Just as important as preparing for the arrival of our new baby has been preparing Colin for his arrival. For Christmas we got him his own little baby--"Baby Beaux," we call him--to show him what a little baby is like. We change Baby Beaux's diaper, we rock him to sleep, we swaddle him and dress him in hats and bibs. At first Colin was a little rough with Baby Beaux: throwing him to the ground when he was done playing or dragging him around by one arm--typical toddler behaviour. But slowly we've taught him that Baby Beaux, like the cat, has to be handled gently. And so far, this seems to have worked. The ladies at Colin's day care tell us that Colin is very gentle with all the dolls there and seems to really like being sweet to them.
Along with Baby Beaux, we got Colin a wonderful book about welcoming a new baby into the family, There's Going to be a Baby, by one of my favourite children's book illustrators, Helen Oxenbury. In it, a mother explains to her little boy about the baby that's on its way and tries to quiet the boy's rather elaborate fears about how the baby will change their lives. It's a little mature for Colin, but he likes it nonetheless--mainly for the outlandish ideas the boy has about the kind of trouble the new baby will bring: will he make a mess in the kitchen, cover the living room in paint, become a zookeeper? It's charming.
Despite all of these preparations, I don't think Colin has any idea that there is about to be an addition to our family. Sure, he understands that women with big bellies "have a baby in there," as he explains. (And thank goodness, there have been no unfortunate misunderstandings about this with strangers in public!) And when I show him my belly when the baby is kicking, he gets excited and giggles. But he just as quickly forgets and tries clamouring over me or worse--last week while I was lying on the couch, he jumped on me foot first (ouch!).
The biggest challenge so far has been ridding Colin of some of his own baby-ish behaviour, especially his desire to be carried everywhere. I suppose we've enabled this up until now because he is so very small for his age--only about 25 pounds-- that it was just easier to carry him places. But I am at the point where I cannot support him for long periods of time, and pretty soon there will be another baby that needs to be carried. Unfortunately, when we tell Colin he has to walk or ride in his stroller he has the most terrible meltdowns that hijack all of our plans, so often we have to carry him (screaming) out of the store or library or park anyway.
Lately, we've also had some trouble getting Colin to sleep in his own bed. Since his second birthday, he's been sleeping on a little trundle bed in his room, and we've just used his crib for time-outs. At first, this worked amazingly well. Because we could lie down next to him, he fell asleep quickly and would sleep through the night. But recently he's started concocting elaborate stratagems to stay up later: more bedtime stories, another glass of milk, fits of giggles. This can stretch out bedtime for an hour or two! And who has that kind of time?
Then, some nights, he wakes up in the middle of the night and comes and crawls in our bed, which would be fine, except that in a few days we'll be sharing our bed with a newborn, and a queen-sized bed is simply not big enough for two grown adults, a newborn, and a toddler who kicks!
Everyone tells me that once a new baby enters a house the older kids tend to mature very quickly on their own, even if they are almost babies themselves. I certainly hope so, because Colin is going to need to do a lot of maturing--fast.
What are you strategies for getting toddlers to "grow up" once there is a new baby in the house?