Are We doing it Right?
Balancing child priorities.
ow many times have you heard an adult admonish the elder child, on account of the younger one?
How many times have you heard an adult say to the elder child "Aren't you the big sister or brother"? So you got to understand?
How many times have you seen an adult being slightly more partial towards the younger one, perhaps just to maintain some peace and avoid a wailing tantrum from the younger one?
Well, I bet these common things are rampant in every society. While having one child as the centre of the parents’ world, until the second one arrives, and brings with it some not so good changes. Considering the fact that each child is different, and has a unique stance about adapting to changes, I have many times witnessed people who want their child to change overnight, just so as to accommodate the tireless demands of the younger member. Have these people ever wondered that bringing a new child into their world was primarily their decision? And hence, why shouldn't they be responsible for developing a strategy that balances both the children without letting the elder one feel neglected or blame him or her for not having sufficient affection for the younger sibling.
The most bizarre thing I ever heard was, "When the younger child arrives, somewhere the elder one has to grow up." While at the time I simply kept quiet, thinking it's pointless to argue with someone whose thinking does not come even an inch closer to mine, that dialogue never really stopped irking me. My question was just a simple? ''Why?" Just because you have decided to bring another child into this world, does his or her right to remaining a child actually cease ? Instead of
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU SEEN AN ADULT BEING SLIGHTLY MORE PARTIAL TOWARDS THE YOUNGER ONE, PERHAPS JUST TO MAINTAIN SOME PEACE AND AVOID A WAILING TANTRUM FROM THE YOUNGER ONE?
expecting your elder child to "grow up", why not instead help him or her become a part of your new world with your new baby – not by force and not by rushing, but by giving them their own time and space and freedom to decide for themselves when they are ready to embrace the new member. You as a parent, being their constant support and backer, sometimes even knowing that they're doing wrong. Yes, even then.
In ancient Indian societies, while the household buzzed with innumerable children, with a joint family system in place, and parents busy with work and tending to the needs of a vast household, the task of raising younger children often fell on the shoulders of their elder brothers and sisters. That was the way it was back in the day. And nobody can debate the fact about how selfless these elder siblings were. But to follow the same ageold practice, even today, in a different set-up where most families are nuclear, is nothing but pushing the limit into a dark abyss. How can the same practice function and be fruitful in modern contemporary families I wonder.
While dealing with two children is a constant fight with yourself, having an elder one who is demanding perhaps only adds fuel to fire. When my son was born, my daughter was 4.5 years old. While in the eyes of the world, she now became the 'elder sibling', for me she was still a baby. I mean – come on – at 4.5 years she herself was still a child, and her needs were far bigger and larger than the infant in my hands, who literally understood nothing except the touch of my soothing hands. While the little one dealt with things like feed and sleep, my daughter dealt with bigger issues such as anxiety and shifted attention. The flicker of a tear once escaped her eyes when I overlooked her while holding the baby. And – grateful me – she confessed what and how she felt about it, or I would have never known. It is such a blessing when our children can express freely without shame.
That's when I decided, the little one had to take a backseat for the time being. It was my elder one who needed me more. With my mother with me, she took complete charge of my son while I went back and forth for everything that my daughter needed. With just a week gone by after my c-section, I accompanied her to school at her demand. Her teacher looked at me full of pity, thinking of me as a helpless mother with nobody to help! Little did she know how full of satisfaction I was seeing my daughter’s smiling face with me. I knew I was, being tested by my daughter, she wanted to see how far I would go for her perhaps, and I couldn't let her down. Simple. Period.
In the ensuing years, I've been told I have spoilt her. But it doesn't really matter how people perceive me as a mother. What's important is how my daughter sees me, and how I see her growing up. I know today for a fact, that she grows up in a lot of emotional security and stability, and that she knows that, no matter what, she will not be judged or second guessed. Had I forced her to be accommodating with her brother, she would have probably coiled into a shell. But today I know, however unreasonable and demanding she maybe, about her brother, she is as protective as ever. She's as much a child as him, and she has the same amount of right to throw a fit or a tantrum as him. So what if she's elder? It was not her choice to make.
What I learnt in my growing-up years and after I became a mother, is that children often work best when allowed to choose for themselves. Out of their own free will they will do anything and everything for their sibling, without a second thought, the same might not hold true when told by their parents or an elder. When it comes to adults, they want them to simply be fair at all times. And I happen to be at that same level and in total agreement with children.
HERE’S THE TRICKY PART BUT TODAY I KNOW, HOWEVER UNREASONABLE AND DEMANDING SHE MAYBE, ABOUT HER BROTHER, SHE IS AS PROTECTIVE AS EVER. SHE'S AS MUCH A CHILD AS HIM, AND SHE HAS THE SAME AMOUNT OF RIGHT TO THROW A FIT OR A TANTRUM AS HIM.