It’s incredible having children eight years apart. I get to enjoy raising a child from a different perspective. I already know that studying and reading are crucial development skills and that gentle words can be better than any discipline. Better than that, my eight-year-old has an appreciation for being an older sibling and loves being helpful when interacting with the baby.
I adopted my daughter in 2018. Long before then, she asked me for a sibling. I fed into her fantasy that was surrounded by barriers like having a big enough home. In 2021 we settled into a house in Humboldt county where it was possible to expand our family, and so we did! Bringing baby Malakai into the world was a lot of fun for all of us, even if I chickened out on letting Halaya, my daughter, watch the actual delivery. Since then, it has been the biggest blessing to have such a helpful big sister.
I prepared Halaya the same way I prepared myself. Talk to the baby, make birth art, and write letters to the future of you and baby. When the baby came, well, no one can prepare you for that.
I practice EC (Elimination Communication) with my son; it’s an infant potty training method. At first, I was so embarrassed putting him on the toilet at random times that I found fitting; and then he wouldn’t “go.” My daughter is who got me into it. She would do pee dances and make the sound of whooshing water. She would make funny grunts to indicate him to go poop. She fell out of this habit, but I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do EC training if it weren’t for her.
There were doubts and fears at first. I was paranoid. I didn’t want my daughter picking up my son and walking with him, which lasted for about three months. She could hold him sitting down, and that was it. I don’t know if she has gained arms of steal or was always capable of keeping him, but at Malakai’s age of six months, she is more willing to hold and help with the baby than some adults in the house.
When I work nights or need some extra sleep after being up with the baby for most of the night, my daughter will come into our bed and watch my son as I sleep. She enjoys watching TikTok on my phone while holding the baby. She has helped me sleep countless times.
My daughter knows how to play with my son. While I lack a sense of “play,” my daughter can relate to my son and the types of toys there are for infants. She makes his play area entertaining and draws his interests with funny impersonations, dances, loud songs, and movements.
It’s hard to share the attention as an eight-year-old, so we encourage her to play with friends and join sports. We do what is affordable to us, and when funds are tight and can’t be invested into curricular activities, I take it upon myself to visit her friends and go to the park, even with the newborn.
Now that we started feeding the baby, I want to encourage Halaya to make baby food. We are introduced to moms with similarly aged babies (there does seem to be a boom happening), and I think it would help her development by making organic food that she processes and jars for friends and family. I think it will help her have a more significant appreciation for organic fruits and vegetables and eat them as they are.
My best friend, who has an eight-year gap between his sister and self, says, “It’s really great!”
If you are expecting a child or want to conceive and you have an older sibling in the house, here are some great things to consider: you have help from a child that can do their chores, reading books becomes a family sport again, and your older child is developing and learning so much with their sibling. A lifelong friend is a good answer: How will my eight-year-old perceive my newborn?