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Friday, July 31, 2009

What have I done?

I was going to make a post tonight about it being a year ago today that we traveled to Atlanta, and while that is on my heart today, it's not what's bothering me the most tonight.

I am worrying about Tessa and what having this baby is going to do to her. First of all, let me preface what I am about to say with this: I love my daughter. She is the light of my world, and I would die for her. But, she can be difficult at times, especially with me. My parents were always very, very hard on me growing up, expecting perfection most of the time, and I always swore I wouldn't do that with Tessa. So, I've never been a strict disciplinarian with her at all, and she knows I'm not and takes advantage of it at times.

She's also high-spirited, strong-willed and a drama queen, and truth be told, I've spoiled her, even though I hate that term. Food spoils; kids don't, is what I usually say, but Tessa is really used to getting her own way with me. Now, don't take that to mean I let her get away with dangerous or age-inappropriate activities. She's safe with me, but she knows I will let her stay up 15 minutes later than normal or give her an extra serving of ice cream.

We have been working on getting her to accept the fact that when I say no, I mean it, but it's been a slow go. She knows it with Brian, my aunt (who babysits her), at school, but with me, I think she knows that no matter what she does, I'm always going to love her, so she really lets go with me.

Also, she is used to spending a lot of time with me. In the evenings, we read, watch television together and sometimes I even lay down with her as she's going to sleep. Usually, it's just the two of us because Brian has to go to bed so early for his job. I do everything for her, and I usually can get whatever she wants right away. Honestly, we've been working on her independence issues a lot over the past year, and now, if she wants a snack, she can get it herself and doesn't expect me to do it. But, I've heard kids regress when a new baby is born, so I'm expecting her to lose some of this independence. I know that would be the normal thing to happen.

Now, I hate that I've made her out to be some kind of little monster, because she's not. I love her spirit, and I love how close we are. At times, I don't even mind the drama queen bit, because it's just her personality. It's a part of her. My friend at work once told me that his daughter reminded him a bit of that poem about the little girl, the one that went, "When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid." Honestly, I hate using good or bad to describe her, because bad or good behavior doesn't define her, so I like to say about Tessa, "When she has good behavior, it is very, very good, but when she has bad behavior, it was horrid."

My aunt who babysits her, her teachers and even Brian when he's with her by himself often say how she is no trouble whatsoever, so it's really just me. And, I know I brought a lot of it on myself by not being strict.

My family knows how she is with me, so they've all been warning me about how bad it's going to be when Ella gets here. They've told me she's going to be so jealous of the new baby, that Brian is going to have take care of Ella while I deal with Tessa, that she's going to regress so much, etc. They also said it would much, much harder on her because of how old she is. Others, who don't know Tessa as well as we do, have said she'll be fine and a little mother, but I just don't know.

I know she's going to be jealous. I was hoping it wouldn't be so bad, but I had a nightmare last night and then something happened this afternoon that made me think I might be wrong.

Last night, I dreamed Ella was here, and Tessa was so mad at me. She yelled and cried and said she hated me and the baby and wished Ella would go away and never come back. It was awful. I was crying, she was crying and the baby was crying. I woke up in tears.

Then, today, when I went to pick her up after work, my nephew was there. He's about 18 months old and wanted to sit on my lap because Tessa was sitting there, too. She didn't want him there and starting crying when I told her she needed to let him. I've been talking to her about how it's going to be when the baby gets here, so I think it might have come from that.

I just don't know what to do. I want to make this transition as easy on her as I possibly can, and honestly, I want to make it easy on all of us. I don't want her to hate me, and I don't want her to hate her sister. Sometimes, I just feel like "What have I done?" when it comes to our family changing. Don't get me wrong. I want Ella more than anything; I just don't want adding to our family to make Tessa hate me.

Maybe it will sound stupid to some people, and maybe some will say I'm worrying for nothing, but I can't help it. It's even taking a lot of my focus away from the grief I know is coming over Jenna's death. I don't want to be afraid of what's to come with Tessa. I want her to be overjoyed about a new sibling. I told her last night that Ella will be her best friend someday. Does anyone have any experience about adding a new baby to the family with a much older sibling (six and a half years old) who is high-spirited and strong-willed?


Mirna said...

What you feel are quite normal but because everybody tells you just how Tessa's world is going to be turned upside down, it concerns you even more. You of all people know her best and if I were in your shoes I'd have have special time with her (you already have) but put a certain time aside and say it's for just the two of you.(Try to keep that up even after Ella's birth) Talk to her about how much help you are going to need with Ella and how proud she's going to make you. Buy her a baby doll from her sisters and let her do with the doll whatever you do with Ella - this will make it fun. Remember the only time she might have tantrums is when she feels the new baby might take 'her' place. Just assure her right there and then that you still love her very much but at this moment Ella needs your attention. Just keep on praising her for everything she helps you with followed by lots of 'I love you's. Make a fuss of everything she does positively. The jealousy won't last long, I promise. Lastly don't dwell on what others tell you, think positive thoughts and day dream about how well Tessa is going to adjust! Tuns of hugs!

Connie's Confessions said...

I agree with Mirna. Make it understood by your actions that Tessa is important in Ella's life and Mommy would not know what to do without Tessa's help. Ask Tessa what she think about Ella's needs. "Do you think Tessa that it is time to change Ella's diaper?" Making Tessa apart of everything concerning Ella will make the jealous die much quicker.

But most important of all, make sure that at least once a week (or however long) there is a "Tessa day". A day for just you two.

Mom to 2 boys +? said...

Ranger is a lot like you described Tessa and was 7 when Gunner was born. He is really good about helping but we still have those "you don't love me" or "you love Gunner more than me" moments. I have to keep emphasizing that Gunner can't do anything for himself yet and needs us to do it for him but it won't always be that way. Just start talking to her about it now. She'll be ok I promise!

Reese said...

Just wanted to send you some support. I think just talking and spending time with Tessa once Ella is here would help a lot. Also, telling her how important her job as a big sister is going to be.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Motherhood is hard work.

JenJen said...

I was just watching a show about this the other day. They bought the older child a great present and said it was from the baby. I don't know that will work for your Tessa or not. It'll be tough for her I'm sure, but she'll fall in love with Ella and will be her bestfriend for life. Maybe, when Ella gets here you can have a mommy and Tessa day once a month to show her that you still love her just as much as baby.

Good luck, but I know you'll know exactly what to do in the end...

Marianne said...

I have four kids I have always made a big deal that this was their baby and they are my baby. Even now when you ask them who is their baby they say the one right below them. I have also when they might jump where they might hurt the baby or might blame it for something that they might not get to do I put it on me rather than on the baby. Don't feel guilty for taking time to do some one on one time with Tessa. When my second was born it was Jan. so my mom would sit in the car with the baby while I took my oldest girl and played with her at the park. My mom had 6 kids with her first husband and she found that their action improved with taking one child for a walk alone each night.
My sister in 19 years older than I am we are really close despite the age difference.

Karissa said...

My son was almost 3 when my daughter was born this past December. 3 is a lot different than 6 1/2, but I think some of the issues that kids face with a new sibling are the same no matter what the age. We still have our daily struggles with things having to do with the baby, but they seem to happen most often when he is tired and/or hungry, which is generally when he acts out. I think that 6 1/2 is old enough to give Tessa some specific responsibilities with the baby to make her feel like she is an important part of things. Simple stuff: maybe she can "be in charge" of restocking diaper supplies, or arranging the baby's toys, or let her make some important decisions about the baby's room (color, decorations, etc) so she feels like she's part of all the hubbub. As far as trying to set boundaries with her now and "get strict" after 6 1/2 years, it is going to be a challenge. Kids are smart. They test us and figure us out. She clearly knows that the rules, all of which are unwritten, are different with you than with other adults. As a teacher and a mom, I can tell you that one of the most important things that you can give to children is boundaries. They need them. They want them. Even if it seems cruel to tell her "no" or to respond to her negative behavior, she needs this from you. She needs it almost more than she needs anything else, especially at this major turning point in her life with a new sibling. It's one of the hardest parts about parenting, but also one of the most important.

Molly said...

Hi Tamara,
I’m a (mostly) lurker to your blog, but I had to speak up here because I can SO relate to what you are going through. I have a 5/12 year old and 7 month old, both boys. My older son is from my first marriage and his Dad died about 2 months before he was born so we were a *very* tight unit for many years before I remarried in 2007. I was very afraid of what having my little guy would do to that bond for both of the boys. What if I couldn’t love the baby as much as my older son? Would my older son feel replaced by the baby and feel like I abandoned him and didn’t love him as much? I can totally relate to what you are going through… Of course every child and family is different so your experience may not be the same as mine, but I can tell you that for my kids, the transition from one two was more of challenge for me than my son. For the most part, he understands that I need to do things for the baby and can’t drop everything when he wants me too. We have had a few instances of jealousy and, more recently, complaints about the baby touching his stuff, but he is much more able to wait until I can focus on him than I *ever* thought her would be. In addition he has become more independent and learned to do things for himself that I would probably not have thought to let him try (within reason, of course) but over-all it has been a wonderful experience and growing opportunity for our family. I stared out before the baby was born telling him how much I needed his help and what a great big brother he was going to be. We then asked him to do things for the baby when he came home like getting a diaper or finding a pacifier or blanket when we needed one (usually before we *really* needed it, but you get the point) so that he would feel like the baby was “our” baby, not just mine (and Daddy’s) baby.

Good luck and I know everything will be fine. It’s TOTALLY normal to worry about this; you love your children and want them to be happy. You are a great Mom.

Melinda Szymanik said...

You can't change what has gone before. It sounds like you have a fabulous close bond with Tessa. And none of us know how Tessa will behave once the new babe arrives so try not to stress about what may not even happen. You sound like a wonderful mother and someone who will be doing her best to make everything work. Nobody can do more then that. Tessa cannot help but feel loved.

best wishes