Friday, March 20, 2009

Girl Time

Poor Caroline - she's really got it tough these days. Being the independent 5 year old big sister definitely has its advantages some days but lately, I've really become aware of how tough it must be on her.

Of course, Piper is a baby who needs the usual amount of attention/assistance any 8 month old would need which obviously includes pretty much constant attention if she's awake. And then there's Bryce, my baby chimpanzee, who CANNOT get enough love, hugs, and kisses. That boy has been clinging to me since he was born and has still not reached his limit. He's usually the first person to greet me when I get home and is sitting right next to me as soon as I sit down and climbing all over me. He also seems to have a required amount of time I need to snuggle him after he wakes up in the morning or he whines and follows me around with uncontrollable tears for the rest of the morning. I think of it as part of his AM "medication" - LOVE.

So where does this leave Caroline? Well, unfortunately, right now she's getting the unintentional short end of the stick. Caroline has always been a fairly independent little girl - she's content to do her own thing a lot of times and can easily get lost in her little imaginary world that she'll play in. She loves reading books and also really can get into a movie or TV show. Plus, now that she's older she's able to do a lot of things for herself that her brother and sister aren't able to - pick out her clothes, completely dress herself, brush her teeth/hair, bathe herself, etc. And now that we have 3 kids, we're expecting her to do a lot of this kind of stuff since there are only 2 parents and we have 2 "needier" kids.

I do make sure to praise her for the mornings when she does a really good job of following directions and being such a big girl. And when she goes above and beyond at other times as well, I make a big deal out of how proud I am of her and her initiative. But, that's not enough. While I know that Caroline definitely needs positive reinforcement and validation from us, she also needs US time. Jason and I have talked about it and feel really bad at how her needs aren't always being met thanks to her siblings more vocal and apparent needs. I have noticed that some of her behavior issues often are a result of not getting enough mommy or daddy time to herself. She needs to feel just as important and connected to us as her siblings do and in her own way.

So the other day, I told Jason I had an idea that several nights a week, Caroline and I would have "girl time" that would be just us and possibly Piper. (Depending on what we're doing, sometimes Piper is welcomed and other times not.) Our first step in establishing girl time was to make a sign that says "Girl Time" on one side and "Open" on the other. We hung it on her door and when we're inside doing girl stuff, she turns it over. We made it together and decorated it with shiny Hannah Montana and My Little Pony stickers. She was very excited putting it up and likes that she can turn it back and forth. I've told her she can also turn it to "Girl Time" if she just needs to be alone.

We just made it on Wednesday and then the kids went to my IL's last night, so we haven't had a chance to put it to full use yet. She wanted to use it tonight but it was already getting late, she was exhausted from almost 24 hours of grandparent fun, and she wasn't exactly behaving in a way that deserved special time. I know that withholding girl time isn't a great idea since part of the reasons she behaves badly sometimes is to get the attention that she so desperately wants to steal from her siblings. So tonight I made sure that I was the one who helped her get ready for bed and then I read her book to her and laid and talked to her. I think that was enough because she calmed down and passed out soon after. I also promised her some girl time tomorrow after the dentist. She's already got big plans for cleaning up her room - it's something she likes to do when motivated because it always has such a great response from Jay and me.

The only problem with Caroline and alone time with me is that no matter how long I play with her, it never seems to be enough. Whenever I have to stop, she's always asking me for more/longer. And anyone with more than 1 child will tell you, time is at a premium when you are splitting it between multiple kids and having the other parent balance the other kids while trying to possibly accomplish something in the house is a tall order.

But, I'm happy that we've got a plan to help stay connected to our first born for now. My greatest fear is that I'll grow apart from my children at some point in my life and want to make every effort to stay very close to them and to foster a strong relationship with lots of good and warm memories. I hope that girl time will also help Caroline from resenting her younger siblings too - I know it has to be hard although I don't remember consciously wishing my mom had more time for me than my brother and sister, but I also know that these difficult times are sometimes harder on the parent than they are on the child.


Erin said...

You are such an amazing mom to see this and empathizing with her AND figuring out how to give her what she needs. ! I see similar issues with Ben for the same reasons and I will definitely follow your lead on this one... keep us updated! :)

Erika said...

Thanks Erin! Our oldest kids really seem to have a LOT in common!

Katie said...

You are a great mom!