Sometimes I start a conversation expecting it to go one way, and it goes in a totally different direction.
There is a game I play, where I tell each of my kids “You are my favorite Keenie, my favorite Isaac, my favorite Alexander.”
After not playing that game for a while I asked my children randomly at the breakfast table one morning:”So which one of you is my favorite?” I was expecting to fall into that litte game, where I talk about the things that make each child my favorite type-of-them.
Alexander gave me that look that he gives me when I have said something totally ridiculous.
And Isaac… Isaac raised his eyebrow. “Mommy, you can’t even pick a favorite color because they are too different and you like them all. You couldn’t pick a favorite kid. That would be IMPOSSIBLE.”
And he is right. When the issue of favorite anything pops up, I give lists of the things that I like, reasons why I like those things. I say that I am in a particular mood where I want a specific food, and I list other foods that I also like to eat.
My kids have apparently generalized this over to themselves as well. They don’t jockey for the position of favorite child. They let me know if they feel that something is unfair or uneven among them, and they trust that I will have a solution or an explanation that takes their feelings into account.
I’m asked a lot about sibling jealousy. How do I deal with it? I don’t see a lot of it. I mix things up so that different kids come first at different points. I explain when something is related to age differences, and I talk about how things were when my other kids were that age, or how things will be when they are older and the steps they can take to get to a skill or a place faster.
We do group hugs where my arms are big enough to hold them all. We devolve into wrestling tickling matches where I breathlessly proclaim love for each of the squirming kids. I proclaim each as my favorite and they chime in other names as well. Yes. Our dog is my favorite dog. And each of our cats are my favorites too.
We talk about sometimes needing one on one time. Needing for me to read a book to just Alexander, to hug just Keenie, to play a game with just Isaac. And about how we can help each other take turns with that one on one time.
Isaac will tell me when Keenie or Alexander need me, and when he can do things for himself.
Keenie will laugh when I tell her that when Wren is born, she will be my baby. “I’m not a baby!” She says. “I am a big girl!” I assure her that she is, but that I will still hold her like a baby if she wants. I chase her down and bounce her while shh-ing as she giggles and pushes me away.
And Alexander-in-the-middle, he wants mostly to catch up to the things that his big brother can do, and comes running to me for help in figuring out how.
This family of mine? This family is my favorite. Hands down.
Favorite kid, though? Can’t pick. Instead I think of each of them in turn and feel that deep infinite love.
Love multiplies. It doesn’t divide. I love each of them with all my heart, and I spend my days trying to make sure that is tangible for them.
I guess that is how I deal with jealousy. I don’t confront it head on.
My relationship is with each child, so I focus on my relationship with each child and making sure that their needs are met and that they feel loved without comparison to each other.
If one needs a hug because they got hurt, I hug them. If another needs a bug because their sibling got a hug, I hug them too and add a kiss.
A lot of approaches to jealousy seem to focus on discouraging it, or the idea that jealousy is selfish.
Nah. We all need a little reassurance every now and then.
So what am I trying to say? I guess I am saying that you shouldn’t deal with jealousy. Jealousy is the comparison of things. Focus on each individual relationship with each individual child. Strengthen those. They are all side by side.
If it means hauling an 8 year old onto your lap to bounce him while he giggles and protests, do it. Then have a talk about what he really needs right now.
If it means everyone pig-piling onto your lap for storytime, take everyone to the couch or to your bed, and let everyone pile in.
Pull everyone close. You have enough love for each of them. Let it show.