Once upon a time (but not that long ago), on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, in a house with the white brick and red roof, lived a sweet, happy 5 year old boy. He had lots of toys, unlimited floor space, priority over Netflix selection and mummy and daddy wrapped around his finger. You could say that he was the king and the house with white brick and red roof was his kingdom. All in all…Life. Was. Good.
And then, one stormy night (it actually wasn’t, but it sounds so much more dramatic), it all changed forever.
He became a big brother.
Here’s the dealio. If I were Ryan, I’d be majorly pissed off. I mean, it just isn’t fair. One minute you reign, the next you are being shushed every five seconds cause your toy cars are too screechy. Or your wooden trains are too rattly. Or yours up to yesterday sweet voice is now too loud. In fact, may as well not say anything cause even your whispers can wake the sleeping baby. That loud, screechy, constantly-wakes-everyone-in-the-house sleeping baby. Of course it isn’t fair. Not to mention it also makes absolutely no sense. How could a five year old possibly interpret this new baby any different than total misfortune that life has sent his way.
But lucky for Ben, Ryan loved him from the moment he saw him. Endless kisses, cuddles and promises of the fun things to come (when Ben gets bigger) filled the house.
Unlucky for us, the parents, we copped it. Big time.
When I was pregnant with Ben, everyone would ask me if Ryan was excited. Which he was. And after Ben was born, everyone would ask me if Ryan was good towards him. Which, yet again, he was. But I assumed all I had to worry about was their relationship, not ours as well. It never occurred to me that my sweet, loving, gentle 5 yr old boy would turn into a teror. And yes, maybe only once/twice a day and maybe only very short lived when it occurs, but impactful none the less.
Meals got longer, and he’s already a fussy slow eater. Dressing in the morning got difficult, and it never used to be. He went from being completely independent and loving to play by himself to wanting to spend every waking moment with us (and not to mention sleep in our bed again, after couple years of not doing so). Everything was mummy watch this, daddy watch that. Out of the blue tantrums started occurring daily, for no apparent reason. And with tantrums, voices got louder too – ours and his – and sometimes yelling and threats just seemed like the only logical option (my all time fave ‘IF YOU DON’T…(insert any verb), WE ARE NOT GOING TO THE…(upcoming trip or visit, etc). Needless to say, it never worked. He became very good at saying NO no matter how loud we yelled, and as these tantrums didn’t last long, he’d always calm down and apologize (‘I am sorry for my behavior’…they must teach them to say that at daycare). And of course we’d always feel sorry. I mean, how could we not. And all threats would be forgotten. Cause how could they not be.
I did wonder what must be going through his little brain though. I mean, it was very obvious he was just trying to reclaim his place and do anything in his power to ensure we’d spend more time with him. But again, I expected him to take it out on Ben. Not us. But seriously, am I glad or what that that’s the path he chose…
So after couple weeks of epic failures in terms of controlling his behavior, we tried a different approach. We did everything in our power to devote most of our time to him. Which of course wasn’t ALWAYS possible but we gave it our best shot. After all, it is two of us and one of us can generally shift the focus his way. So the last couple weeks, every time he has a tantrum, instead of raising my voice, I’d try to keep my cool. And if he just carries on (which he 99.9% of the time does) I simply tickle him. No jokes. Tickle him. Amazingly works every time. Enough to snap him out of his evil-land and bring him back to some sort of negotiable reality. ‘Mummy is just trying to help you bud. Come on, let’s finish your lunch and go play’ – me. ‘I am sorry for my behavior’ – Ryan.
Not that he should ever need to apologize like that. I get it bud. I really do.
Update: we are 4 months into new brotherhood now, and tantrums have subsided, meals have gotten quicker. Things seem to be returning to some sort of normality in Ryan’s life. Well, at least until Ben starts reaching for his toys…