Short Version: Talking with The Prata Baby about pregnancy and siblings.

Sometimes I have trouble communicating with children. One example comes to mind: when Nephew came to visit us in Singapore, we took him through a museum, and at one point he asked me to read him the blurb attached to a particular photo. The photo was a grainy, old, black and white picture of some working-class Chinese immigrants who, the blurb said, were often deceived into making the journey from their homelands to Singapore on the promise of good jobs and comfortable living conditions, only to find a much harsher reality on arrival.

"What does 'deceived' mean?" asked Nephew.

"It means, sort of..." I floundered for ten seconds or so before inspiration struck. "You know how we were reading that book about The Gingerbread Man this morning?"

"Yes."

"Well, you remember how The Fox told The Gingerbread Man he was going to take him safely across the river, but instead he ate him before they reached the other side?"

"Yes."

"Well you could say The Fox deceived The Gingerbread Man."

Nephew blinked at me a couple of times. Then he looked at the people in the grainy old photo. Then he turned back to me, his face grave and his voice reduced to a hoarse whisper. "You mean all those people got eaten?"

I've been having similar troubles trying to prepare The Prata Baby for what is likely to come. Not that I have somehow led him to believe that this whole baby-making business involves cannibalism - though, actually, who knows how he figures this foetus got in there - but my attempts at explanation seem to produce rather unexpected ideas in his head.

The first time I told him, we were lying on his bed reading a story. He seemed to notice that my stomach had become a funny shape, so I explained to him that the bump he was looking at was actually a baby. He lapsed into thoughtful silence for a minute, then slowly said, "There's a baby..." whilst pointing at my tummy. A few seconds later, he snapped out of his reverie and demanded to get on with his book. And that was that, until the following night.

The following night he lifted up my shirt and patted my stomach. "Are you patting the baby?" I asked him, and he flashed me a cheeky grin.

"It's not a baby, it's your tummy," he announced, as if it had taken him a while to figure out the game, but he was wise to it all now. "There's a baby! No! It's my head!" he continued, giggling furiously. I gave him a rather lengthier and more detailed explanation (at one point using pillows and blankets as props) which produced another thoughtful silence and abrupt return to the pursuit of bedtime reading.

A couple of days later, apropos of nothing, he lifted my shirt and pointed to my stomach. "There's a little tiny baby in there, behind your belly button," he informed me. I agreed, glad to have finally procured his understanding. Then he continued, pointing upwards to my chest. "And look! Two more babies!" Further explanations ensued.

At last the day came when, lying on the bed reading a story, I felt a succession of good, solid kicks. Taking The Prata Baby's hand, I placed it on a likely spot and told him that his brother or sister was kicking, and if he was lucky, she or he might kick his hand. And as we waited, it indeed happened, several times in fact, producing that same, silent thoughtfulness in PB, followed by that same, sudden desire to return to the bedtime narrative already underway. A full week later, in the car, out of the blue, PB announced that he didn't like the baby to kick his hand. Kicking, you see, is "not nice". We have told him so, many times, often sharply, and the baby, if s/he was doing it to PB, wasn't being very nice to him at all. After some furious backpedalling, we have agreed that the baby doesn't kick, s/he moves, taps, or pats. Gently and lovingly. So, so lovingly.

I keep wanting to prepare The Prata Baby for what is likely to come, and the truth is, there's no way I can. As hopeful parents, we tried to brace ourselves over a period of years of painstaking research, carefully sifting through whole libraries of information on the subject. That, in the light of complicated, adult thought patterns and a wealth of observations and life experiences. And in the end, how many of us got it exactly right? How many got it halfway right? The Prata Baby's got no hope at two, no matter how many books entitled Sammy Gets A Sibling I track down in the children's section of the library - my own explanations having proved to be thoroughly misleading, and sometimes rather gruesome.

I'm sure, if of nothing else, that the period of adjustment will be strange and confusing and upsetting and unsettling for him, and my heart breaks a little on his behalf, for having to go through it. I won't be alert enough to give him the attention he gets now, to play together like we used to or to go the places we used to go. What time and attention I do have will be sorely divided. And younger siblings - I know, I've had them - can be a damned annoying pain in the arse and a burdensome responsibility.

But then I also know he'll adjust, like I did, like I will. And I think, in the end, he'll be glad, like I am. And although I believe he would have been fine as an only child, I think this alternative life will have rewards to offset the initial setbacks, and sweetness to complement the sour. I just wish I could make him understand it all now.

But my track record isn't good, even for basics like a simple dictionary-style response on the word "deceived". It looks as if he'll find out the hard way, after all.


10 Comments

BigP's Heather said...

That is so funny!! I hope the adjustment period isn't too hard.

Vee said...

Well I think you did a great job, if that makes you feel any better.

I am one of those "damned annoying pain in the arse" youngest child so I can't speak from experience but I do hope the adjustment period is easy on PB and all of you.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Am still snickering at those two baby bumps you have on your chest.

I think you did fine, and as you said, there's nothing you can really do to control how he takes the news or processes it. It may be smooth sailing, it may be a rocky start, but it will all work out in the end because it has to work out in the end.

Nearlydawn said...

Yeah, we've been through the confusion over the "other bumps" above the tummy bump. Ha! Here I thought it was just us! :)

My kiddo seems content that there is a baby in the belly, and he's decided that my belly button is some sort of access port to her. It is really sweet. He's pretty excited about including her in our activities, and asks questions like "Can Sissy come and slide, too?". It is very sweet. I really should post some about it before I forget...

Caro said...

I know how you feel. T seems to think my boobs are the same as my tummy too. I've tried and failed to explain to him what's going on I guess it won't be much longer before he finds out though.

Betty M said...

I found that my eldest and then her brother reacted well to the arrival of a younger sibling(s) but gave me the silent treatment in the hospital. Too much affection was on offer and it made me feel bad to be constantly chorusing "be careful". We've all coped though and once the baby is here being 4 will seem so perfect You won't know how it could be any other way.

DaisyGal said...

wellll...now that I KNOW you're pregnant..I can say that I often wonder how I would tell the boys about another baby..IF that would happen..(Insert cackle laughing)

but I think you do fine and honestly I can't imagine that down the road he'll remember. I don't remember my mom telling me about My sister or brother, I don't remember her being PG with Sister, a little with Brother since I was 8...and I remember the vomiting that came back to haunt my own pregnancy....

but being a sibling means that there has to be one of you...before there can be another, we all went through it and PB will be just fine. No matter what. He's got an awesome MAMA.

and he thinks your boobies are babies LOL :)

SassyMama said...

I think you are doing a great job.

Still love the "they all got eaten?" and the "two other babies" comments. Will have me smiling all afternoon:)

Cibele said...

He will get it in due time. It will be hard for him at first but I am sure that he will love being a big brother in the long run. I am dreading the day that I will have to explain to Lyla about divorce, when she finally realizes that not all parents live in different houses like hers do, that mommy and daddy love her but don't love each other... I don't even know where to begin. For now I am enjoying her innocence and hopefully I will be able to get trough her little when the time comes.

Rachel Inbar said...

It's true that babies are time-consuming, but I didn't feel that I suddenly had less time. I could read a story to the older one while the younger was nursing or spend one-on-one time when the baby was napping... and there's a different kind of interaction, because PB will be excited when NB (new baby) does things like smile, laugh, sit up and spit all over you...

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