Thursday, August 31, 2006

Little big doubts

Yesterday my cousin sister left her three and a half year old daughter with me in the evening as she had to go to her doctor for a tetanus shot. She is in the eight month of her pregnancy. I took little Neetu for a walk in the evening. She comes over regularly after playschool and her mom picks her up in the afternoon. As we walked she asked me very casually if I would love her the same way as now after the new baby comes. I have seen this situation many times. So I answered equally casually that I don’t care about the new baby as I care only about her. Then she asked the same about my mom and I replied that my Mom, Dad and brothers, sister in law and dogs all love her and we are not taking some new baby we don’t even know and replacing her. She smiled slowly, a satisfied smile and then skipped ahead happily.

It looked like the conversation had taken away some worry that was eating into her for some time. I could not help feel a stab of anger against the parents. It didn’t look like they had prepared her for the arrival of the new baby. It was evident that the child had a lot of fears that were not addressed. Over dinner my Mom told them about the conversation and advised them that they should sit with her and talk to her about it. Neetu was evidently thinking that she was going to be replaced by a new baby. She didn’t look at the arrival of the new baby as a natural event as she was too small to understand it.

My Mom told them of a similar situation when I was born. My second brother apparently took it really hard and our neighbor, a child counselor helped a lot in repairing the damage caused by the fact that my parents didn’t prepare him for the event. They naturally assumed that like my eldest brother my second brother too would accept the new arrival without much ado. Anyways things turned out for the best as he realized that he had a little fan following er….crawling and the fan was quite harmless (:p)and his parents loved him the same.

Neetu’s parents were a bit taken aback by the conversation. As they left for home I hoped they would talk to Neetu and allay her fears.

Today Neetu’s Dad called up and thanked my Mom and me. Apparently the little tyke had an enormous amount of doubts, fears and some false notions about the impending arrival of the sibling and the parents were amazed at the fact that beneath the calm exterior lay a bubbling volcano of insecurity betrayed only by temper tantrums now and then.

I have decided that I am not even looking at the new baby…and I know from experience that the new baby wouldn’t care, at least not now. At present Neetu has our undivided attention :)


Alexis Leon said...

Sweet, but very relevant post. Yes, you are right about preparing kids for the arrival of their siblings. If not handled carefully and delicately a lot of negative feelings will build up and result in behavioral problems, depression, anxiety, and rivalry.

I have decided that I am not even looking at the new baby…and I know from experience that the new baby wouldn’t care, at least not now. Very true.

So how is little Neetu?

b v n said...

Nice one silverine,quite a sensible thing to do :)

Mind Curry said...

so true..the impact of our words and actions start affecting little ones right from the time they are inside the its important everything is well thought out and planned..not just for neetu, but for her baby bro or sister too.

like you said preparing the children about the new arrival is so important..when done, i have seen the excitement such children have about the new baby!

Anonymous said...

The question of a new sibling in the family was the story behind one of the good malayalam movies in the recent past Ente Veedu Appoontem..

In reality, my brother's son was the first kid in that generation and has been pampered a lot, over time... Now when his parents are expecting a new baby he felt threatened a little bit.. But all in our family and his parents have talked to him and given him a feeling that he is the one who has to look after the new kid and we all will continue to pamper him... We are yet to see how we and he behave when the new kid is born..

I still remember his question to me, vaava vannallum kochatchan yennikku plane meditchu therruvo.. For a few moments when I didnot know what to say!!!

Unnikrishnan G Nair.

Dhanush said...

Hmm... I dont remember if I ever asked that question to my mom or my parents counselled me , but I have seen a family who didn't do the same while they expected the second kid. That eldest kid is still having a complex towards her sis. And I always felt they have erred there. She once asked Chettanum XYZ -ne aano ishtam ennu. Huh!! It took some time for me to realise her that both of them are equal to me. But still the problem continues.

Nice post and quite important one.

PS : Anyways things turned out for the best as he realized that he had a little fan following er….crawling and the fan was quite harmless (:p)and his parents loved him the same.

Err ... I need to see your bro and ask if the fan was really harmless ;)

silverine said...

Alexis: Thank you and Neetu is doing just fine :) I have mastered the art of going to hospitals and ignoring the new born and acting like I am only interested in the older sibling :)) Makes a lot of difference to the little ones!

b v n: Thank you :)

mind curry: From your description it sounds like you need thorough preparation before the arrival of the new baby hmmmm

Unni: "vaava vannallum kochatchan yennikku plane meditchu therruvo.."

Heart wrenching :( Poor kid!! There is this Dr Spock book that my aunt showed me in which he explains what a baby feels like this...

Parent: "Come and see your new baby sister."
What the kid hears is compared to what a husband tells his wife: "
Come and see my new wife

dhanush: Another cousin sister in the US is expecting a baby and she and her elder child go for counselling together to prepare the little fellow for the new sibling. Looks like it is a very important thing to do.

p.s the fan was apparently harmless to her bro though I cannot say the same about his shoes :p

Thanu said...

after I was born, chechi looked at me for few minutes and asked dad can we put her back in mom's tummy, I don't like her.

Even to this day she is teased about it. Dad asks her, do u like ur sister now or shud we put her back in the tummy? For which she smiles and says, I love my sister plus she is too big to fit in mom's tummy.

Mind Curry said...!

Immigrant in Canada said...

My cousin, did all the preparation... Even took the older one with her, when she went for the scan.. Everything was fine, till the day the new one arrived and mom and the baby reached home.. Older one touched the new born, smiled.looked at the mother and said
"Ok.fine, what time are you sending the baby back to the hospital?"

BTW:My oldest sister once told me, she came back from school one day to find my parents fuzzing over a new baby at home.. I know where her hatred for me originated!

Fleiger said...

Yes, that happens a lot, especially if the difference in ages is less than 4-5 years. A 4 or 5 year old does not look at younger sibling as a threat but novelty.

Also, my niece has younger cousins, and the way she interacts with them, I am sure she would welcome a new person in family much easier.

silverine said...

thanu: lol so brother told my parents to throw me into the sea. My Dad had taken him and my elder brother to Kochi harbor etc when my mom was in the hospital :)) He never liked to be carried or cuddled but all that changed after I was born. My mom had a tough time carrying him around as he was three plus by that time :)

mind curry : :p

Sarah: I have heard it is difficult no matter how hard you prepare the child. But somehow I feel that it's your mom and not sibling rivalry that was the cause of the rift between you and your sis.

fleiger:...guess the older the child the less he sees the new arrival as a threat and having little children in the family could also helps to cope with a new sibling.

Jiby said...

oh...i cud relate to this post...i was such a monster when my sis was a baby...i wud pinch her cheeks, push her when she tried to get on her feet, i was a real troublesome child...i cant help feeling a little sheepish when i see our small fotos!

i dont think talking wud have helped at my age coz i was 2 years old when my sis was born...but when kids are 4+ years older and expecting a sibling...i have seen lots of such cases in the family and the kids suffering needlessly.

i hope the attention neetu gets is gonna continue for a few more years...coz babies have a habit of becoming scene-stealers!

silverine said...

Jiby: I think guys take it harder :) But the fact is, a new sibling is a rival no matter what...I pity parents who are caught unprepared. Neetu is quite reassured now :)