I was astounded, not so much because till a couple of weeks back his verbal skills hadn’t gone beyond half a dozen single words uttered most grudgingly, but because I had never thought him capable of such possessiveness.
It was my older son who was the clingy one, the one who demanded constant reassurance. The younger one, I had always thought, was totally self-contained – happy to be on his own, making few emotional demands, never craving for attention the way his brother always did.
I used to marvel at his detachment. Wonder how he could get by with so few spontaneous displays of affection. Ask myself if I was to blame for his unnatural lack of craving for hugs and kisses. Out of sheer guilt, I used to try and hug him a little more, only to have him push me away.
He was a cheerful and affectionate child, but I often wondered if such aloofness was natural for his age. Then out of the blue, the other side of him surfaced – the insanely jealous side – “Yeah meri Mummy hai. Yeah teri Mummy nahin ."
Like at everything else he attempted, he was good at this – for two weeks, he did not once allow his brother to come anywhere near me. He still doesn’t allow his brother to lie down next to me at night. When his brother complained, he would be quick to retort, “Yeah meri Mummy hai. Yeah teri Mummy nahin ."
He had been all of twenty six months old when this new Him had surfaced - exactly as old as his brother had been when from being an only child, he was forced to become an older brother. If he, who has always had to share everything, could get so possessive, how much worse it must have been for his older brother who had never had to share anything till a new baby came along.
I had always been extra soft with the older one because I did not want him to resent his brother for taking away something that he regarded as rightfully his. There were times when I used to feel guilty about neglecting the younger one, about not giving him as much of myself as I had to the older one. There were times, when in sheer exasperation, I yelled at my older one – “why do you have to be so possessive? You had your mother exclusively for two years. Your younger brother has always had to share his mother with you.”
Now, I realize that I had intuitively done the right thing. It was the older one who needed my affection more. He was the one who needed to be reassured that his mother did not love him any less just because there was someone else to claim her attention and her love. The older one had to be shown that just because his mother loved someone else, she did not love him any less.
The other day, my younger one was throwing a tantrum. I was busy ignoring him. The battle of who will give in first was on.
Enter the older one. “Mamma, my brother is crying. He wants his Mamma. Pick him up.”
“Your younger brother is just being stubborn. Ask him to stop crying and I will pick him up.”
“Don’t cry. Mamma will pick you up. I will tell her to hug you. Don’t worry.”
“I will not pick him up till he stops crying.”
“But he wants his Mamma. You have to pick him up. He is crying.”
My older one now knows how to share. My younger one will learn soon too.