When my daughter was born, my son was just about to turn three years old. Randy was crazy about his baby sister until at one, she began to walk, talk, and demand her fair share of attention from the world and from me. The sibling rivalry between them lasted until half way into their teens. (I take that back. It's still going on in a milder form.) For years neither one of them could walk past each other in a room without a comment, a jab, a waving of hands, a pretend tickle, just enough to make the other scream, "Stop it. Mom, he/she is TEASING me!" They would demand that I take a side in all their fights.
If I wrote a little note in one lunchbox, I did the same with the other child. At Christmas, I would stack all their presents into two piles on my bed, carefully counting and recounting how many they each would be opening so that it was even, so neither would feel slighted. I did the same with their Easter baskets...two Reese's peanut butter eggs, 1 rabbit Pez container, 3 yellow marshmallow peeps, blah, blah, blah. It is sad to say that all my scrupulousness was wasted.
Sibling rivalry is as old as Cain and Abel. I thought I was over the worst of it, but no. My two oldest grandchildren, Aiden 4 1/2 (my son's son) and Rebecca 5 1/2 (my daughter's daughter), have begun the battle anew. We all went over to my son's to swim on Sunday. If I gave one of the kids a ride across the pool on their swim circle, the other asked for three rides. I bought both of them new swim rings, one larger than the other because Rebecca is bigger. Well, she hated the one I bought her because it wasn't girly enough. It was red with flames, Aiden's blue with pink flowers. He relished the idea that Rebecca was coveting his. It made him love it all the more.
I picked them both up from Castle Tales Camp yesterday at noon. The night before, I had carefully packed a picnic of homemade brownies, bought Capri Sun lemonades, cut off the crusts of the little peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cubed fresh pineapple and blueberries. I was determined to have a day without competition.
Rebecca brought her Barbie pink Boogie Board that I bought her for her 3rd Christmas to use in the pool. The other children, being Northern Californian kids, were enchanted and had never seen one before. They were all asking, "What is that? Is that really yours, Rebecca?" Aiden was flummoxed. They climbed into their respective car booster seats. Rebecca mentioned that Aiden's was really a "baby" seat. I said, "Listen up, gang. I don't want to hear the word baby anymore unless you are talking about your own baby sisters." They both laughed. I knew it was headed south if I didn't intervene.
My own mother, even into her 80's, used to have certain things she would say to compliment myself or my three older sisters. Joanie was dubbed the "hard worker." Lois was " so smart." Sandy was "so funny, so intelligent..." I can't remember what she said about me. But every time she started saying, "That Joan is such a hard worker," I 'd be arguing in my head, "Yeah, but I'm working full time and going to college full time and I am raising two children and...." I believe I was 46 years old at the time.
You have different relationships with all your kids and grandkids. Some need a little of this and a lot of that. Aiden needs his confidence boosted. He always fights trying new things, then once he does it he loves it. I take him to the library and he loves tools. Rebecca needs to relax more. She loves to curl up and have me read to her. She loves to make me laugh or to draw together. They are both so different. I've tried telling them I have enough love in my heart to love them both "more than the stars and the sea." (My daughter wrote that when she was 7 on my Mother's Day card). I barely got the words out of my mouth before they were talking about Rebecca's Boogie Board and by the way, "Um, Gramma, will you get me a Boogie Board, too?"
Yep, I promised him one for next Christmas. Just because I think he'll love it if I can get him into the ocean. I know I can't convince them that loving one doesn't take away from the other. It's time I stopped this nonsense of being so careful to be even handed, and yet I have no idea how to stop. Even as I write this, I can hear my son saying, "Do you remember anything I wrote as a kid?"