I have 2 brothers – one older and one younger. I am the middle child. Being the only girl sandwiched between 2 boys, I turned out more boyish than most girls. That’s another story to tell.
Key thing I recalled is that we don’t really squabble much in our younger days. My mum confirmed it; saying that she never really need to break us up from any fights. You won’t see my brother pulling my hair or me giving my brother a slap on the face.
What’s with kids these days!??
Yes – that scene I just portrayed was enacted in my very own household between my 2 boys every other day. Hair pulling, elbows jerks, (attempt to) slaps on the head or face, hits on the fingers : all these became common episodes between Xi En and Eizac.
I started from being depressed to sad to frustrated to annoyed to “ZEN” or rather my mind just goes “Hummmmmm……”. Let me explain the progression.
When I knew I was pregnant with no.2 Eizac, we take effort to prepare Xi En for baby brother. From hugging him (in my womb) to buying him a present from Di Di; we did all the textbook stuff. When Eizac was born, he came to the hospital to visit; tried holding Di Di and hug him. Everything seemed “on track”.
The real test came when relatives/friends came baby visiting at home. Everyone’s first attention was on Eizac; everyone was going goo goo ga ga over little baby brother.
And then I saw it: It was my first time witnessing the disappointment and sadness in Xi En’s eyes and face. He ran into the room to hide from the visitors. I walked in and hugged him and told him that it’s alright. He didn’t say much; but I knew how he felt. From the only child to sharing the limelight, he needed time to adjust. I felt sorry for my big boy.
Fast forward 1 year on, Xi En got used to having Eizac around. He knew Di Di is here to stay; he can’t get rid of him; he can’t gift him to someone else or send him to another house (yes, he tried asking). We continued to educate him about having siblings; about sharing and caring and loving each other. I read many books to him about having a little brother. But we slowly became a broken record….
Eizac started modelling after from his older brother.
He scream; I scream (louder)
He hit; I hit (harder)
He slap; I slap (tighter)
He bite; I bite (with my gums)
Maybe it’s a little exaggerated but it’s possibly a close representation of what these 2 brothers do at home.
Me – I go “hummmmm” and do nothing.
Ermmm… Not quite.
I mediate and tear away fights before they even start. By now, we can recognise a potential storm brewing and try to stop it before it turn into a hair-pulling, fingers-pinching and tears-flowing typhoon.
That is my best strategy – *** prevention is better than cure*** .
But then again I constantly hope and pray that these pair of brothers will get along well and be a pillar of support for each other in years ahead.
I am no parenting-guru but I found these little reminders worked for me (at least in this initial phase of introducing a new sibling). Just to share :
1) Prepare but manage your expectations
It’s good to prep the older one of the siblings’ arrival. All the little works of buying presents for each other is good but even if the older one frown at the younger one’s arrival; that’s fine. They will grow up.
I repeat: They will grow up. And of course hopefully learn to get along after some tugs and knocks.
Day 1 of not getting along; Day 2 of a first fight; Day 3 of a first blue-black “medal” earned. Maybe Day 4 you will get the hand over the shoulder and have them singing “We know we are brothers….”
Manage your own expectations. Stories of friends’ kids getting along perfectly well with hugs and kisses for each other might not work the same way in your house. There is just more “action” in mine.
2) Shower the older one with even more attention when the younger one came along
I was probably a little ill-prepared for this. I was very hands on with No.1 and wanted to do the same for No.2. Only when a good friend told me that she passed most baby duties to caregiver and spend even more time with her No. 1 (reading books, talking, playing, anything basically) during her confinement month; I realised I should do the same too. This will lessen the new-baby-syndrome in No.1 and that mummy/daddy are still there for him. This is the best time to spend with No. 1 since No. 2 is either sleeping or feeding.
3) Stop naysayers (including myself!)
Well-meaning older folks like to make statements such as: “If you don’t listen, I will give it to Di Di and not you” or “Look, Di Di is such a good boy; you must be like him” or “I bring Di Di home, ok?”. We try to stop the comparison and/or well-meaning “reserve psychology”. Every child is unique and to us and comparison between the siblings won’t help the relationship. Maybe due to the environment I was brought up in, I do have to consciously bite my tongue to remind myself not to make comparison statements in front of the boys too.
4) Fights are just part of self defence and growing up process
That’s how I am seeing it these days and telling myself that. With so much testosterone at home, it is not surprising for them to practice self defence and ruffle some feathers when the other gets in the way of his toys. Having said that, we do not condone fights. Depending on who’s in the wrong, they have their “thinking corners” and “time-out” sessions. Eizac is too young for such discipline; but he does understand his Daddy’s “I-mean-it and NO stare”.
5) Breathe in and Breathe out
It’s a mantra I tell myself. To keep my sanity, I think of the positive in each child and remind myself that no matter how bad the fights are, they are brothers.
Blood brothers. For life. Nothing will change that relationship.
Slowly, they will grow accustomed to each other’s quirks and learn how to live in harmony. I pray so.
For now, I breathe in and out while keeping my hair intact. There are good and bad days. On the bad ones – keep some emergency Cadbury stash in the fridge. Open them and eat. It worked for me.
What worked for you? Please do share more tips with me especially if you have at least 2 active boys!