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Mon, Apr 12, 2010
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Bond of brothers
by Clara Chow


QUESTION: What do you call a doting four-year-old who watches over and entertains his baby brother?

Answer: Child labour.

Since his younger brother Lucien arrived in the world 51/2 months ago, my son Julian has been indispensable as the clown, substitute nanny, milk-fetcher and diapering supervisor in Lucien's universe.

The bigger boy has taken the smaller one literally under his wing from Day One. Sometimes, when I coo over Lucien – whose Chinese dialect name is Wing (Cantonese for "glory") – Julian would insert plus assert himself, arms outstretched, between me and his brother, shouting: "My Wings!"

I've heard about kids displaying possessive behaviour over a parent's affection for a new sibling, but I didn't think that Mummy would end up being the unwelcome usurper.

Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

It is Julian who reads his Thomas And Friends storybooks to him, Julian who recites Chinese cue cards to him, and Julian who first made him cackle aloud with laughter when he was three months old.

Of late, I have realised that having a second child is the best thing I've ever done for my firstborn.
More than just a propagandist sentiment on the joys of parenting while propping up the birth rate, I now believe that having a sibling has and will continue to make my ex-only-child a better person.

For starters, with a sibling in his life, my spoilt elder boy – who used to be the centre of everyone's attention at home and who was once waited on hand and foot – has become much more independent.

Owing to sheer benign neglect, as the rest of us bustled to attend to the baby's needs, Julian has become better at eating, changing clothes, playing and sleeping by himself.

Admittedly, the Supportive Spouse and I were forced to jettison the anxious, hovering parenting style we had adopted with Julian once Lucien came along.
We've even successfully implemented a cold-turkey potty-training programme for the big boy – something we had put off for a while, because it had seemed too daunting.

We have had to set firm boundaries for Julian because of the baby, such as a 10pm lights-down, noises-off policy, which have translated into a more disciplined existence for him.

For the first time in his life, my headstrong four-year-old has had to spare a thought for someone more vulnerable than himself.
Cultivating a close relationship between brothers takes lots of work, luck and planning. Experts have suggested some useful tips on how to minimise sibling rivalry, such as not making comparisons, letting them settle their own differences while keeping an eye out for the weaker child, teaching them to be empathetic to the needs and wants of their sibling, promoting direct positive modes of communication, and always respecting the boundaries and possessions of each child.

I'd like to think that Julian and Lucien's budding, loving relationship is a sign that they are headed in the right direction, becoming chums for life.
In my daydreams, I imagine the brothers as young bachelors sharing a studio apartment and having loads of adventures together. And if either one of them feels the need to complain about their crazy ol' Mum, he can be sure that there's another bloke who knows exactly what he is talking about.

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