Thursday, February 5, 2009

Speak no evil

January 09

The boys are bonding well. This pleases me greatly. Dovie has taken to his big brother role easily-far more so than I was led to anticipate- and I make a conscious effort to not make either one feel too special. In my zeal not to make Dovie feel replaced, I was starting to give him far more attention than Vini got. But because I didn’t let my help touch him- he was too young- and I took care of him myself, he hadn’t started to feel it yet. Fortunately I caught myself before it became our set pattern.

Dovie has, after a slight ripple in the waters, gotten used to me or his papa playing with his brother. To my amusement he has yet to understand or accept that his grandparents are Vini’s too and gets a bit put out if they seem too enthralled with young Master Vini. When the baby cries, Dovie often pats him on the back, or will rock him in his bouncy chair. He used to beat on Vini a lot more till his father started doing unto him as he had done unto his brother. He would smack Vini’s face and Kofi would smack his. He’d cry, we’d hug him and that would be the end of it. He soon stopped thinking it was fun to whack the kid. I still occasionally have to scold him for hitting his brother but all in all we are in a good place.

I am lucky that my son was so young when his brother came along. I’ve thus had a chance to learn some things that I would have paid heftily for if Dovie had been older at no extra sweat. Top on the list of these is the effect the careless talk that abounded before Vini was born would have had on him.

‘Look at you, playing so happily, mwah, you don’t even know that you’ll be dethroned in a few months poor boy. Mwah, mwah mwah.’ ‘You go on and cling to your mom and don’t let me carry you some. In a few months she won’t have a moment to spare for you then you’ll see’ ‘O Dovie, why are they dethroning you so quickly, your mean parents.’ They didn’t mean anything by it. It was only thoughtlessness that made them speak so. No one expects it to damage the child. But I shudder when I think how it would have affected Dovie had he understood more language then.
Even if he had had no strong objection to the existence of his brother, being constantly told by so many people of so many walks that something dreadful would follow the baby’s arrival would definitely have made him- as would have anyone else- rethink his generosity.

I was slightly annoyed by the suggestion that I would neglect Dovie because of Vini. But partly because I didn’t want to make strident claims and find out that everyone was right; there was after all only so equally a human mother could love her children and partly because I was a little shy to take on people who I know are full of good will for me and my family, I let it slide. By the time the potential impact dawned on me and I decided to put an end to such talk, he had heard a good number of calls to resentment. Luckily for us all he didn’t understand a word of it. He was too busy trying to figure out why heeding a ‘bra mummy’ could sometimes lead to a hug and other times to the loss of that fabulous new toy he’d picked up from the corner and was just about to taste.

Now that Vini is here, everyone seems to have lost interest in this topic that, only months ago, was pressing to comment on and a good thing too! Lately Dovie is ever surprising us with his comprehension of language. If those careless words were bandied about now, though he might miss the nuances the words have picked up in their evolutionary journey, he certainly would get the general message. I’m thankful I did not have to tell the adults; people, who are mostly good parents themselves, not to say things they must have said a hundred times before with no obvious catastrophe ensuing. And there’s nothing like slapping somebody down to kill their joy in your children. I’m glad, so glad I was spared the necessity.

But like we say, if you pass by someone’s window and hear them advising their child, stop and listen, you might be the wiser for it. So this lesson I’ve learnt, luckily only as a concept, I pass on to everyone who would hear. Do not let anyone tease your child that their unborn sibling is replacing, dethroning or usurping them. The cost is steep, the effects permanent. If they can’t think of anything genuinely harmless to say, let them take a cue from Dovie. ‘tja’ and ‘na na na’ can be the foundation of some very deep conversations.

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