Who are you??!?
Where did you come from??!?
Any plans to return there and bring back my sweet O?
I kept asking myself these questions while looking at the screaming, crying, hitting, spitting mess on the floor. The mess that was formerly known as Oliver is now secretly called The Jackal by my husband and I. He is two and has had a very rough adjustment to our new twins.
Oliver has always been my easiest child. He has been flexible and sweet from day one. As a baby he was quick to smile and laugh and one of his first words was hugs. I can vividly remember him having to take “smile breaks” while nursing. Because of his easy nature I was really surprised when he fell apart. Once the babies were home he stopped taking naps, wearing underwear, and doing what was asked of him. He started hitting and biting. A lot. His sweet singing was replaced by angry screaming and words like “NO”, “STOP”, and “MINE”.
When I really stop to think about this time two emotions stand out: anger and guilt. Oliver and I danced between them as we learned how to adjust to our new roles. He felt betrayed by me for bringing these two babies home and he was angry at me for telling him to wait, not jump on me, and stop talking so loudly. His anger drove him to color on the walls, refuse to eat, or (my favorite) take off his poopy diaper at nap time. Then it was my turn to be angry and I reacted by yelling, sighing, and once bursting into tears (after the poop/nap incident). After the anger faded guilt set in. Oliver got very weepy and clingy and my anxiety would ramp up. It’s a cycle that I could see clearly but didn’t know how to break.
I tried all sorts of things in an effort to ease this adjustment. I made a special bag of treats that we shared when the babies slept. I set up easy art projects he could do at the coffee table while I nursed. I also tried to validate his feelings by naming them. For example If he was having a tantrum I’d say “Wow! You are really, really mad that I wont give you that cookie!” Sometimes it would help diffuse things and sometimes not. It was a frustrating and exhausting experience. I have to say that even when my efforts didn’t “fix” things it did make me feel better to try.
What has helped the most is time. Time for me to heal from the birth and NICU experience and to get used to being a mother of five (!). Oliver needed to get used to sharing me with two more siblings and to grow up a little bit. The twins are now 12 weeks old and my sweet Oliver is back. He’s finally sleeping at night and napping again. I’ve seen him rub the babies heads when they nurse and had him come to get me when they start to cry. I’m thankful that the ease and peace we had with one another has returned.
I wish I had better advice for toddler moms bringing home multiples. I never did find the perfect way to keep Oliver from feeling displaced. The only things I can tell you to do is breathe, laugh, and wait. Keep breathing when you want to scream and cry. Find the humor in the crazy and keep moving while the days pass. I promise that your home will find it’s balance again and your little person will return to you.
Did anyone else’s toddler have a rough adjustment? What strategies did you use to make this time easier for everyone?