Adoption 6: THE ADJUSTMENT OF BROTHER
Gabriel was so concerned about his baby sister. For the first week he was very excited about being a big brother, and friends and family tried to make sure he wasn't overlooked...
....but then she stole Daddy's attention.
I had quit work several months B.E. (Before Emma) in order to focus on Gabriel. For years, we'd had maybe 15 minutes of quality time with him a day, and I was always thinking of work and other things even when playing with him. Now, just as I was wrenching my life through a slump from workaholicism to being a better dad and husband, along came Emma. The lack of sleep completely wiped me out and I felt I needed to focus on her to ensure she was bonded to me strongly.
Gabriel didn't seem to resent his sister or act out against her however. Rather, he would be very sweet and concerned about the baby. Still, with less of my time and focus his stubborness and outbursts increased. It was hard for me to get him ready for school in the morning. Brush Teeth. Forget it! Far to frequently, he had bread and catsup for breakfast - he wanted it, I assure you.
We consulted a behavioral therapist - free through the San Diego Regional Center - who gave us some good advice which I never really did follow. Here's mine to parent's who are struggling with these issues....
1. Wait it out. When you have more sleep you'll be able to do more.
2. Make a morning and afternoon schedule in big letters for the non-baby-sibling. Yes, kids like structure, but the purpose is to help you remember what you're supposed to do for the older kids and focus on them. (I'd go down the list of the basic i.e. eat breakfast, pack lunch, etc....with Gabriel and ignore Emma who would play on the floor.)
(Of course, now that I've written this, I suppose I should do it again. We moved and the whiteboard markers are still in the garage.)
Now, this one is controversial but many stay-at-home-Dads recommend it....Drink. Seriously. Many of us are lost in our own heads and have no clue how to sit and play with our children...focusing on what they are doing in that moment - as opposed to other chores, news on the tv, problems at work, or other psychological or even physiological weaknesses. Have a beer or a glass of wine and you might find yourself letting go of enough of your problems to be the Dad you want to be. In my case that meant building great towers of blocks, wrestling like a madman, and singing Barney at the top of my lungs while marching round the coffee table.
Gabe loved it...and still does...and I don't need a drink anymore.