Years ago, I saw a social media post touting the “secret” to making sure your kids felt connected to new baby siblings from the beginning. It’s not “the” baby, the post said — it’s “our” baby. I could even say that it’s “their baby.”
Sure, why not? Let’s try it, I thought when I got pregnant with my fourth child — though I felt a little ridiculous actually saying it at first. “Can you pick up your baby’s sippy cup for him? He dropped it.” “Let’s take our baby for a walk.” But after a while, it became a habit, and I really didn’t even need to point out when “our” baby needed something that was easy for a sibling to fix or help with. It worked!
This got me interested in other “hacks” to build sibling bonding. I was interested in preventing cliques between them and instead creating lasting friendships. I grew up as a mostly only child (with two half-siblings I didn’t live with much), and so I was intent on learning how to create lifelong friendships. Siblings are so often depicted as rivals, but when I look at most of the adult relationships around me, many see their siblings with much more fondness than that. I was determined to foster that for my kids, to the extent parents can.
So when we started tossing around baby names for our fourth son, I took note when my oldest, then 6, was extremely voicey and involved. I’d say, “How about Luke?” He’d go, “NO NO way. That’s not happening. I have three Lukes in my class.” The days of just getting my husband and I to agree were long gone, it appeared. And behind him was a then 5-year-old watching all this unfold, observing his older brother’s role in the action.
Baby day approached and we still all hadn’t agreed on a name. I gave birth, still not knowing the baby’s name. In a postpartum half-awake stupor, my husband rattled off the list of two or three we’d narrowed it down to. But one name, on the bottom of the list, wasn’t one I’d heard much about — Archer. My husband told me our oldest son had added it. Stressed at the idea of picking yet another name someone would carry for life, I shrugged and told my husband to pick, and went back to sleep. Sure enough, Archer it was. Turns out, my oldest son had heard it on a YouTube Kids video and decided that name was the one.
I didn’t really think through how much it would mean to him to come home and announce the name was his choice. I figured picking a name based on YouTube would just be funny 40 years from now when he tells people his brother chose his name from some antiquated web-based video app (like us millennials feel about My Space). What I didn’t see coming was how emotional he’d be that he’d chosen the name. He immediately connected with Baby Archer, holding him and bringing diapers, trying to feed him, and singing little songs way too close to his face. Not only was it all of our baby, but giving him the input and involvement meant it really was “his” baby after all.
Now, as we expect our fifth child, that 5-year-old watching his older brother name one of our babies is speaking up, and demanding equal rights. The tradition continues, and hopefully the bonding that follows. So, while I expect that though my husband and I will make a list of names we like, the final call will probably go to him. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t use Miraculous or Vampirina as inspo.
Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Alex is also mom to her four sons under age 7, who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting. For over a decade she has been helping publications and companies connect with readers and bring high-quality information and research to them in a relatable voice. She has been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Glamour, Shape, Today’s Parent, Reader’s Digest, Parents, Women’s Health, and Insider.
Alex has a Master of Arts in Teaching, and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications/Journalism, both from Miami University. She has also taught high school for 10 years, specializing in media education.