

Just trying to remember…he’s only two.


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