The actual term Evening Activity comes from my years, long ago, at summer camp. After dinner and before bed, we had ‘Evening Activity’, which was one last chance in the day to splash in the lake doing water ballet, laugh with our friends while playing Mexican dodgeball, or go on crazy hikes around the lake. Even though we were exhausted from being outside in the heat all day and longed to lay on our beds, this was a time of the day that had a different feel with the cooler air, the setting sun and the counselors who were beat and ready to be off duty for the day. It was peaceful and culminating.
Many, many years later, when our Little One was about 7 months old, it seemed that our Oldest was starting to internalize the fact that his little brother was, in fact, going to be a permanent fixture in our family. We had worked hard to prepare him for the arrival and he had an incredibly smooth transition into big brother-hood. But, as I have often seen with kids in my preschool classes, sometimes it takes awhile before the older child experiences some turmoil. Once the reality sets in that baby will be sticking around or when he or she starts to crawl or show interest in the older sibling’s toys. For our Oldest, his response to these feelings that he was unable to verbally express, was to act in a way that we had never witnessed before. He became obstinate and argumentative. He was less then gentle with his brother and no longer seemed interested in helping to care for him.
Whenever my kids go through a behavioral phase, we try to take a step back to think about any changes that have been going on, if our behavior has been different, what routines may need to be adjusted or what preventative measures may need to be put in place. For example, when my Oldest was two years old and starting to show signs of having a hard time listening to directions (i.e. picking out what shoes he wanted to wear) that he normally followed without hesitation, I instilled a visual schedule into our morning routine. The structure of the schedule made him feel secure and responsible while the pictures of familiar items allowed him to check the schedule without needing to check in with me every time.
So, when we found ourselves in the situation with our Oldest having some significant changes in behavior, we brainstormed and decided that he definitely needed some time alone without baby brother but with both of us. After all, he had it that way for almost three years, it was not fair to expect him to give that up 100% without recourse. I thought about our day and realized that the only time that it might be possible for this to happen was after the bath and before bed. For three years, we had the same bedtime routine with him – bath, PJ’s, books, bed. But, it was important to carve out this time of day for him. So, during our end of summer vacation, we told him that we were going to change things up a bit and explained the why’s and how’s. He was thrilled. And it was a huge success.
Quickly, we saw his behaviors change. Having this consistent, pre-planned special time also gave us something to talk about and look forward too during the day time. As we got deeper into this routine, we began broadening our activities from books or coloring to board games, elaborate art projects, anything with teeny tiny pieces that babies can choke on and the all time favorite – ice cream. To this day, over a year after starting evening activity – it is still a topic of conversation as our Oldest asks us “What’s for evening activity?” during dinner or bath time. Usually, it’s some type of project but it can also be a chance to watch a movie or have a special snack, like ice cream.
I am so glad that we added this special time into our day. Sometimes I’m so tired by bath time that it’s hard to imagine doing another activity, but luckily, the only thing that really matters to him is that we are spending quiet time together and giving him the extra attention that he needs as a big brother. It’s a hard job and he’s really amazing at it, so he deserves this time. This time that is peaceful and culminating.