People have been asking how Ryan has been taking to the new addition to the family. Depending on who is asking, I don't really know how to answer this question. Most people have a fixed idea of how an older sibling must behave or react in order to qualify as having accepted or adjusted well to the little one. If I tell them that he doesn't jump to her side when she's crying, will they think that he doesn't care? Will that be fair to Ryan, to give that sort of impression?

Hmm, one paragraph in and I realise that this is not an easy post to write. I do recognise that the majority of people do things differently from us - and so I hope everyone reading this will not take it as a criticism of methods that are different from ours. I'm just penning down what we do and the reasons why. The fact that our methods tend to be different is not a judgment or criticism of what others do. So please don't send me any hate mail. :-)

Ok, let's talk about Ryan's reaction.

Ryan has been very accepting of the baby. He hasn't been throwing tantrums, he's just the same as before. He doesn't push her about, he doesn't throw stuff at her or anything like that. In fact, he's extremely gentle with her. He has also noticed her umbilical cord stump still on, which seems to make him even more gentle, avoiding that area at all costs.

I think he's a little uneasy or nervous to get physical with her and I would think this is completely natural - he has zero experience handling babies after all. I still recall Richard's first time carrying Ryan in his arms as a newborn - the man was definitely a little nervous! I like to think that this nervousness is borne of an understanding that the baby needs to be handled with a lot of care, so I'm actually really happy to see Ryan display that level of understanding.

Some children love to take care of others, being in charge, etc. These children jump right into their big brother/sister role. Ryan is not at that stage yet, or perhaps he is not that sort at all. But yes, I've seen Ryan pat the baby when she cries, which is something that he probably learned from his nanny (who is now looking after a baby as well), and yes, he does kiss her. But he doesn't kiss her all the time, or hug her all the time, or sit next to her all the time. So it would not be completely honest for me to tell you that yes, he kisses her, or pats her, or that he is affectionate with her.

A better way to put it, is that he is being very cautious. And that is completely in line with the Ryan we know. He is handling this new relationship the same way that he handles all relationships - seeking to first observe and understand while keeping an open mind and heart, and showing compassion and gentleness.

Ok, now let me talk about how Richard and I have approached it.

For most children, their parents lay the groundwork early. While the mother is still pregnant with the second, the older one is prepped about "meimei" or "didi" (Chinese terms for younger sister / younger brother). The older one is told that he/she must help to take care of the newborn, that the older one must love the newborn, etc. Then when the baby arrives, they continue with these instructions. I'm not against this. Some children respond happily to these sort of instructions. Some children are comforted by the structure/training that is provided - they don't feel so overwhelmed, they know what to do with the newborn, they have a sort of safety line to hold onto.

We didn't do any of that. Those of you who know us well will know that's not part of our parenting philosophy. In fact, even after the baby arrived, we still don't. We want to keep things extremely simple for him. Having a new addition to the family is an overwhelming experience in itself, even without all the "you must be gentle with meimei", "give meimei a kiss". We want to filter out all the unnecessary noise and focus on the thing that mattered - letting the two children get to know (and hopefully accept and love) each other on their own terms, in their own time.

So, we don't ask Ryan to do anything with the baby. We don't tell him to hug, kiss or pat, or even sit next to, the baby. We don't create a situation where he might feel that he is expected to act in a certain way.

When speaking to Ryan, we seldom refer to the little baby as his sister. Why? First of all, the term "sister" is meaningless to him. It's not a switch that turns on brotherly love or affection. I should add that Ryan doesn't hug or kiss strangers, so we don't expect him to hug and kiss the little one just because she is his sister. Sister or not, she is still a stranger. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you shouldn't tell your older one that the younger one is a sister/brother - what I'm saying is that it is only a factual label. People have been going up to him and telling him that he must love the baby because she is "meimei" or that he must do this or that, or he can't do this or that, because she is "meimei" - if I were him, I'd find it a little annoying, almost a chore. As a parent, I find that this creates unnecessary expectations and stress. Whatever he chooses to do is entirely up to him. No push, no stress.

So things are going well but it's still early days. I'm sure that we will be in many situations where we'll struggle going uphill, but for now, it's peaceful and good.


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