When the house is not in chaos, it’s been wonderful having a baby around. I’m not sure if it’s luck, but we’ve never had any overt jealousy pangs when a new addition is introduced, not the kind that manifest themselves in beating, kicking, or wanting to give the baby away. For sure the elder child might get a little clingy and still want to seek a lot of attention, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for 2-3 year olds. Perhaps it helped that when we had Abacus we were still living with my inlaws, so Mittens had plenty of attention, and with Abacus he has Mittens to play with, so he shouldn’t feel too abandoned now that we have Scout.
As Scout grows and becomes more interactive, she loves to sit and watch their shenanigans, and the boys seem to love to play with her. Mittens has an amazing ability to make her laugh, and will rush to her side if I’m busy and need someone to give her some distraction. Abacus is constantly smothering and slobbering all over her with kisses. Sometimes they fight to “baobao” her. Yesterday I jokingly told Mittens he would have to give Scout her bath all by himself, and he genuinely seemed up to the task! What he lacks in skills he probably makes up with confidence. A few weeks ago, when I was minding the kids all by my lonely self, I had made and given the boys dinner, but after a while gave up trying to feed Abacus, and went to give Scout her bath. When I returned, Mittens proudly proclaimed, “I’m feeding Didi, and feeding myself, Mummy!”, followed by telling him “Big mouthful, didi!” exactly how I say it. Abacus complied and even continued feeding himself. What a proud moment that made me tear!
Many parents worry or feel guilty about not giving each subsequent child enough attention. Some parents even decide not to have more than one child for this very reason. I have fleeting moments of guilt and self-doubt, but I’m otherwise convinced that they benefit so much more from having siblings than not. And how much attention does a childreally need anyway? Once they become more social, from about two years onwards, they really seem to crave peer company more than adults. There’s a little girl who lives in my block, and since she was about 4 years old I often see her grandmother bringing her for walks downstairs to the playground. Her grandmother is a lovely person, but I feel so poor thing for the girl whom you can see so obviously craves the company of other kids her age.
Not having too much attention can also be a good thing for kids – often we baby them when they are ready to handle more independence. Mittens can be rather lazy – frequently he wants me to do things for him, but often I simply don’t have the time or energy to do so. Of course it takes more patience and understanding from us, and it seems like more work, but they often surprise us. Last night before going to bed, Mittens told me that if Abacus woke up in the middle of the night, that he would make him his milk. And then they promptly both put themselves to bed and fell asleep while I was busy nursing Scout and putting her to sleep.
Having more than one child has also made me conscious about subconsciously being more accepting and less expecting of each child (did I just confuse you there?). It’s amazing to see how they each grow into their own little personalities, with different interests. I’m sure many kids will flourish better without the parental projections of who wewant them to be, which is understandably more difficult to avoid when there is only one child.
I’m not going to sugar coat it – having children is not easy, not to mention having more than one. Going from 0 to 1 feels like it’s the hardest thing you will ever do because of the steep learning curve and changes in lifestyle (including not being able to sleep, ever), until you go from 1 to 2, and then that feels like the toughest ever because of the juggling that you have to do (and even less sleep there). But, they grow up, and they grow up fast. And when it comes to 3, it gets much easier and much more enjoyable. And I know Scout is still young for me to be saying that, but really, it can only get easier as the kids grow older.
For some of us, we feel that having a sibling is the best gift that we can give a child. What can you do with all the toys in the world if you don’t have your best friend (or friends!) to share and fight over with? And now that we have a girl, if I could magic her one, I would really like her to have a sister because I would love for her to have a relationship like that of her brothers (wish only, don’t get so excited, can??).
My friend M, is really such an inspiration to me. She married late, and had her first child when she was 37 or thereabouts. She knew that it wasn’t going to be easy at her age, and she and her husband felt so strongly that children should have siblings, that even after going through the trauma of a full term still birth of their second child (due to congenital defects), they gave themselves a little more time to try again. Thankfully after three short years altogether, they now have two lovely healthy children. Now that really speaks volumes of a parent’s love, and I hope one day I have the chance to tell her two kids how touched I am by their parents. And I hope one day my own kids will call each other their best friends, and mean it.