We were discharged 24 hours after Charlotte was born. I couldn't get out of that hospital fast enough. There is nothing like your own bed and your own things. Hospitals kind of suck when you aren't actually sick and are really just tired.
We told Claire that she could sit in the back seat on the way home with Baby Charlotte. (I'm not sure when we'll stop calling her that, for now it seems to be sticking.) But, the way the day worked out she was already at the house with my parents when it was time to leave the hospital, so she didn't get to. I was so eager to start things off on the right note and I was worried that she'd remember and freak out when she didn't get to come home with us. Remarkably, she never mentioned it and it wasn't an issue. (THE ISSUES WERE ALL TO COME - HOOOO BOY.)
Anyway, we got home and my mother (saint that she is) had pink balloons and she and Claire had made a little banner to hang on the mantle that said "Hi Charlotte." (Mom said that if we had picked a shorter name it might have said Welcome but since we didn't all we got was Hi.) She had bought a cake. It was all very festive and a like a little party and it meant so, so much to me.
Claire was very bouncy and excited and asked over and over again if she could "please to hold Baby Charlotte" the moment we walked in the door.
In an effort to make Claire feel like she was the ultimate Big Sister, we got Charlotte out of her car seat and Claire held her very gently and lovingly on the Boppy. (She's calling it "The Roundy Pillow," which makes me laugh). She held her and talked to her and it was cute, oh my God it was so cute. I thought,
"This is one of the very best moments that my life will be made of. They will love each other so much, and WOW I am so proud of Claire for being so mature and so loving with Charlotte. Gosh, reading those Big Sister books totally helped! Is it this simple?"
HA HA, NO IT IS NOT.
The next day Claire woke me up with a very serious request: Baby Charlotte needs her chair. Her chair? The baby doesn't have a chair? Her...car seat? Is that it? No. Claire was starting to get upset. She had asked her Daddy and Grammie to get Baby Charlotte's chair (she neeeeeeds it) and neither of them could figure it out. Suddenly, I remembered: She must be talking about the bouncy seat that is upstairs in Charlotte's closet. Claire had helped me put it together weeks ago and I'm sure I said something about how Baby Charlotte would like to sit in it. So, in an effort to positively reinforce this helpful and kind thing she wanted to do we scampered up there right away, got the bouncy seat and brought it downstairs, all the while heaping praise on Claire for being such a thoughtful big sister and what a good idea it was!
Wasn't that nice of her? What a great kid! I started to think I was kicking ass at this parenting two kids thing, 48 hours in.
The rest of the day went downhill. Claire was misbehaving and acting flat-out wild and crazy. She was jumping on the sofa and not listening in the slightest when we asked her to please STOP jumping on the sofa. (Very unlike her to not respond at all to directions, especially after repeated requests.) She refused to nap and refused to eat anything resembling healthy food (I believe she subsisted on Goldfish and Cheez-its for a few days).
She was devastated when Baby Charlotte could not sleep with her in her Big Girl Bed with her that first night (aww, how cute!), and then threw a 90-minute tantrum about going to bed in the first place (not so cute).
It built and it built and it built over the next three days. While she maintained her loving attitude towards Charlotte she was growing increasingly hostile towards us. On the second night there was a HUGE bedtime fight. A three-hour bedtime fight. She got stories from me, from Daddy and from Grammie. She got hugs and a cover up and a fort and more books and more water and the light on from each of us. There was also yelling and door kicking and jumping on the bed and things that were taken away and there was an unholy amount of crying and screaming. FOR THREE HOURS. There is not enough pain medication in the state of Texas to make that experience tolerable three days after giving birth.
Our (now all too obvious) error was giving her all that attention at bedtime and giving into her demands. In the haze of all the crazy that follows the birth of a sibling, it seemed okay (appropriate even!) to indulge her. Things are bizarre! Let's cut her a little slack! Give her what she wants! What we didn't realize was that we'd just given her three hours of uninterrupted attention for behaving in a way that we DO NOT WANT HER TO BEHAVE, EVER. Shit. How could we be so dumb? We'd just been hornswaggled by someone who can't count past eleven.
The really aggravating part was that we felt like we HAD given her lots of attention and quality time since come home from the hospital. (Obviously, it was still not enough.) We did make an effort to spend a significant amount of time with Claire doing one-on-one activities but we did not shut ourselves in a room, just the two of us, and play without interruption for three hours. We had just given Claire exactly what she wanted and positively reinforced behavior that is absolutely unacceptable the other 364 days of the year. A three hour bedtime fight? Really? What were we thinking? (We weren't thinking. We were just hoping that it would end soon and then IT NEVER DID.) We opened a bottle of wine and strategized how to spend the next day because there was no way in hell we were going to repeat this awful one.
Outings. Outings were in order. Outings as an incentive to behave. We planned such a grand outing: a visit to a carousel. We watched YouTube videos of carousels and talked about how she would get to pick an animal to ride on and won't it be fun? She was spooled up into a very impressive state of excitement about the carousel by the time we'd run through what YouTube offers on the topic. The only thing she needed to do was get dressed. Simple! Just get dressed! Like we do EVERY DAY.
Uh, no. It took her three hours and a fake we're-walking-out-the-door-without-you move. The whole thing was not about getting dressed and was all about her saying no to anything we asked her to do and the attention that followed (which we tried not to give her). Eventually, she did get dressed and went and enjoyed it, but MY GOD what a struggle it was. A three-hour fight about pants and shoes while jostling and nursing a newborn and wondering when you can take your next pain pill? That sucked. (It sucked even though Chris and my mom were there! She wore ALL OF US out that morning. It was really very impressive.)
And the whole time I was like, Look! I am trying to do something nice for you! I am trying to do something fun and you are RUINING IT! WHY CAN'T WE DO NICE THINGS? Could I have just dropped it and said fine, no carousel today, and moved on? Yes. But, I really felt like she would enjoy it and I also wanted to get her out of the house to do something that might wear her out a bit because naptime loomed in my future as another potentially gigantic fight that I wanted to avoid.
By the third day I was getting a little sleep deprived and I was still in pain. Claire was discovering new buttons to push by the minute and then running her hands along all of them like a kid in an elevator might do. All of my buttons were being pushed at the same time and I swear, all she had to do was look at me funny and my blood pressure skyrocketed. Everything was a fight. EVERYTHING. We were literally starting a new fight as soon as the last one wrapped up. She was impatient and demanding and rigid -- all normal behavior for a kid her age but not CONSTANTLY.
She turned a cup of water and who was going to get it and what cup it would be in into a fight. A snack and what kind and which bowl and how much. A game. A chair she wanted to sit in. A chair I didn't want her to sit in. Clothes that needed to be put on. Etc, etc etc. It seemed like everything we'd taught her in the past year was suddenly voided. Where did my nice little girl go? This wasn't her. She's not this kind of kid. She's a nice and kind child. Who is this?? I don't know how to deal with this kid! She's totally unfamiliar to me!
It was bad, it was so bad. She told me to go back to the hospital. She told her Grammie that she was not nice and she was not listening and she needed to go to time out. She gave Chris her turtle and told him the turtle was not being nice and he needed to go to time out. She was hearing everything we said all right, but it was absolutely not the right way to communicate what we wanted from her. She was dishing it out exactly as she'd heard us give it to her non-stop for the past few days.
But, how were we to know? (If anyone tells me I should have known, I will kick you in the shins.) I was using all of the techniques and lines and punishment methods that HAD worked in the past with her. We were spending (what we thought) was good quality time with her. (And, perhaps no amount of time would have been enough in those first few days.) I thought I knew how to manage my kid. But, it turns out that saying "Claire, you're not following directions. Do you need to go to time out and have a break?" only works the first time and after a hundred times in the same morning it just sounds like Mommy is being mean. Go figure. If I had been able to step outside of the situation and see it unfolding it would have been obvious to see where things were going awry, but that's not a superpower I posses.
I knew that the first few days would be difficult, but I was so completely wrong about HOW they would be difficult. I thought my worries and trouble would come from Charlotte; this great unknown entity. Would she sleep? Would she be healthy? Would she eat? There are so many different ways to stress over a newborn. Babies are tough. Everyone knows that! I thought I had Claire figured out, or at least I thought I knew her well enough to know what range of behavior to expect. I was wrong, so very, very wrong.
What turned the attitude in this house around? Time, stickers and an unbelievable amount of praise for everyday good behavior.
She went to my parents' house for a couple of days and received the special kind of undivided attention that only grandparents can give. When she got home I took her to Walmart and she picked out $10 worth of stickers. (It was a very thrilling moment for her.) She earns a sticker for being nice, helping out, following directions, listening, etc. When she has five stickers she can pick a prize from a box of toys. Items in the box include toothbrushes, new cups, puzzles, bubbles, books, a kite, etc. I tried to focus on items that would require an activity upon opening, rather than something passive. So far, books have been the biggest dud since it's not a Super! Fun! Thing! To! Do! right out of the box. (If she is disappointed with her prize, I let her trade and she seems to like that.) The biggest hit has been a pair of Walmart brand toothbrushes with a penguin and a lion on them. Go figure.
All I have to do is mention the idea of earning a sticker and Claire is ON IT. Stickers are very easy to earn in this house and she definitely has the idea down. Did she sit nicely and eat breakfast without losing her shit over what color cup her juice is in? YOU GET A STICKER! Last night she was not behaving in the bath and Chris told her that if she didn't stop she would LOSE A STICKER. Her face was horrified and she said,
"No! I only have to get one more sticker and I get a prize!"
AWWWW YEAAAAAH. Stickers are awesome.
I'm not so stupid to think that the sticker chart will work forever, but it's working for now (in tandem with ridiculous amounts of praise and positive attention) and I'm thrilled that we seem to have cracked some kind of post-sibling good behavior code. We had an amazing day yesterday and Claire was a delight to spend time with. She was funny and sweet and open to suggestions. She made jokes and laughed and helped out. She didn't take a nap, but I didn't ask her to. She was so nice I actually didn't even notice that we skipped nap until naptime was over. She went to bed without any argument whatsoever (that never happens) and woke up at 8 am today, perfectly pleasant.
I got that same brand of kid again today, so we're working on a bit of a streak.
*Sigh.* Parenthood. It is never boring, that's for sure.