Are We do­ing it Right?

Balanc­ing child pri­or­i­ties.

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Devyani

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.

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