Saturday, August 15, 2009

How the Boys Are Adjusting

I have several posts that I've started, have really wanted to finish, but haven't made the time to do so. But since they deal with details of Shav's birth and our transition to a family of six, I don't want to let them go by the wayside because these memories are too important to me! This is one of those posts...

A number of kind souls have asked how the older boys are adjusting to having Shav in the family; and overall, I can answer enthusiastically that they're doing very well with it! There has been not even a hint of hostility or animosity towards this little creature who has invaded our home. :)

Josiah sometimes asks to hold Shav, and he also comes over occasionally when I'm holding Shav and says in a tender, adoring voice, "Oh, he's so cute!" which warms my heart to see my oldest express love to my youngest.

David also likes to hold Shav, but he usually asks to do so right when I'm in the middle of a feeding and can't honor his request. By the time I'm done, David has usually wandered off and gotten busy with something else, forgetting that he even asked to hold him. :) But he, like Josiah, does indeed hold Shav at times; and he'll also try to hold his hand while Shav is nursing...and lay down beside him and get really close to his face...and give him kisses on the head...and put his little finger in Shav's mouth to suck on (like he did in this picture with Tobin). Anything hands-on: that's what David likes. :)

Tobin likes to get a little hands-on with Shav, too; and the big thing we're working on with him is to be gentle. At first, he was just fascinated with Shav, like he would be with a kitten or a new puppy dog. Tobin would scoot over to him as fast as he could and look at him and look at us and grunt and point. We'd say, "Yes, Tobin, that's Baby Shav!" Along with that came a stage of vigorous pats on Shav's head and pokes in his face which is no surprise since we've been doing the "Where's Tobin's nose?" and "Where's Mommy's ear?" kind of thing with Tobin. Only natural for him to want to do that with Shav, I guess! :) Our refrain of "gentle, gentle!" is beginning to pay off, I think; but we still don't leave Shav in a place where Tobin can get to him without LOTS of supervision. The other thing I did to try to help Tobin learn how to touch Shav was to actually take his hand and lightly stroke Shav's head so Tobin could feel what was OK and what wasn't! The adorable thing that Tobin does now is to come over to Shav and grunt in such a way that I can tell he wants to "kiss" him, so I'll hold Shav's head close to Tobin's face and Tobin will put his lips to him; but because Tobin doesn't really know how to kiss with his lips, he just stands there and then sniffs with his nose. That's his current version of a kiss; and after he does that to Shav, he'll want to do that to me, so I lean down and put my cheek next to him and he'll kiss/sniff me. :)

One of the things that has helped us through this transition is that both Josiah and David are old enough to understand what's going on and realize my limitations. They are independent enough to meet most of their basic needs without my assistance and are really good helpers, and I do rely on them to handle certain tasks around the house. Plus, with our weather being so beautiful recently, they've been spending quite a bit of time outdoors which is wonderful. The difference in their maturity from January 2008 when Tobin was born to July 2009 is impressive: only 18 months, but it has made a big difference.

With Josiah in particular, this summer he has entered the age of responsibility; and sometimes I'm simply astounded by how grown-up and mature he is. He is definitely my go-to man when things need done around the house. Obviously, I don't make him slave from dawn to dusk doing things! :) But his normal jobs--feeding the fish, making his bed, emptying the non-breakables from the dishwasher, carrying recycling down to the garage, feeding the outside animals, setting the table, etc.--are almost always done by him without a word of complaint and sometimes without me even reminding him to do them. We've been paying him a dollar a week to take on the responsibility of feeding and watering the chickens, dogs, sheep, and goats; and he has embraced that opportunity. Money is a powerful motivator for him! But even when he's not getting paid for something--for example, if I ask him to get Tobin's milk out of the refrigerator or I ask him to close the gate at the top of the steps, etc.--he is almost always quick to do what I ask and not complain about it; and that's a very significant contribution to the peace of the household as we all adjust to having a baby.

David has his share of jobs to do as well to contribute to the well-being of the family; and as long as he stays focused on what he's doing, he does fine with it. But mercy, he's easily distracted! That is another post though; maybe I'll get to that someday...if I don't get distracted...can't imagine where he gets that trait from! :) David, however, is my go-to man when I need Tobin entertained. I've written about this before, but I'm still amazed at how well David relates to each of his brothers and adapts himself to each of their levels of play and understanding. His contribution to the family in this area is enormous.

As I tried to imagine how this adjustment would be, Tobin was the one I was most concerned about. He's at an age that has so many frustrations of its own: not able to walk freely, not able to talk, understanding a great deal but limited in communication and ability, etc. Add in a new little brother, and I wasn't sure how he would react, especially because his understanding of what was happening was so shallow (especially compared with Josiah and David's level of understanding). But in all of my concern, I forgot one thing: young children are SO adaptable to their situation. Quicker than I imagined, Tobin has picked up on the fact that I'm not so accessible; and although he might fuss for a little when he wants to be picked up and my arms are full with Shav or when he wants me to play with him but I'm stuck on the couch nursing Shav, it doesn't take him too long to adjust his thinking and scoot off to find something else to do. He likes to have me watch him when he practices standing by himself...or when he twirls on the Sit-n-Spin...or when he stands by the train table and plays with the trains and tracks ("play" in this case usually meaning to toss on the floor!)...or when he gets a book out and flips through its pages until he finds a dog or cat or sheep or balloon or lion (all of which he finds particularly interesting these days). I can do it though--I can watch him while I nurse Shav. And even though it takes more energy for me to mentally and verbally engage with Tobin while Shav is eating, I'm grateful at least that Tobin has adjusted to the reality of verbal contact rather than physical; and that interaction seems to satisfy him. Most of the time, at least. :) But more and more, when I say, "Tobin, I need to take Shav upstairs to change his diaper; and then I'll be back" or "Tobin, I need to feed Shav now, but I'll look at this book with you," he seems to understand and be content with that.

I also should mention about Tobin that suddenly, he has hit the stage of being a master mess maker. Maybe I should capitalize that: Master Mess Maker. He's become a pro at taking ALL the books off the shelf and scattering them on the floor, removing the plastic cups and bowls and plates from the cupboard, taking out all the cereal and breakfast bars from the cabinet, dumping all the pieces of a game all over the floor, etc. One particularly challenging day, not only did he get into a roll of toilet paper and decorate the bathroom floor with it, but he also spent his naptime methodically picking at the wallpaper border in the boys' room until he got a nice big section of it off the wall and into little pieces on the floor. What an accomplishment! Trying to stay a step ahead of him and think about what he might get into next hasn't been the easiest thing, and I wonder why did he have to hit this stage right now?! :) To his credit, he is eager to clean up, if I get down with him and sing the clean-up song and do it with him. Cars get put back in their tin this way, toys get put in the basket, blocks go in their box--all while we sing the song and I applaud him when he puts things where they belong. But that takes energy, and I certainly can't just tell him to clean up the living room without actively participating with him in that.

A few people have asked about regression: whether I noticed that in any of the older boys. I haven't really--certainly not in the area of potty training or anything like that--but if there is any issue in which we seem to have lost ground rather than gained it, it might be with David's eating and the length of time it takes him to finish and his desire for someone to help him by spooning food into his mouth. It's kind of random though: some meals, he gobbles up his food quickly; and others, he lags behind and drags out the process much longer than the rest of us think it should go. :) I try to stay casual about it though, realizing that, unless we have to go somewhere or do something or have some sort of deadline, it's not really a big deal if he decides to spend an hour (or more) of his evening sitting at the table staring at his food, rather than finishing and having that time to play. That's his choice, and the less I push him about it, the better. He'll be taught by experience what he's unwilling to learn by instruction. But even in this area, I wouldn't say there has been major regression.

One area in which I'm not achieving success is having individual time with the boys, and I'm not beating myself up about that because that's just how it is at this stage of life! But I have noticed a few indicators that Josiah and David might be feeling that lack of personal attention. One was when we celebrated Josiah's family night last week, and it seemed to me that it was such a BIG deal for him, more than it usually is. His choice of food and activity, the Celebrate plate at his place at the table, the sharing we did about special things about him--all that seemed to really mean a lot to him, maybe because he just hasn't gotten that individual focus as much recently. With David, I noticed this last night when I was getting ready to go to a coffee shop to meet a long-time friend of mine who lives in another state but is in town this weekend. Right before I left, David said wistfully, "I wish I could go with you." And when I said that sometime soon I wanted to take just him for a Mommy-David date, he brightened up considerably. I want to make sure that in our "new normal"--whatever that looks like--there will be times for individually relating to Josiah and David.

I know that part of the solution to that will come when we begin our new homeschool year. Because of the nature of homeschooling, there are quite a few things that we learn together as a family; but there are also specific times of focus on each boy so that I can make sure they're learning at their own level. Josiah will be officially in 2nd grade, and David, being only 4, will not be starting kindergarten but will be doing some preschool work. However, I do want to ensure that both of them feel that they're receiving at least some one-on-one time as we go through our homeschool weeks. The big question that is puzzling me, in terms of continued adjustment to four children, is this: how will I effectively homeschool? Shav will still be sleeping quite a bit, but what will I do with Tobin while I focus on the older two? What kind of a rhythm will we settle into that will meet the needs of all of us? I don't have that big question all figured out yet, but the success of the boys in the adjustment so far gives me hope that the next level of adjustment, come the start of school in September, will go more smoothly than I currently think. As I often remind myself, live ever in hope! :)
~ Josiah spending time with Shav


Jeanne Woodard said...

I love the way Joshiah is looking at Shav. You can see the love!

Valerie said...

Wow,that was a marathon post! I certainly won't remember everything I wanted to comment on.:)

One thing that is sticking out to me is the 1 on 1 time. I know for me now, just being so close to baby #4's arrival, I am tired. I'm not getting that time with my kids that I want to. And I know its going to get worse before it gets better. So I got out my 5 love languages of children book and re-evaluated my childrens love language. While they certainly all need that 1 on 1 time, if I can at least focus on their main love language right now I at least feel like I'm not totally losing it as a Mother.

I look forward to hearing how easy it is to homeschool with a toddler and a newborn. ;)

Blessings to you Davene as your family continues to adjust and find your new normal.

Kristen said...

I love to read your blog. I've had somewhat of a nerve wracking day, for no particular reason, and reading your blog helps me get back into the right perspective. So thanks. I love hearing about how your boys deal with things and how much the older boys help out around the house. Kaylee helps me to a certain extent, and I look forward to teaching and cultivating those skills like you all have done with the older two.

I pray your rest, when you can, is multiplied in effect so that you have the strength to not just get through the day, but to enjoy your days!

Margie said...

I enjoyed this post, with all its parts of the family fitting together to form the big picture. I can totally relate to the craziness Tobin causes; we've just come through that stage with Sarah, although it's not entirely gone. But I admire the way you handle it - the picking up and putting away with the song. I'll be interested in reading more about how you handle homeschool. I am thinking of picking up some preschool books for E, even though she'll be in preschool. I want to know more about how homeschool is done.

You're doing a marvelous job. I know you don't post for compliments, but thanks for taking us along for the ride as you navigate these days. It's a blessing to all of us.