Yes, those days do exist. Squabbles, riffs, meltdowns, tears… drama. It’s all part and parcel of sibling-hood. Whether it happens more in families with siblings of the same gender because they like the same things, or with siblings of opposite genders because they play differently, it just HAPPENS. And it can happen very frequently, such as it has been in our home these last few weeks.
For whatever reason: age, climate change, fatigue and hormones, Sam and Jamie haven’t been getting along quite as well as they usually do.
It has finally gotten to the point where my frustrated eldest child asked me one day, “Mom, what if Jamie wasn’t born?”
Almost instantly, the image that popped into my head was my grandmother. I was a young child, standing in front of her in the rocking chair, and she was chiding me over something I said. It might have been similar in context too (to my siblings, you know I love you! ;)).
It was more like a scolding because I said and thought such “taboo” things. Why would we wish someone wasn’t born? It’s unheard of. The topic would then be dismissed as quickly as possible. “Don’t think that, it’s not nice.” The problem is, I already did! “No, no, no, you don’t ask such things ever again,” she’d say. But why, what’s wrong? Is the nagging question that’s left unanswered.
I love my Mama Mia, God Bless her soul, and I don’t fault her for it. I now understand: it was just what they were taught. And you may come across it as well still during this day and age when you talk to the “young once”.
Yet ironically, years later, it’s those instances when I was told to dismiss my feelings that stick out the most today. Maybe it’s the lack of closure, but I was definitely conscious about avoiding the same consequence with my own kids (funny how the past shapes the way you parent, ey!).
Thanks to DYC, I anchor on what is clear, and that’s knowing Sam loves her sister. Unequivocally so!
When that question came up, I assumed Sam had no malice or ill-intent towards Jamie whatsoever. She was just frustrated with everything going on. I see them together everyday, I am so sure of it.
But I also know what it feels like as the eldest child, always giving in or compromising for the sake of the younger ones. It’s tiring, frustrating, and frankly, it just gets old. It’s easier to just be done with them and wish they weren’t there to “complicate” everyday growing up life (to my younger siblings, again — I love you! 😉 ).
Instead of the chiding and scolding I received, I sat Sam down and decided we’d process this together. We used a one-on-one date as the non-threatening setting for this discussion.
“What if Jamie wasn’t born, Sam? What would it be like, you think?” I initiated the discussion.
Given her current state of emotions at the time, all her thoughts were towards the “pros” of being an only child. “You and dad would carry me more. I wouldn’t need to share, and I’d have all the toys to myself. We could read more books that I choose,” she said thoughtfully, referring to our bedtime routine where she and Jamie each get to pick a book that we’d read together. And the list went on.
I let her rattle off everything she thought would be great about a non-Jamie filled life. All chocolate donuts and milkshakes, no vanilla or strawberry. No need to take turns sleeping beside mom at night. Colored baths of her choosing — all the time.
And I just listened.
When she was done, I said, “Well sweetheart. You might not have as many toys as you do now if Jamie wasn’t there.” When the Christmas gifts roll in, there’s usually one for each of them, so there’s a doubling of the amount of toys at a faster rate. Birthdays happen twice in a year too, instead of once. So there’s more cake, more celebration and of course, more gifts to go around and share. “And when Mom or Dad can’t stay with you to sleep in the room because we still have chores to finish, if there was no Jamie, you’d have to sleep alone.” To this day, Sam dislikes sleeping by herself.
I didn’t raise my voice. And not once did I say Sam was wrong to feel that way or ask that question, if only because — there was really nothing wrong with asking the question to begin with. Instead I followed her logic and used it to cite the benefits of having Jamie in her life. “You and Jamie may have different likes, but doesn’t that make it more fun? When we go to Disneyland for example. You get to go and do things you wouldn’t have thought of seeing or doing. ”
“…And remember, because Jamie loves Strawberries and we went on her field trip, you decided to try it. Now you like them too!”
And as I went on, I could see that my highly rational, very mature six-year old Sam understood.
“I actually think, Sam, that Jamie makes you a more considerate, more caring person. Because you’re always thinking of her — even when you don’t need to.” When we’re out and about and someone gives Sam a sticker, a balloon, or a treat, she won’t hesitate to ask if she can get a second one for her sister too. And because Jamie sees that, she’s started doing it as well unprompted when Sam isn’t around. “You show Jamie what it’s like to be a good sister.”
I acknowledged that her feelings were real and true, and there was nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, it is hard to share and compromise, and to do it constantly (We adults know this! Why should we expect kids to willingly do it when we can’t). And it’s simply hard to wrestle with a sister (or a brother for that matter) who is different from yourself. Would we rather the opposite was true? Most definitely not.
As our date came to a close, Sam finally said, “Ya Mom. I think it is better with Jamie after all. I’m actually glad God gave her to us.”
She’s such a smart girl. I couldn’t agree more.
And we definitely, DEFINITELY, wouldn’t want it any other way. 🙂
A belated happy 4th birthday to our darling Jamie. Our lives are infinitely better with you in it.