Tiger Siblings

My girls are not even 3 and 1 yet, but it’s probably no surprise they already express their differences and have disagreements with each other – one verbally and one, well, loudly but not yet with words.  We are barely at the beginning of our days of sibling rivalry and some days, I already feel strung out and at a loss for how to help them get along.

Last Friday, after a busy week and a morning filled with whines and screams, I was counting down the hours until the weekend as I read to them before rest time. Even as I read, Beach Girl kept hugging Beach Baby too hard and they each kept shrieking as one took a toy from the other.

I myself felt like shrieking, but tried to continue reading Big Cats, although each page was interjected with mom quotes like: “She had that. You may have a turn in two minutes” or “I will continue reading when you are ready to stop jumping so close to your sister.”

Then, I read the section on tigers entitled “Skills for life”: “These cubs may be playing a fun game, but play fights will teach them vital skills.  When they are older they will have to fend for themselves, and protect their own territories and cubs.”

And, I remembered. Siblings fight. They always will.  My job is not to stop them from fighting; it’s to teach them how to fight well and to love well.  One of the main advantages of siblings is that they are a safe place to practice and learn conflict resolution. With each other, they can learn how to be a friend, how to listen when they don’t want to, how to share a toy they really want for themselves, how to express anger or hurt… all while stumbling through how to also demonstrate love for the other person.

Rather than just ear-piercing shrieks or annoyances to me, these are opportunities for my girls to learn how to love someone else.  As I guide them through taking turns with the Cozy Coupe and touching each other gently, I am helping to prepare each of my girls to speak her mind kindly, to share even when she doesn’t want to, and to love someone more than herself.  I am teaching each of my daughters how to be a friend.

These disputes that are so exhausting to me are hopefully preparing each of them to navigate through future disputes and individual differences in order to love others well throughout their lives.  In the meantime, if anyone has good tips on how to help a toddler stop hugging her baby sister so hard, I’d love to hear them!

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How to Entertain A Toddler While Nursing A Baby

Before Beach Baby was born, I had visions of Beach Girl and I snuggling on the couch, reading books while I nursed. After Beach Baby was born, though, Beach Girl didn’t have any interest in doing that more than once a day… if that.  In fact, she preferred to take advantage of the time when I was tied up on the couch to get into whatever mischief she could. Thus, this list was born.  Here are my favorite toddler activities while mommy is nursing baby:

1. Snack time! Beach Girl loved getting to have her own snack on the couch while she snuggled me and Beach Baby nursed.

2. Hair time – Toddler lies on the couch with her head on the Boppy so mommy can play with her hair. I’ve tried to get her to play with my hair, but no luck so far!

3. Reading books… If she’ll let you! The books that worked best for us were Walter Wickham’s “Can You See What I See?” series. These books worked especially well because we could put the book on the couch and go a long time between turning pages while Beach Girl searched each page, leaving my hands free for nursing.

4. Cooking – Beach Girl loved to “cook” food for me in her play kitchen and to serve it to me while I was on the couch.

5. Driving cars/trains – Mommy’s legs make great bridges, roads, and tunnels!

6. “If you’re happy and you know it”

7. Puzzles – Bonus points for the fact that you can’t help, so the toddler has the chance to figure it out without any hands-on help.

8. Baby doll – Beach Girl loved to pretend to nurse her own baby doll, change her diaper, etc. It seemed like having a specific task to work on is what entertained her best.

9. Doctor – A nursing mommy and baby are great patients!

10. Stickers – There’s no way we could have done anything like scissors or glue while I was nursing, but stickers worked wonderfully.

As Beach Baby has gotten to the stage where she is nursing less and is more easily distracted, these don’t apply for us as much anymore.  But, they were super helpful activities when we needed them, so I wanted to share them with you.

How about you? Are you the idyllic picture of snuggling a toddler and nursing? Any other ideas for how to entertain a toddler while you’re otherwise tied up?