Growing up as an only child definitely has its advantages; this is something that I know all too well. I was an only child up until I was 10 years old. When I reached adulthood and started thinking about having children of my own I knew that I did not want to space them too far apart. I wanted them close enough in age to be able to relate to each other on different things growing up but I also never imagined I would have children that were 9 months apart (lol yes I was stunned too!) so when we conceived the twins only 5 weeks after having Marley I was both shocked, happy, and nervous. I beat myself up about it for a while because I felt like I was robbing my precious baby of her "babyhood" (so to speak). I promised myself that I would do everything I could to still make Marley feel special and to make sure that she knew how loved she is; I did then and I still do now because I don't ever want her to feel overshadowed or looked over. I decided to compile some ideas and things that I have done thus far to let Marley know that she is just as important because I know that there are other parents who are in the same situation and trying to come up with ways to balance it all out.
Although Marley was still an infant, when my belly began to grow and there was a noticeable change I started talking to her and showing her my belly just to let her know that "Mommy had her little brother and sister inside there". Of course she may not have known exactly what was going on, but I'm a firm believer that children sense and pick up on vibes and they also sense change. I began showing her the the babies' cribs and items as I was buying them and setting them up, letting her know that we were preparing for an addition to the family.
The twins were born prematurely so they didn't get to come home right away. They were in the NICU for a little over a month so postpartum consisted of going back and forth between the hospital and home but I always talked about Marley's brother and sister to her in the meantime to remind her of what was to come.
Ireland came home first due to the fact that her eating skills and development was a bit stronger than Ayden's at the time and when I brought her home I came and sat down beside Marley and introduced her to her little sister; now of course Marley was only 9 months old at the time so all she did was kind of stare at her, which was sort of funny for me to just sit and wonder what was going on in that little brain of hers (lol). The big kicker was when I brought Ayden home about a week later and Marley had the look of "Another one Mama??!!" on her face. She had the oddest reaction to them both for a while; she began growling at them (literally), but as time went on she warmed up to the idea of having these two little new people around everyday.
As they became older and Marley started walking and really comprehending things well (which was early on), I began to let her go and get things for me like diapers from under the changing table or giving me wipes that were sitting down low enough for her to reach. This, to me, encourages self esteem and gave her a sense of pride in the fact that she was able to help Mommy complete tasks. I still do those things now except she wants to do a lot more like helping them with their flash cards and teaching them some of the things that she is learning.
I've never really separated them when we do things and go places either unless its necessary because I want Marley to know that she belongs right along side her brother and sister and I would never want either one of them to feel like their sibling is more important to me than they are.
In the same token, when I have little moments with Marley to myself, like when the twins are napping or if they go to bed before she does, I sit and talk with Marley and play with her because I want her to always know that I love her just as much as I love the twins. I cherish those moments when she still lets me hold her and "baby her" just to remind her that she is special too.
Being the parent of children that are super close in age is fun but also has its challenges just like anything else. I kinda look at it as having triplets because they are actually going through some of the same stages at the same time. Marley is able to teach the twins everything that she knows and picks up on (that can be a good or a bad thing) and she is a great helper. There are of course challenges and still issues with things like sharing but I consider that to be just another one of those growing pains. A while ago I heard someone say that they are able to love all of their children differently but equally, and I never really knew what that meant until I had children of my own. My love for one is no less than the other and as their Mother I know the specific need of each child at any given moment and how much of my attention they need. I'm sure years from now they'll think its pretty neat to have a built in best friend anyway.