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Around the South Bay

Loving the Other Children When a New Baby Comes

January 17, 1985|GERALD FARIS and JULIO MORAN | This column is by Times staff writers Gerald Faris and Julio Moran. and

When a new baby becomes part of a family it generally commands the parents' undivided attention.

But what about children who are already a part of the family circle? They need attention too, even though it is sometimes hard to come by, says Kathy Perez, a health educator at Bay Harbor Hospital in Harbor City who has devised a preparation-for-childbirth class with an unusual twist.

It is aimed not at expectant parents, but--as the name "Big Brother/Big Sister" implies--at siblings.

"Older children find their parents are occupied with the new baby," Perez said. "It doesn't mean they aren't loved, but they feel neglected and displaced. Family disruption is a problem for older children."

Outwardly, a child may dote on his new brother or sister--all the while seething inside with secret resentment. Sometimes, Perez said, this takes the form of "less than benevolent behavior, like pulling the baby by the leg off the bed."

The best way to confront this problem, she said, is to make older children feel they are special and unique--not displaced persons. This is what the class emphasizes, and it seemed to take hold with the three children who attended recently.

"Mommy and daddy spend a lot of time with the baby and you have to find things to do," Perez told the youngsters, who had settled into a big, comfortable sofa in the doctor's lounge. "The best thing is for you to help mommy. What can you do?"

"You can get things for mom and if she goes out and leaves the baby, you can stay and watch and make sure she doesn't fall," replied 6-year-old Amelia Mosley.

"And you can keep your own room cleaned up," added Perez.

The new baby also gives parents a perfect opportunity to encourage older children to develop personal interests and bolster self-esteem. "It's a good time for piano or dance lessons or for Brownies," she said.

The 45-minute class for siblings is an adjunct to Bay Harbor's childbirth preparation classes, and children attend it while their expectant parents are in their own class in an adjoining room. It has been given three times now and Perez said attendance has ranged from two to 10.

Perez started the class five months ago after reading about similar programs in other hospitals. She said she believes Bay Harbor is the only hospital in the South Bay offering a class specifically for siblings.

Children watch a filmstrip which explains in simple terms the family's experience with a new baby. The film is built around the older children, showing how they can help with shopping and little chores around the house, help prepare the baby's room, and see mother off to the hospital when it is time for her to have her baby, who, the narrator says, enters the world a "little person--wrinkled and wet."

Perez talks a bit about infant physiology and why babies wake up and cry so often at night. "They have small stomachs and get hungry fast," she said. "They're just saying, 'I'm hungry; feed me.' "

Youngsters are given a heart-shaped refrigerator magnet and a "New Baby" coloring book to take home.

But most of all, Perez said, they leave with a simple message: "You're a special person to the baby and very special to mom and dad."

Chicano Music: an Attitude Chicano music cannot be categorized, says Steven Loza, a UCLA music lecturer visiting California State University, Dominguez Hills. Chicano music is Andy Russell (whose real name is Andres Robago, and who grew up in East Los Angeles) doing Frank Sinatra-type hits in the 1940s, and Los Illegals and the Brat doing their versions of angry, political punk/new wave tunes in the 1980s.

More specifically, it is Los Lobos, the Grammy Award-winning group from East Los Angeles that goes from traditional Mexican folk songs to straight-out rock 'n' roll without missing a beat.

What they all have in common, says Loza, who is writing his doctoral dissertation in ethnomusicology entitled "The Musical Life of the Mexican/Chicano People in Los Angeles, 1945 to 1985," is the attitude in which they play their music.

"It's a reflection of society, of the economic process, of a bilingual culture where mariachi music is heard at home and top 40 on the streets," he said. "It's a common drive and aspiration to let everybody know they are of Mexican heritage. The label you put on the music doesn't really matter, it's the attitude."

Loza, who gave the presentation this week before a small group of students during the lunch hour, said even musicians who changed their Spanish surnames to appease a predominately Anglo record-buying public and sang initially only in English have a distinct, albeit subtle, Chicano sound.

"It's a certain inflection, musical nuances, that you can't escape" said Loza, 32, of musicians like Russell, Richie Valens and Vikki Carr. "It may not be as noticeable with some people, but all have it."

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