updated 20 Jul 2011, 07:06
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Wed, Jul 20, 2011
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An ode to my two little kings
by Clara Chow

ONE day, my five-year-old son, Julian, presented me with a painstakingly handwritten note festooned with Hello Kitty stamps and emblems.

"This is to remind us that Lucien is the king of our house," it read.

It charmed me that Julian had officially declared his devotion and allegiance to his younger brother. But there was also a slightly disturbing undertone to Julian's decree.

Indeed, Lucien is the baby of our household and liege of our affections.

I had involved Julian very early in the arrival of his sibling, taking him with me to ultrasound scans and telling him all about the foetus. And the boy has shown love and care towards the younger one right from the start.

The two brothers are very close. Julian gets upset when he senses that Lucien is in discomfort, and Lucien's current hobby is giving his kor kor long, "aww"-inducing hugs.

But, at 20 months, Lucien is leaving pliant babyhood behind and coming into his own as an individual.

Not yet two, he is now testing the limits of his newfound independence. What Lucien wants, Lucien gets.

If not, woe to our eardrums, for a wail or series of sharp shrieks can escalate into a full-on tantrum. Said tantrum often involves prostrating himself in public places and angrily kissing the floor.

Naturally, my role as a work-from-home mum has expanded to include acute conflict resolution. I constantly have to step in to curtail shouting matches between Julian and Lucien (the latter speaking in gibberish), and to supervise the splitting of assets or war spoils (toys, books, DVDs and bolsters).

Violence, of course, is not condoned. Should Julian thoughtlessly push or smack his younger brother during an argument, he earns himself an immediate ticket out of our flat: I make him stand just outside our front door for a few minutes to reflect on why his behaviour is unacceptable in our home.

The message that the Supportive Spouse and I have always stressed is that Lucien, by dint of being younger and less able to comprehend reason, must be given in to.

Should Julian misbehave these days, he is given two lectures: one for the naughty action itself, and the other for "setting a bad example" for his adoring younger bro, who copies everything his five-year-old hero does.

After all, having a younger sibling means that a child can and must learn how to be considerate of and responsible for another person - a strong trait that will take him through life.

But Julian's perceptive note to me also woke me to the fact that, in ensuring that the younger child does not play second fiddle in our family, I might have required my elder one to grow up a little too fast.

Recently, Julian complained that it made him "angry" that he had to be responsible for looking after his own belongings, as well as Lucien's, on top of helping to alert us if the little dude was about to do anything dangerous whenever we all went out together.

As the SS and I heard him out, I felt that my son was starting to feel a little overwhelmed.

Then again, in the past, when families were huge, and parents worked all day for subsistence wages, older children basically looked after all their younger siblings' needs - changing diapers, feeding them and carrying them piggy-back everywhere. I wasn't about to feel like Bad Mummy for delegating a little to my first-born.

The art of effective sibling-rivalry management, it seems, is to sweeten the deal a little.

After all, Julian was the incumbent, who might feel that Lucien has usurped his prime position at home.

I make it a point, then, to baby the big boy, too.

One night, I asked Julian to lie flat in bed while I measured him, telling him that he was growing so big so fast.

"Ooh, you are two pillows tall!" I said, making a big fuss over him, and tickling him in the ribs. He dissolved into happy giggles, his stoic young-man facade crumbling in a moment.

In our private kingdom of four, Julian, too, is enthroned. Even if he does not realise it.

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