You and I and Us

In the last couple of months most of my bloggy pals have had their second baby. Which of course gives me total uterus envy because my own ‘little baby’ is now an old hag with an opinion on everything. To the extent that when I get angry and I say to her in a low, stern, warning tone “Beanie…don’t do that”… she copies me, points her finger at me and says in an equally menacing tone, “Mamma…don’t get angry. I don’t like it.” This is usually said in warning tones when I am scolding her brother too. He doesn’t even bother to look up because he knows his sister will handle the scene while he gets away with whatever he is doing, for two minutes more.

A couple of readers wrote to ask me about my archives and whether I could open up my posts on sibling rivalry and how I dealt with it, and I had to regretfully refuse. Partly because I am not ready to sort through the mess on the old blog right now and partly because there was no sibling rivalry.

I admit that little credit of this goes to me. The Brat is a gentle, loving child and for all his boisterousness, doesn’t have a vicious bone in his body. So he kissed my scarred swelling belly every day until I had the Bean. And the moment he saw the 2 hour old Bean, my 22 month old fell in love with her. The rest as they say is history.

And here I guess is where I can begin to take a little credit. I just made it very clear from the start that they’re a team and everyone else, including mamma and dada are the outsiders. I might regret this when they’re teenagers but I know I’ll go to my grave in peace if they hold on to that thought even as adults.

Books and experts usually talk about making sure you don’t neglect the elder child. They tell you to let the father handle the younger one for the most part and for you to spend one on one time with the elder one. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess here that the moment the Bean was born, I was smitten. Not in the usual mother-child way, but because my daughter was finally here! I had wanted her so badly that I wasn’t going to send her off with anyone so that I could spend time with the Brat.

And so I began to do what only someone as insane as myself could do. I began to do everything for them together. I’d lie them down for their massage, side by side. I’d bathe them one after the other. The moment the Bean could hold her head steady she was in the tub with the Brat, barely a few weeks old.

Inspite of her eczema, I let him touch her whenever he wanted without the usual instructions of ‘Wash your hands before touching the baby’. It was his baby, I told him, and I didn’t want him to associate the baby with permissions and instructions. I was terrified the first time I did it, but soon I was making them nap together. The Brat did fling an arm or a leg over her and whack her brains out of her skull, but I knew she’d survive it. He’d often want to lie with me when I was breastfeeding her and so I’d be on my side, feeding her, with him balanced on my side, clinging on to me like a baby monkey. It was bad and I’ve probably ruined my back for life by doing something that stupid within days of my second caesarean.

The very same books also tell you to focus on the I a lot. I believe that is where I differed and since they are only 3 and 5 I might realise the error of my ways in later years. The only thing I teach them is to focus on the Us. I guess as the years go by, they will teach me how to shift from the Us to the I, because I sure as hell don’t know how to do it. And I don’t want to, either.

I moved the Bean into the nursery when she turned a year and one night at 2 am I poked my head in for my routine check and the Bean happened to open her eyes and look at me. I groaned inwardly, thinking she was going to ask me to take her to my room when she looked around in the semi darkness, spotted her brother, and reaching out a hand held on to his and went back to sleep. And while I wasn’t ambitious enough to have ever envisioned that, I felt my heart melt as I turned and walked away.

And perhaps that is all the advice I have to offer you – don’t give your first the impression that he has a right to feel neglected. My attitude was –  This is what life is like now. You have a sibling who is a permanent part of your life, so deal with it. There will be no special compromises, because this is not a liability. I don’t see why I have to be extra nice to you, because your sibling is not a disadvantage to you. He or she is a gift. You can’t want more special treatment or privileges.

The first year was the hardest I’d say, but once the Bean began interacting, I moved out and let them build their own relationship. From standing at windows and teaching his baby sister to sing “I hear thunder” to wiping her nose when she had a cold, the Brat has done it all. Today the Bean repays the debt by bathing him. Religiously. They sit in the tub playing silly games and she very maternally soaps his eyes and gets the suds in his mouth. But hey, it’s done with so much love that neither he nor I have the heart to prevent her.

People say the age difference was the trick. Well, perhaps. No one told me how big a gap to keep. I just did what I had to. And I guess it works okay because a few days ago we were taking the metro from Gurgaon to Delhi and the Bean was as usual driving us batty. The Brat finally took matters into his own hand and picked her up to look into the ticket counter, and then held her hand and kept her away from the edge of the platform. I think I know what the trick is – even without us wanting or trying, our elder one has taken over the parenting of our younger one. I think we can retire now. Where’s my martini?

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101 thoughts on “You and I and Us

  1. my, don’t they look grown up ! (or maybe i havent visited in a while) but your little nephew or niece should come along in a while, so you’ll have a cuddly bundle again…

  2. Oh, how the brat has grown! God bless. 🙂

    I think the age difference matters too. I have a brother who is almost eight years younger than me, and though we are pretty close, we never grew up together. Because, well, by the time he was ready to talk about Enid Blyton, I had already moved onto Neil Gaiman.

    p.s. Where, oh where did you get the lehenga for Bean? Such prettiness! I am already coveting the adult version of it.

  3. Impeccable timing!!!! 😀
    I am 7 weeks along and though I have not had a good day in last couple of weeks I have never been happier!
    MM I cannot tell you how much I want a daughter and how miserable I feel when people go ahead and declare’oh you will have a boy’ but I have my fingers crossed and will keep praying. What else can I do!

    • what? ohmigod!!! that is so awesome. God bless and may you have a happy pregnancy and safe delivery. and here’s hoping for a girl. watch, even if its a boy, it will be a gentle one like the brat – even if he is full of beans.

  4. Abbe nautanki rani – you don’t even drink. And who the hell is going to dandle her niece/nephew on her (bum) knee. And her grandchildren??? huh?

    and major lou to the kids. you make me envious and want to trade all this for my kids – esp the boy being willing to kill the girl over the smallest thing…and the posessiveness…and the quarrels and the…. bah…

  5. I know right. I love that my 4 are at times so happy that we never need anyone else over for playdates.
    That the 11 yr old can read and make the 4 yr go to bed, while I am in the bathroom.

    That the 8 yr old can kiss the 6 yr old’s injuries and he doesn’t need mama.

    I am drinking that cocktail most days. Plus as you realize it gets so much easier when the kids are older(you start worrying about other different things but the whole mind numbing rituals of poop, breastfeed,sleep,feed is over)

    Also don’t have 3. Either have 2 or 4. So with that since OA will never go for 4, be happy with 2. That way everyone has a partner on the roller coaster, be it the ride or the life’s roller coaster.

    • the OA will die if we have another. i would rejoice if we had two more. a house full of baby pitter patter. so cute. and yes, you are so right. once the mind numbing poop cleaning is over, its amazing to never need to fix up playdates. i watch friends agonise over it and i am so glad that i can go back to my book and scream – What did I give you a brother/sister for? shoo! get out of my face.

  6. What a sensible approach, Mad Momma. True, why should the elder sibling ever feel that he/she has the right to feel neglected?

    Parents do mess up when they try to interfere in a sibling relationship, even when they are doing it out of concern and love. The best thing is to let them build their own relationship, to realize that having a sibling is a huge gift.

    Clearly, it has worked with the Brat and the Bean. Well done!

    • you’re too kind banno. i’m not sure if its worked – will only know in later years i guess. but yes, for now, i dont have any sibling rivalry issues to deal with and for that dear God, I am duly grateful

  7. hag? you said hag? I’m going to…ah..im going to..okay, let me go and figure out something mean and harmless to do 😦

    my cousin had her second baby recently, and the elder one is starting to resemble Hitler a bit, as far as his “baby brother” is concerned. I should send this link to her.

    she looks like a kutti diva in that pretty pretty dress. the brat is such a beautiful child!

    That apart, this post is a fresh angle to the “it’s natural for the first child to hate the second one” angle. i can understand them feeling a little lost and insecure, but some of the first kids do scare me.

  8. Omg, they are so big now! They still looked little in the previous post.

    My elder sis was like the brat – she was protective and caring from as far back as I can remember. My dad’s family has this thing about favouring the younger child and my sis also got unfavourably compared to me because I had fairer skin than her but if she was jealous, she never took it out on me. Not sure if it’s anything my mom did (though my mom was careful to be fair to both of us) but I think like the brat, for my sis it just came naturally. Or maybe like the bean, I was irrestibably cute 🙂

    Pregnancy is such a pain i don’t know if I can do it again. The only reason I would consider it is to give my (as yet unborn) son the gift of a sibling. One more thing for him to be grateful to me for muhahahaha!

  9. My parents never made an effort for us to be friends and we went through a normal, or what we thought was a normal sibling phase.

    We shared, we fought, my sister got protective, I got protective, we became enemies, we became besties and now, we cannot imagine a life without the other.

    I can honestly say, I love her more than ANYBODY in this world, because she is the only one who gets me 🙂

    • actually that is another interesting point. how do we know what our parents did deliberately and what was incidental? and yes i notice sisters are often very close no matter what. not true with brothers and with siblings of opposite genders

      • U made me pick the fone & ask my mom the exact same thing n she said, she had bigger things to worry about than silly sibling fights!

        She claims that growing up with 4 siblings, she knows every kind of sibling and the one thing she was sure of is that we wouldn’t kill each other and that was good enough for her 😀

  10. Oh God, what a cute twosome they make.. I’m telling ya theirs is going to be a tough team to divide and rule in teenage, ze madness!

    If me and my bro who were/ are/ will be sworn enemies (I have once split his scalp down the middle. He has painted my face the deepest black in my sleep. And these are things I can mention in a public forum.) understood that teaming up was better than fighting a lone fight, these two will bring the house down.

  11. They look so adorable too and grown up all of a sudden . Actually the brat does, no wait .. she does too 😐

    Love the lehenga on Bean, btw !

  12. That was a lovely post MM. I had heard stories of sibling rivalry too, but my son displayed none of it. I already feel confident leaving my 4 mo old with him for supervision while I go to the loo. He watches over her, and if she gets cranky sings to her and distracts her with rattles. He is a restless terror but is very gentle with his sister.
    I don’t know if it is the age difference (3 yrs) I think what worked is that we trusted him with her. Like you said, he was allowed to touch and play with his sister right from the very beginning.
    Anyways, I am just so thankful. In fact, my son was sick a few weeks ago and constantly wanted me at his side. But whenever he heard his sister cry, he asked me to go and soothe her even while he was burning. Touchwood!

  13. Aww MM, what chhhotushhh kids you have.. I love them. How can I say it without being repetitive? 😛 Btw sending the younger one away to spend time with the older one, doesn’t work. Ma tells me I wasn’t particularly fond of my baby sis, and I used to sulk a tad bit too much. So the baby was sent away with relative for a day. And I had my first huge fight with mum when I got home from school. Apparently we have been a team ever since, my sis and I. Much to ma’s frustration (and secret pride I say :P)

  14. I haven’t caught up on your blog for a while now (domestic fires rage and all that), so is it just me or do they suddenly look all grown up?? They do look lovely together though 🙂 And the Brat (why do you call him the Brat?) sounds like a wonderful older sibling! I do want to have a second baby but the thought is equally unnerving at times. My little spitfire will probably try and drown her sibling if I try bathing them together!

    • for precisely this reason. i thought he’d be a brat because i’d never really seen a brat. and then the bean came along and i realised how wrong i was to call him brat. and how wrong i was to worry about bathing them together. try it.

  15. damn how do u manage it every time… make my eyes wet everytime u talk abt the bond with between them… god bless them and a big big big kala tikka 🙂

    sigh posts like make even me who is dead sure that i dont want a second child think once that may be… if I ever go crazy enough to have a second child u are to be blamed and oh yes the brat and the bean too

    god bless them

  16. What a totally ‘awww’ post. And such lovely photos, the kids look beautiful and I love how well-dressed they are. I wish I could have a lehenga like that one Beanie’s wearing 😦

    My atya asked me yesterday why I read mommy blogs. This post is the perfect answer to that question. So much learn, so much to chew on … and so much help when the time comes.

    Thank you, MM

  17. WHAT!!

    I told you I was seven weeks pregnant and you forget to congratulate me and tell me I was going to have a girl. DO I need to add that I am throwing up all the time and the son is not amused and the husband is working 20hrs and the maid is gone on leave!!!! I am going to cry!!!!

    • arre arre dont cry. i just sat down to respond to all the comments. i blindly approve when i know its a familiar name and then i come back to read together. congratulations. i couldnt be happier. everytime one of you says you’re preggy, i feel almost grandmotherly – so shoot me. i feel that way about the bride too. and the Girl on the Bridge and Nitya Karthik, to name just a few…

  18. MM…love your approach …u are my baby bringing up guide…

    Now all i need to do is have the second kid…ummmm after i have the first kid…any guides on that 😛

    Btw the bean looks like such a doll! and Brat is almost fatherly in the snap…Kala Tika…thoo thoo!

  19. OMG! check them out, they’ve grown like flag poles. Yes, I’m exaggerating but they look very tall and grown up. Where are our babies? Ahem, time for the third one? 😉
    But seriously, they look so good together, taking care of each other. It will be any parent’s dream. And it has come true for you. *a kala tikka there* And I hope and wish it stays the same even in their grown up years. Amen!
    Did you say martini? Can we mix it with Vodka please? Or am I not invited? 😉

  20. A close friend just had a beautiful baby daughter, her second (named Rahel – I love the name)and I was feeling so happy – While I will continue to be jealous of everyone who grew up with a brother, having a sister is the most awesome thing to have happened to me.
    I love your siblings tagged posts the best – Thambi and you/ bean and brat.. so totally cute.
    All sobby and ‘eyes-welling-up’-py at this post. Big kala tikka. And to those lovely, lovely babies of yours (Beanie sure has grown up and the Brat gets handsomer :), big hugs.

    P.S: You promised to babysit my 4 babies. Keep your fingers crossed for me, cos I am beginning to see things take shape 🙂

  21. Awwww! This is a terribly cute post with cute kiddo pics at the end! Makes want to have a second….but unless a girl is guaranteed I am not going to venture to have another boy!

    p.s: MM how abt a post about inter faith issues and bringing up kids? I believe you had this in your previous blog?

  22. MM,

    waaahhhh! Mine have a similar age difference (26 months) but the bickering….ooh, the bickering. Always did stuff together for them as babies, and physically they do a lot together even now – but at 10 and 8, it seems like all N wants to do is tease K into tears, which she reciprocates every chance she gets, so ….

    Me, I want to run away about once a day….

  23. Awwww! Your babies look so handsome n Pretty ! Boy, have they grown up or what!

    U know sibling love posts alwez alwez tend to touch a soft spot for me.. ‘coz I’m soooooooooo darned close to my sis. She is 2 years elder to me…and when my mom tells us stories about when we were babies…its alwez been about how well my sis watched over me. About how my mom would be washing clothes in the backyard..n my sis would watch over me and call out to her..whenever I cried n she didn’t know what the reason was. About how she would distract me and play with me while my mom tried to feed me (and I blv it was she who was a v. poor eater n drove my mom up the wall)

    N as we grew up, n got used to a schedule when we would come home to an empty house with our parents gone to work..we learnt to hold each other’s hands n take the bus back home. I was so close to my sis that when she went on a 1 week vacation to Chennai w/o me n we were separated for the first time in our lives..we both wrote a letter to each other every single day of that week. ( those were times when we couldn’t afford a phone n of course all the letters reached after she was back in Blr ). We would cover for each other at home n fight for each other

    Of course we have fought every now n then..but when my mom came in to call it truce we used to end up turning against her. How mad that would make her! (or mabbe she pretended like she was mad?)

    Adults in my family will often hear my mom complain that my sis was my mother for me….not she. When people speak about jealousy or any kind of sibling rivalry it feels like latin to all of us. . I am what I am coz of my sis. She has a very vital role in shaping my identity. n ever since my sis’s daughter was born..that’s all I’ve prayed n hoped, for her children.

  24. Hi ..

    I was dying to read one of your blogs.. You were mentioned in some of Ro’s blog and wanted to read your blog as well.. i was restricted from it and felt quite left out.. I am not good with words however i love to read blogs and try to be in their shoes and imagine things.. I dont have a kid yet and its nice to know what you all think about them..Very nice one.. Looking forward to read more..

  25. Posts like these make me just smile and live in a happy daze. I started reading you a little before the Bean was born. And seeing the little lady now makes me shake my head in disbelief…

  26. bean outfit is ekdum fabindia…i have bought a couple of those.love them (tho they are hi maintenance…veg colors, bleed-dry clean 😦

    hey mm, i love the tiger sheets, where wd i get somthg like that?

  27. Lovely post.

    Like you, I read and read about all the right ways of raising children, then go ahead and do exactly what my heart says! And it works…atleast so far it has! Touchwood.

    I have a son and daugher, nearly 5 and nearly 2…so I connected with what you wrote here.

    Nilu

  28. Oh my MM – I had to look at the photos twice to believe that they are Brat and Bean’s pics. Suddenly looking so grown up. Beanie esp!
    I did the very same things – brings back memories. KB used to be with me for every feed when he was home. And he has saved me and KG literally by running to me and warning me if by chance KG put something in her mouth that could choke her. And like Beanie KG screams at me with fierce eyes glaring “Mamma!!! Why did you yell at Anna?!!” if I scold him for anything. She is usually shy but even with other boys who bully KB she immediately morphs into this tigress screaming at the boy to not trouble her brother! But they do fight often – more because of how difft they are – KB is so organized and KG just messes up his order…no rivalry but just personality clashes…
    I loved this post as you can well see! About Beanie and Brat’s relationship – of course I will love it!

  29. What happened this summer…all the kids seem so grown up!! I hope my two kids will grow to have such a lovely bond, them being 7 years apart I worry sometimes.

  30. Such a cute post and cuter pics. 🙂 Awwwwwwwwww

    Touchwood. May they stay that way forever.

    I so agree with every word of this post. I don’t have the experience to speak now, but that’s the way I would love to handle siblings too…

  31. Deep sighing 🙂 God bless them and I hope they grow up and still love each other as much as they do now and stay close and protective of each other forever. Siblings rule!! Can’t believe mine is on another continent! I miss him sooooo much!

  32. i am always amazed at handwashing before touching the baby business. esp for family folks unless they have been cutting mirchi! :p

    my bro and me are almost 7 years apart so it took us a l’il time to get on the same page. but once we did there was no looking back!! 🙂 and what a ride it has been!

    Cub like the Brat is naturally gentle and sensitive. i saw him getting all worried everytime my l’il niece cried when they visited us. and tried to quieten her.

    he also kisses my belly 10 times a day and asks me if 2B has eaten etc! i hope he will be equally sweet when the baby is out!

    hugs to Brat and the Bean! 🙂 lauuully post!

    • course he will, babe. he is the cub and he is your cool fuss free baby. you watch them bond and push you out the front door. i’ll be the old hag crying on the park bench in case you want company

  33. Does Dastakar have branches in (new) bombay – i wonder. i mont that bedspread. tis a beauty. me like all things animal – esp owls. do they do owls?

  34. I so want to have another one right now. Stupid knee, though. Doctors said wait for atleast another year for the tendons to be strong. Damn! I have pregnancy pangs now. Yes, of course I am a little crazy in the head 😀

  35. You truly have a way with words…and emotional algebra-geometry:) Love your posts. It was the reverse for me. My first-born was the feminine precious incredible awesome bundle of joy..who remained the centre of our universe until four-and-a-half long years later, when her little brother opened his shining, mischief-laden eyes (a divine precursor of the years ahead and what they would hold for us!!)to our world. Yes for us too, the man worry was the demon of sibling rivalry..specially since by then we had moved into my husbands hometown and with his parents, whose natural instincts would shift alarmingly towards the bald little “heir” to their name! We used the very same magic mantra 23 years back, as you have.. and it was a stupendous success:) Today, when we lie in bed talking until the wee hours of the years gone by– I am amazed to know the depths of their bond. The things they (unknown to me) shared..thoughts, dreams fears, ambitions, secrets….
    I must have “retired” back then actually… but whats a miracle is that the seeds I sowed then have reaped into a harvest of love, trust, friendship and belonging between them even a the have moved into their own spheres..and I find myself still busily a the centre of it!!

      • 🙂 …As the “first-born” in question, can I just say that when you grow up in a house where all you’re expected to do and be is happy, independent, confident individuals – like the home I grew up in, and the home that you and the OA have made for the Brat and Beanie – it’s a given that your childhood remains among your happiest memories. Your sibling, who’s the one person who will always be a part of those memories… (hell, you even built those memories together!!) …will be that one link that’ll stay with you forever. And the two people who gave you this, are always going to be at the centre of that link.
        And, that’s meant for you, Ma – and for you, MM. 🙂

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