As an only child myself, I am the first to admit that I know nothing about coping with siblings. I grew up with the dedicated love, time and attention of both my parents at all times. I never had to share, could arrange all my books in alphabetical order without fear of someone else coming along and messing them up, and most of all I could usually find stuff again after I put it down.
So the world of having two kids in the house is very alien to me indeed. I’m muddling through, trying to play fair with both kids, trying to bring them both up to love and look after each other. And on the whole I think we’re doing OK. The geekdaughter usually loves her brother very much – she’s only told me she wishes he wasn’t around a handful of times, which is not bad considering he’s been around almost two years. And we had quite a tantrum from the geekson the other evening when the geekdaughter refused to give him a goodnight kiss – he wouldn’t go to bed until she did!
I’m very interested in learning about parenting siblings, given that I feel I have a lot to learn in this area, and so I was very pleased to see a TED talk appear recently on just this subject. I found it fascinating, and I wanted to share it for you here as it really make me think about a few things.
The bit that rang home for me was the piece where Jeffrey Kluger talks about favouritism. He says that in a lot of cases mothers favour their first-born sons and fathers favour their last-born daughters. And that’s certainly the way things seem to have panned out in this family – if we’re not making a conscious effort over things I will always end up parenting the geekson and the geekdaddy will be with the geekdaughter. It wasn’t intentional, and I’m still not quite sure how it happened. I’m not really comfortable calling it favouritism, because it certainly isn’t that I prefer one child to the other. I really love both of them equally. But we definitely have ended up somehow in a situation where the geekson will always come to me if he is tired or upset, and the geekdaughter will always go to her daddy. The best guess I have is that when the geekson was born, the geekdaddy and geekdaughter spent a lot of time together, and obviously I was spending the same amount of time with the geekson. Perhaps the kids got used to being with a particular parent, and it’s more like them having a favourite parent than us having a favourite child.
Whatever it is, the geekdaddy and I are aware of this situation, and we’re consciously trying to balance things out. It was about a year ago that we realised that we’d got ourselves into a pattern where I always put the geekson to bed, and the geekdaddy put the geekdaughter to bed. Once we realised this, we changed things so that we now alternate wherever possible, so one night I put the geekson to bed, and the next night I put the geekdaughter to bed. Despite this arrangement having been in place for about a year, we still get resistance from both kids when they are with their less-favoured parent. And we still have some divisions in place, like I take the geekson to his swimming lesson and the geekdaddy takes the geekdaughter to hers.
At the moment the main problem I think is getting dedicated “one on one” time with either child. I am hoping that once the geekdaughter starts school in September there will be more opportunities for the geekdaddy to spend time with his son, and I will be able to do fun stuff with the geekdaughter during school holidays. To be fair, I do get a good amount of one on one time with the geekdaughter already – the joy of her brother still having a daytime nap is that we get a couple of hours to ourselves in the middle of the day. I am trying to make more of an effort here though, and I am particularly excited about us having a girlie trip to her first ballet show in a few weeks time – I’ve booked to take her to My First Sleeping Beauty by the English National Ballet in Manchester which we’re both really excited about.
How do you cope when you have more than one child? Do you find that you both parent each child equally? Or are there favourites? Do you have any advice on how to parent siblings fairly?