Having three children can be chaotic but, interestingly, I feel a third child has brought balance and almost calm to our family because of the relationships it has created. One of my favourite things about mothering is the dynamic between the children.
Although boys T (5 – but 6 this month!) and B (3) fight constantly, they are incredibly close. Sometimes I wonder if they are too close. They share a room – this is not ideal, but unavoidable. They do everything together. B follows T around and copies everything he does and I sometimes worry if this is restraining for B. He was desperate to start at nursery, because T was there. But it upset him when T went into the school room to do different activities and unsettled him when T left to start school. I feel B is really only now establishing himself at nursery. Will the same happen at school, will he just shadow T around the playground rather than being his own person?
I also worry that this adoration and dependency is having a negative effect on behaviour. B used to be such an obedient little boy, devastated if told off. Recently he has become increasingly naughty and defiant, worryingly immune to discipline – he just responds with a cheeky grin. It has taken me too long to realise that this is just his way of seeking attention from me – and T – and that what is needed is not just discipline but positive parenting. Too much of what I do is aimed at T, with B tagging along, expected to keep up because he does.
So, I resolved to treat him more as an individual with his own needs, to make sure, for example, I also read stories for his age group – and to give him some special mummy time. Today in the car I told him about this and said he would have “special mummy time” when he came home from nursery. He could choose what we did. He said he wanted to do puzzles – and added that sister J (17 months) could join in too. I felt touched by his consideration. He’d been promised special mummy time and his first thought was to share it with his little sister.
We did the puzzles. We all enjoyed it. B is adept at puzzles and I love watching him work out where everything goes. I suggested J pass him pieces, which she did, smiling, clapping and excited when we said thank you.
Walking up to school to collect T, B said “I love you mummy”. He often says this, he is wonderfully affectionate. Then he said “I’m going to be a good boy at home now”. It was as if, with a child’s pure intuition, he knew exactly what the special mummy time had been about. I stopped walking to give him a cuddle, which he was very pleased about.
It’s not all perfect. This evening there have been the usual fights, over a Spiderman colouring book and who was washing their hands first at the basin. But I feel more confident about them because I believe I’m coping in a positive way. There will always be issues between siblings but I hope that my new strategy will help, B especially, feel more confident about his place within the family.