Over the past few weeks my back yard has given shelter to multitudes (slight exaggeration) of baby kittens and possums. They have been pretty stinking fun to watch from the big window in my dining room. The possums take dunks in the swimming pool and force me to dive into the icy depths to rescue them. The kittens frolic away from their mom and then get a good scolding and fur-licking before being carried back under the shed. Over the past month all the babies running around outside have got me thinking about the two little babies (and one soon-to-be second grader) running around inside.
My twin son and daughter are 8 months old. They have enriched our family and brought us many moments of totally unadulterated joy. One such moment is indelible in my memory. A few weeks ago my 7 year old was tossing socks at the babies while they cooed away in their bouncy seats. Suddenly the trio burst into laughter and the raucous act of sock-tossing, bouncing, and giggling continued for at least 2-3 minutes. In that little moment one of my greatest fears—that my son might feel alienated from the family because of the babies—was quelled.
We told my son he was getting a brother and a sister over breakfast last June. I was really nervous. Not because of how he might react, but because I thought he might sense how anxious I was about how our lives were about to change. We’d already listed our starter home and began the grueling process of packing and showing the house to complete strangers. It was strange enough for him to face the prospect of losing his home. Now he had to deal with his own anxiety about adding two new little lives to our household, not to mention the anxiety that of processing his only-slightly neurotic parents’ insecurities. In sum, increasing the number of humans in a home by 66.7% is stressful stuff. I spent a lot of nights lying awake wondering how it was all going to work. Mostly I wondered how I was going to let my son know he was still important and loved.
If you’re a parent or caregiver in a similar situation, these books are for you. I remember sharing many of these books with my son last summer and they helped spark dialogue, ease stress, and foster an understanding between us that no matter how many humans came to live in our house, no matter how much time passed or how sleepy or distant I seemed, no matter what…no matter what…I would always love him and look back on our time before twins with a special fondness. Until next time, keep reading together!
You Were The First by Patricia McLachlan (illustrated by Stephanie Graegin)
I bought this one for my son and gave it to him right before we loaded up in the car to rush my wife to the hospital. It’s a special reminder of the day we welcomed our new additions to the family, but also of the time that came before. It’s a beautiful, simple little story with softly flowing prose and gorgeous illustrations. I know you’ll love it.
What Makes a Baby? by Cory Silverberg (illustrated by Fiona Smith)
I was really surprised that my kiddo didn’t ask more questions about where his new brother and sister came from. He still hasn’t. When he does, I’ll be prepared with this book. It’s purposefully vague about the “how” of conception. Instead it focuses on the “what” of conception. It’s discreet without being confusing and I appreciate that it fosters open dialogue. Please read beforehand or check out the website for a free 50+ page Parent’s Guide to see if this book is right for you and your family.
Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman (illustrated by Zachariah OHora)
This is a fun little book about the sometimes innate protective nature of older siblings. When Dot the bunny has to welcome an orphaned wolf into the family, she’s a bit unsettled by the fact that she could be eaten at any moment. Soon that fear is replaced by a fear of being drooled upon and that fear subsequently gives way to the fear of her new “little” brother being gobbled by a hungry bear. At this point big sister springs into action and hilarity ensues.
The New Small Person by Lauren Child
Elmore Green likes things just the way they are. Cartoons? Check. Jelly beans? Check. Adoring Mom and Dad? Check. But everything changes when the new small person comes to live in his house. Now Elmore’s TV is under the small person’s control. His toys are hijacked by the new person. And worst of all, Elmore suspects his parents love the new small person more than him. Can Elmore open up his heart and learn to love the new small person? This book is great for an only child expecting his/her first sibling.
When You Were Born by Emma Dodd
Beautiful illustrations match whimsical text and foil-adorned pages in this addition to the “Love You” series by Emma Dodd. This is a fitting story to share with an older sibling that might not realize that they were once a baby too.
Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble by Tatyana Feeney
This is another book that is great for an only child expecting his/her first sibling. Little Frog loves his life with Mommy and Daddy. But everything changes when his nine new brothers and sisters arrive. They just sit around and do nothing all day! They can’t jump, build, or even play at all and yet somehow, they take away all of Little Frog’s special Mommy and Daddy time. How will Little Frog cope with these new challenges?
Maple by Lori Nichols
This is a sweet book about sharing traditions with new family members in order to make them feel like part of the family. Maple has her very own tree that her parents planted just before she was born. As the tree grows, so does Maple until one day she notices a brand-new sapling near her special tree. What does this mean, and how will it change Maple’s tree?
Will You Still Love Me? by Jean-Baptiste Baronian (illustrated by Noris Kern)
Lately Polo’s Mommy and Daddy have been too busy to play with him and he wonders why. Is it because he’s been naughty? Perhaps they don’t love him anymore. Polo’s journey to uncover the problem takes him from friend to friend until he finally decides to take Fox’s advice and chat with his parents. Only then does he discover that a new cub is on the way and his parent’s love for him will never change.
Mine! by Sue Heap
Amy loves her toys. How will she respond when Zack, Jack, and Joe decide they’d like to share her play time with her? This book is a classic tale of learning to share that will be appropriate once your new addition is a bit older.