In 2010, when Abhimanyu turned 5, we told him that the Lord had decided not to send a brother or sister for him. We convinced him that he was the only child that we would ever have and that all our love belonged to him only.
Just 3 years later, in May 2013, we discovered that I was almost 3 months pregnant! While we were happy at the divine intervention, we were worried about how we would break the news to 8-year-old Abhimanyu.
We read a lot of books and articles on how to break the news and how to prepare the elder sibling for the younger one’s arrival. However, none of them completely answered our queries or reduced our anxiety.
We elevated the elder sibling’s status in the family:
The best advice came from a colleague. She told me that it would be a good idea to ‘elevate’ Abhu’s status in the family. This was the best advice we received. We created the title: Little Daddy for Abhu.
We followed our gut feeling and the rest just fell into place. Here are some things that we did:
DURING MY PREGNANCY
I gave him more time:
I am my son’s best friend. Having a new baby in the family would mean that my time and attention would be split. My challenge was to ensure that he doesn’t feel left out at any point in time. We spent time together, baking cakes, playing with toys, visiting the garden, dancing madly to the latest songs and many other things. I made him talk a lot so that he gets an avenue to express what he felt.
My husband built a deeper rapport with Abhu:
Amarkant spent a lot of time with Abhu and built a deep friendship with him. One that gets stronger by the minute. They became the best of buddies during this time. They shared jokes, political news, and many other common views.
We spent a lot of family time:
As parents, we had always ensured that we give a lot of quality time to our son. However, the time had now come to spend even more family time. Right from grocery shopping to mall visits to recreational excursions we did it all. We watched our son’s favourite movies with him and spent a lot of time laughing and chilling.
Introduced the concept of Little Daddy:
“We already have a son. We don’t need another child. I think the Lord is sending this new baby for you so that you can take care of it.”
“Yes, Abhimanyu! Think about it, you will have your very own baby who will love you and adore you. You can take care of him or her all your life and when she/he grows up, you will get the care back.”
He loved the concept. Since then, we started calling him Little Daddy Abhu.
We involved him in the process of welcoming the new baby:
As far as possible, we took him along for every checkup discussed problems and their solutions with him e.g. where would the baby sleep? and then guided him towards the solution. We requested the doctor to show him the sonograph live so that he could see the little baby dancing. Once he remarked that maybe the baby was dancing because he was around!
We told him that the new member is his own little Santa:
Each time we took him to the doctor, we stopped by at the toy shop. We chose the gifts that the new baby would be gifting to his/her, Little Daddy. We browsed through several toys and got some of them gift-wrapped. Some others were left there to be picked up on the day the baby arrives.
DURING THE DELIVERY AND HOSPITAL STAY
We insisted that he stays in the hospital the entire time:
He was the Little Daddy and he knew that he needed to be around when the baby was born. The day of the delivery was sudden and we were lucky that he was around and could stay back with special permission. He wheeled his Mumma till the door of the pre-op area and waved to Papa as he accompanied her inside.
It was the first time that he lay awake till 3 am just to hear the news. I am told that when my husband entered the hospital room without me, Abhu rushed to him.
Papa said, “You got a baby sister.”
“That’s nice, Papa, but how’s Mumma?”
DURING HOMECOMING AND LIFE WITH THE NEW BABY
Preparing for homecoming:
After the baby was born, we sent him to his grandparent’s home to “get ready for the new baby”. This was largely done because I was recovering from the C-section and wanted some time to adjust to the new baby. Abhu planned the entire homecoming with his father. He received the baby with cute posters and banners that he made himself.
Every guest was a partner in crime:
We spoke to each and every guest before they visited us. They were specifically instructed to first congratulate Abhimanyu on becoming a Little Daddy. We also told them to ask Abhimanyu to introduce them to the new baby. One more thing that we did, we shamelessly told friends and family that if they were getting something for the new baby, they needed to get something small for Abhimanyu. The plan was to edify the elder child and then involve him while they dote on the younger one.
Baby Santa got the gifts for Little Daddy:
There was a cupboard full of gifts that Baby Santa got for Little Daddy. So apart from the gifts during homecoming, each time a guest forgot to get a gift for Little Daddy, Baby Santa gifted Abhu something from the cupboard. Life was awesome because the baby cared for Little Daddy Abhu.
I allowed him to enter the room when I was feeding the baby:
The most difficult time was the times when I had to feed the baby. Spending extended hours with the new baby behind closed doors while the elder one waited outside – this was a scene that worried us the most. I bought a feeding apron and allowed him to enter the room once in a while. He had loads of questions about the baby and sometimes wanted to peep and see what the baby was doing under the apron. We treated all this in a matter of fact manner so that it didn’t seem like something that needed too much importance.
We created situations where he had to take care of her:
Every once in a while, I would be in the kitchen and Papa would be at work. Abhu and the little baby would be playing in the hall. When the baby started crying, Abhu would struggle to take care and call out to me. I would reply by saying, “She is your baby, you need to take care of her, figure out a way. Check if she has wetted her bed, do you think she is hungry?” I would help him subtly but not rush to rescue each time he called out. The idea was to make him feel that he was capable of handling the situation. A series of trials and errors led him to eventually understand the baby better.
Making him feel responsible:
We gave him certain responsibilities, like getting the diaper, throwing it in the dustbin, powdering the baby, fixing the buttons etc. We told him that these were the most important activities and since he was Little Daddy, he was the right person for the job.
Making him feel that he was indispensable:
Whether it was buying the right diaper to deciding on which day care his sister would go to, Little Daddy was part of every decision. He was allowed to make guided decisions that he received complete credit for.
Incentivising with hugs, praise, and warmth:
Each time he crossed a milestone with the baby, Little Daddy got one or all of the above. E.g. the first time he guessed the reason for the baby crying, he got a bear hug from Mumma, Papa, and the baby. Every time we hugged him we could feel him sinking into our arms and basking in reassurance.
Today, 4.5 years down the line, the little one has grown up to be a bundle of pure mischief. Her world begins and ends with Abhu. They fight, they scream but cannot live without each other. He is moulding her to become a strong fighter who fears no one. It is wonderful to see them together. Once he told my father in law, “Sanskriti is a little child, I play with her like this so that she thinks that even I am of her age. Don’t worry, I know what I am doing. I am her Little Daddy.”
The day has arrived when he is getting all the love and adulation back. There are times when Sanskriti enters Abhu’s room and says, “Abhu, I love you.” She hugs him and scampers away. Little Daddy just glows in pride.
Hope you liked this blog post. Do you have any views or queries regarding the techniques used? Do let me know in the comments section. Don’t forget to like and share this post.