When I got to know I was having a second baby, one of the things I wondered about the most was how the boys will relate with each other, especially considering that they were so close in age. By the time my bump was big enough for Asempa to notice (6 months preggo), he was about 16 months and knew the concept of a baby because he’d started referring to other babies as such. I, therefore, started saying “Baby” any time he touched the bump (he found it fascinating!).
Of course, I knew he wouldn’t appreciate this baby he couldn’t see but I just wanted him to get used to the idea of hearing baby a lot in the house before the baby arrived. He surprised me one day when he was about 18 months though. He was playing with some new toys he’d gotten from school when he came to me, raised my dress, dropped a toy on my bump and said “Baby”. I was speechless but just like everything else these kids surprise us with, he had moved on and he never did that again so 🤷🏽♀️.
Fast forward to when the baby finally arrived. We left him with my sister on the day I gave birth and it wasn’t until the following day when I was discharged and at my mum’s that he got to meet his brother. It was love at first sight! He was ecstatic! Like he didn’t know what to do. He tried to get onto the bed, tried to touch the baby, kept repeating “baby, baby”, it was simply an amazing sight to behold. I so regret not taking a video or at least a picture of the moment. Must have been the post-delivery tiredness, charley. Please if you are currently pregnant with number 2, make plans to capture that moment, because it’s really priceless (of course not by you or hubby because you both will be in another world).
In the days that followed, he did whatever he could to feel connected to his brother. One favourite was to hit the bed. When the baby moved after he did this, he was filled with so much joy. The earliest sign of rivalry came when he noticed I was not holding him as much as I held his brother. He would try to jump on my lap and if I wasn’t breastfeeding by then, I’ll hand the baby over so we can bond a little. But generally speaking, the joy exceeded the moments of jealousy in those early days.
After two months of wanting to touch the baby and get as close to him as possible, I finally decided they could lie side by side to take pictures. A dream come true! He had so much fun and did all he could to get Ayemye to smile at the camera.
In the months that followed, we’ve had a fair mix of love and rivalry. I’ll mention as many as I remember.
1. Toys! Generally speaking, Asempa believes all the toys in the house are his. I have currently told him that a particular toy is Ayemye’s because I realise Ayemye really loves it. But even that! Asempa will always bully his brother🤦🏽♀️ . There was one day very recently when Asempa allowed his brother to play with the toy while he watched. Oh my! It felt like a miracle. I captured it!
2. When Ayemye turned 6 months, I picked a baby chair that Asempa hadn’t thought about in ages. The moment he saw his brother in it, he tugged at the chair and cried. I just had to take Ayemye out before he hurt the boy la. Come and see smile after this old man sat in the tiny chair. Smh.
3. We went to visit my in-laws at church one Sunday. My sister-in-law was carrying Ayemye while my mum-in-law carried Asempa (Hallelujah for that brief moment of freedom 🙌🏾). The moment Asempa heard his brother cry and saw me taking Ayemye to breastfeed him, he forced himself on me making so much noise. Grandma just had to go outside with him. That day, I felt someway eh!
4. There was one day we were getting Asempa ready for school. Daddy usually bathes him while I prepare his breakfast and lunch. On this day, he insisted I bathe him instead. While I was dressing him up, he started to ask for Cerelac and then Ayemye woke up. He still insisted I have to make the Cerelac for him. Me diɛɛ, I started breastfeeding. He was clearly unhappy. Shortly after, Daddy came to the room. Did he tell Daddy to prepare his Cerelac? Nope. He pulled Daddy to where I was sitting, pulled the breast out of Ayemye’s mouth while telling him “Ɛyɛ!” and then told Daddy to carry the baby. He then told me to go prepare his Cerelac😎. Problem solved! Although this was a clear case of rivalry, I found it quite funny. On the other hand, I took it as a day when he really wanted to feel a closeness to me so I gave it to him.
5. There have been one too many days when Asempa will just pinch or hit Ayemye for no reason at all. This I don’t tolerate. I insist he apologizes to his brother or he gets punished. This punishment is usually a little spank or a time-out (locked in a room for a few minutes). He absolutely hates a time-out so he will usually apologise. When he doesn’t he gets the punishment and then apologises afterwards.
6. I see a strong display of love when Ayemye is crying. From telling him it’s okay, to patting his back, to singing for him, it’s always so cute to watch. When Ayemye needs to be breastfed, he will look for me to tell me. When we are feeding Ayemye and he’s not interested, Asempa will be the one to tell us it’s okay, ɔmpɛ. When he poops, Asempa will announce it and happily get us his diapers and wipes when we ask him to.
If you recall from my post where I introduced you to my family, Asempa is the strong-willed child while Ayemye is the ‘ntirimɔdɛ’ calm child. I like it that Asempa looks out for his brother a lot because I foresee him doing it a lot in school and on playgrounds. Of course, I don’t like the bullying but it is work in progress. We’re trying to get there.
When I read the story of Joseph and his brothers in the Bible, apart from the most popular lesson of “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” [Genesis 50:20], one question that jumps at me is why did Jacob give Joseph a coat of many colours to start with? Why did he favour one out of the 12 sons he had? Definitely, that would breed jealousy. With this in mind, I consciously told myself even before I got married and had kids that I will try to be as fair with my kids as possible.
Is this working so far? Do I compare them? Well, yes. I think it is impossible not to compare your kids. After all, they are definitely different. Asempa cleans his plate and asks for extras. Ayemye’s eating journey is a whole blog post. Asempa walked at 10 months, Ayemye, at 14 months. The difference though is when we compare, we don’t make one seem more important or more desirable than the other. We only celebrate their differences and apply each quality as needed at a particular time. For example, when Ayemye did not walk as early as his brother did, I made a conscious effort not to bother too much about it but rather admire what he could do with crawling. I must say he did so much more with crawling than I ever imagined possible. You should see him ascending and descending staircases with crawling. Ha! Even more importantly, I told myself that he will be walking for the rest of his life but crawling for just a few months more so why not enjoy this phase?
This sounds very basic of course, but I know it will become more important as they grow and I take note of their individual strengths and weaknesses. Hubby and I even do it with each other. For example, we both agree that he is more diplomatic than I am when there is a sensitive issue to be handled. So whenever there is one at hand, we know who will do the talking. However, if something needs a critical eye at home, we know it’s mine to do.
I love this perspective that God has given to me and I pray I have the strength to consciously love my kids individually for who they are.
Got multiple kids? How do they relate with each other? How conscious are you with celebrating their differences? Share with us in the comments below!