I found out I was pregnant with Keogena a week before Oshiolema’s first birthday. They’re exactly 20 months apart which means Oshiolema was very used to having me all to himself by the time she was born but also, he doesn’t remember life without her. They definitely bug each other and get on each other’s nerves daily but above all they are the very best of friends. While they don’t always act it out, they know what we expect of them as brother and sister which boils down to this: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Here are the ways we’ve encouraged that sweet sibling relationship from the start.
Pregnancy: Books on books on books. Because I was already reading to Oshiolema all the time, I began weaving in lots of “big brother” books during my pregnancy with Nana. He’s a book memorizer so he was able to “read” the book by himself and get so excited about what was to come. We also were sure to use the term “our baby” after some friends recommended it to us. By referring to the baby as ours, he started anticipating the arrival of this thing he knew was also his and suddenly he just couldn’t wait to meet the new baby. Even when the days are long and miserable towards the end of pregnancy, trying to stay busy and spend as much one on one time with possible really helped because even though everything was about to change, we were as bonded as ever.
Newborn stage: This time was wonderful for us because Lema was absolutely obsessed with his baby sister. The hardest part of the newborn phase was having to split my time and how the hormones amplified the difficulty of that! The best advice I have for the newborn stage is to sneak one on one time wherever you can while still resting in grace. It won’t be the same as it was before, but there is grace for this season! Instead of napping alone, try napping with your toddler as a special little sleepover. Try things you normally wouldn’t like taking your first born out for an ice cream date alone, take a trip to the library to choose some special books you can read while baby naps and so on. The key is to choose things that fit between feedings! still having dates and one on one time. especially with mommy.
Toddler stage: This is where we are now. The difficulty here is that both kids are in the peak of their newfound independence. They want to test each other, they can want their own “space,” they want what they want because they are teeny humans struggling in their own sin. For me, the toddler years are all about teaching what it truly means to love. We talk about love every day and the truth is, the more our babies learn to love Jesus the more they’ll love and respect each other.
We talk a lot about giving grace and forgiveness because of how God gives grace and forgives. I also like to use a lot of prompting questions like “why did that hurt your feelings?” “do you remember when she did that to you and how it made you feel?” Toddlers have that less than darling inability to see their own faults so it does help to ask questions to give them a bit of introspection. There’s just such a fun ability to teach them about love in this stage because they’re such sponges. The kids both know they need to apologize and ask forgiveness when they haven’t treated each other in a way they should, to encourage the other and be their sibling’s biggest fan and to be selfless with one another.
Elementary School years: I obviously haven’t made it here yet, but one thing my parents did when we were younger that i’ll definitely be implementing is the time together. First of all, we had a ‘Family Creed’ we each needed to memorize and were accountable to. One of the opening statements is “we will always respect each others feelings, property and time. We will pray for one another, fight for one another and encourage one another.” I could recite it, but I didn’t live by it. One of my sisters and I fought all.the.time. My dad’s solution for this was always to force us to be together for the entire day. When I say together, I mean TOGETHER. We had to hold hands no matter where we went. We held hands everywhere from Disney World to Family Reunions and by the end of the day, we were cracking up, so bonded over thinking Dad was ridiculous and had asked forgiveness and moved on.
High School years: Another thing O and I will implement when the kids are older is having strict phone rules. My kids are 2 and 4-we’re no where close to getting them cell phones. As of now I know I want to start them off with flip phones, not smart phones, in middle school if they’re in after-school programs or sports, but phones stay in a basket at home. Whenever we walked in the door after school we had to put our phone in a basket. My dad would always say “These are your people right here. Everyone you’re trying to talk to on that phone doesn’t come close to the people around you. You were with them all day, it’s time to come home and be here.” We had two computers to split between seven kids for things like AIM and internet games and things like that so we had no choice but to be together all the time! To this day, when we all get together all we do is talk and play games for hours on end. I’m so grateful for this gift.
How have you fostered siblings relationships between your kids? For those of you with multiple kids, how has it changed throughout your motherhood journey?