Andrew: We’ve taken another long break from blogging – well, because we’ve been busy managing both kids. We’re homebound currently as Dylan is recovering from HFMD and Emmy’s sort of mid-way through, hence what better time to start blogging again!
We’d like to share more about how we’ve been helping Dylan grow into his role as an elder brother and take care of little Emmy. I’ve never thought that there was much that could be done, given that he’s still so young and largely dependent on us for most of his needs. However, I’m surprised at how he has stepped up and impressed us on many occasions with his sweet, brotherly behavior! Here are some ways which we have involved him more as a big brother…
“Is this the ‘off’ button for her crying?” (Obviously things don’t always work out well from the start…)
1. Small care-giving tasks
Andrew: while he might not be able to do things like carry Meimei or change her diapers, we’ve involved him in as many ways as he can.
One simple way is in getting his help to get tissue paper for us to wipe Meimei’s spit-up or drool. We did this not only by giving him instructions on what to do, but also sharing with him the context and the effect of what he did. For example, we would say, “Oh, Dilly, Meimei is crying now and she’s spit up her milk. What should you do?” Initially, he’d look a little lost, so we’ll tell him to take tissue paper to pass it to us, which we would use to clean Meimei. He gradually realises what’s going on and now, he will not only pass the tissue to us, but even take the tissue to clean Meimei’s spit-up on his own.
There was once he didn’t even need any prompting from us. I recall I was carrying Emmy and then Dilly came by and looked at her. He then walked towards the tissue box and started pulling out pieces of tissue, which I didn’t think much of as he usually does that as part of his play. He then walked towards me and cleaned up Emmy’s spit-up! It surprised me because I hadn’t even noticed it myself. Little kids really impress you with the things they learn.
There are other small tasks we involve him in to varying degrees of success, like helping to rock Meimei in the bouncer (which sometimes ends up making her cry even more when he gets too excited), carrying Meimei when she cries (yes, we do put her in his arms occasionally and he does try to rock her), hugging/kissing Meimei when she cries and even feeding milk!
Jasmine: Don’t be fooled by the pictures. Emmy is still as determined as ever to refuse the bottle, spoon, teat etc. Haha.
2. Prayer time!
Andrew: We’ve shared previously about our family devotional time and how we put Dylan to bed. Well, he’s progressed leaps and bounds since then and now is able to lay his hands on people as we pray (thanks to Grandma for teaching him that!). It’s quite cute to see him as he closes his eyes very earnestly and has now even learnt to say ‘Amen’ (sounds more like ‘Amah’ for now) whenever we close the prayer in Jesus’s name.
We let him be the ‘big brother’ to lead, by letting him do the laying on of hands while we pray and we also let him decide who’s next in line for prayer. If Emmy is not in the room, he’ll always stand up and stretch his hand towards the door to pray for her. It’s really quite sweet!
3. Taking turns
Jasmine: Sometimes we have to attend to Emmy or hey, even our own selves, so we ask Dylan to wait. For toys, instead of sharing, which is abit abstract (and to the child, “sharing” is equivalent to losing the toy) and applies more in the context of food, we ask him to wait for his turn.
4. Care-giving through play
Andrew: Well, trust Jasmine to find toys on Amazon that will help older siblings learn care-giving. (Jasmine: Actually I just bought them coz they were cute.) I believe these toys are actually more to cultivate the heart of care-giving, rather than actually teaching them practically how to care for the kids, given that it’s not quite possible for Dylan to actually do these things for Emmy yet.
Jasmine: There has been much research about the importance of doll play in helping children make sense of their world in a miniature way, so we bought him a Manhattan Toy Sweetpea Snuggle Pod (aka his beloved “baebee”). I also have a spare Snuggle Pod (with bunny ears) for Emmy but am hiding that from Dylan for now.
Jasmine: Dylan actually showed zero interest in Sweetpea for months, so she went on vacation at Grandma’s house, when one day Dylan re-discovered her in a box and has played/ napped with “baebee” everyday since.
Jasmine: I also bought a doll sling and matching cloth diapers from Etsy to extend the doll play.
Only one problem… Sweetpea doesn’t have legs.
Of course, any shawl will do, but this sling has special plastic rings that snap off for safety reasons.
And here is a pic of the original ring sling, the one I used to carry both Emmy and Dylan from birth- and still do now for quick errands!
Andrew: Dilly really enjoys slinging Sweetea… just this morning he asked to sling her again, then walked around patting it/her(?).
Jasmine: And nobody taught Dylan, but he will rock, pat and shush the baby when he slings her! I think he learnt that by watching us carry Emmy!
Andrew: Lately, Ee Ee also bought him a little baby doll bathing set, which is his current favourite toy! (Jasmine: I let Dylan choose an old face towel to serve as rubber baby’s bath towel.)
Jasmine: Dylan likes to soap up rubber baby…
Then towel her dry…
But he’s found a new use for the shower hose…
As a nasal aspirator! Yes, Dylan still remembers those traumatic times of flu when we had to aspirate his and Emmy’s nose. When he saw the shower hose, he immmediately said “suck nose” and put the purple tube to rubber baby’s nose. Oh dear, why does he look so gleeful…
Jasmine: Just to end off by assuring mums of boys that doll play will not make boys effeminate, but rather let them experience what it’s like to be caring and nurturing- traits which mass media ironically seems to stamp out of boys. We did not force Dylan to play with dolls but waited for him to be interested. On the other hand, he is still like any other little boy who loves cranes and trucks and running around.
Andrew: It’s our hope that both Dylan and Emmy will grow up to be close siblings and best friends in future.