Toddler Behavior and Unintended Trauma

I had expected some change in toddler behavior when we brought home Eudora.  After all, Norton has gone from essentially being an only child (yeah, he’s got a big brother, but big brother lives far away) to having to share attention.  I thought that having to share time and attention with the puppies would be enough to lessen the impact on Norton’s toddler behavior, but I clearly thought wrong.

It turns out that I’m pretty sure we traumatized Norton with the way the bringing home baby thing worked out.  Or the way the whole “having a baby” thing worked out.


Had the whole VBAC delivery thing worked out, we’d have been home possibly the same day.  The next day at the extreme longest.  And if I’d have been able to schedule Eudora’s birth for convenience, it would have been the next day so that there was no chance of it interfering with Norton’s toddler speech play group.  But alas, Eudora came on a Wednesday, the same day as play group.

You see, we took Norton to play group, as usual.  I stayed home, timed contractions, et cetera.  We were sure that I was going to have to go to the hospital very soon, though (and we were right), so we called Kitty, my mother-in-law, to get her to pick Norton up from speech and take him home with her.  She stopped by our house with him to grab some things, and then whisked Norton off to her house.

From there, we barely saw Norton for six days.  The first couple of days were spent with us at the hospital.  Norton came up with Red and Kitty, but not for very long.  Then the husband got sick and stayed home for pretty much the rest of the time we were in the hospital.  (He came up, but didn’t stay long.  And he saw Norton, but Norton went back to Red and Kitty’s.  He was in bad shape.)  On day four, I was released from the hospital.  Finally.

Our hospital release plan was for the husband and Norton to come pick us up, and then we’d all go home together as a complete little family.  That didn’t happen.  The husband was so awfully sick that he couldn’t even leave the house long enough to pick us up from the hospital, so Kitty came and picked us up.  And I was also getting what the husband had.  When we got home, it turned out that neither of us were in shape for caring for either kid, but we weren’t asking the in-laws to take our newborn baby.

Norton stayed with Grandma and Grumpy while we were trying to recover.  The husband and I were so sick that we couldn’t even run to the store.  Our doula helped us out with a store run for some provisions.  We left Norton with his grandparents for a reason, but really, all that he knew is that he didn’t get to go home and be with Mom and Dad.

We did finally get him home, and Norton spent a couple of days pretty much ignoring me.  He was furious with me, and that was apparent.  He was also not too impressed with this little screaming person that we had brought home, either.  There were some adjustment issues in terms of Norton trying to throw things at her, et cetera.  But we all survived, and he stopped trying to bludgeon his sister.

Then it was time for the next toddler play group.

Norton screamed when we left him.  And it was no wonder, really.  The last time he went to play group, he didn’t get to come home for almost a week and we brought this new screaming little person home with us.  Then the husband ran late picking Norton up, and Norton was one of the last children there.  He was crying again, although he apparently had a good time during the play group itself.

Every week since, there’s been crying.  We’ve had to start getting to play group about ten or twenty minutes before it ends so that Norton doesn’t freak out at the end.  I understand the why behind it, but it sucks.  I feel so bad for the little guy, and more than a little bit of mommy guilt for how this has all gone for him.  I just hope he stops crying after us when one of us leaves soon.  I know that some amount of separation anxiety is common, but poor kid.  He’d never had real separation anxiety like this until we essentially gave him cause to have it.

Have  you ever experienced an unintended trauma like this with your child?  How did you resolve it?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. We had this exact same thing with our Wee Man and preschool for a while. I found that telling him what I’d be making him for lunch at the end of preschool helped – he knew I was making something so he must be coming home.

  2. Oh poor Norton! That was a really unfortunate sequence of events to work out like that. I think all you can do is lots of reassurance, and maybe have a direct chat to him that you understand how angry he is with you, and maybe even say sorry to him about it. I know there’s not much you can do to undo it now, but I think acknowledging it might help him forgive you a little faster!

    But he’s a toddler, and while it might seem hard now, I’m sure he will forgive you – and his little sister sooner rather than later. Congratulations on the new arrival! 🙂


  1. […] my attention?  I’m no different.  It turns out that, well, aside from some brief issues with toddler separation anxiety, I was worrying about nothing on the sibling bonding front.  It looks like sibling bonding is […]

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