During all the wild craze concerning two inches of snow, I decided to steal some quiet moments while the King took the kids on a snow romp.
The second hand reports from the Eldest emphasized the romping-ness of the affair. Little B. explained that her clothes were “too big” for the slide, and she got stuck.
But the secondhand reports relayed by Prophet emphasized the sibling rivarly that can poke out its head even in the middle of the woods, mid-adventure.
Upon discovering the secret bench in the woods, the King wanted to get a photo. But Little B. said Gnome could not be in the photo- that she “didn’t want” to be on a bench with Gnome. The King was confused because there hadn’t been any fights or spats between the two, and Gnome was being her usual feisty, three-year-old self.
“I’m going to take a picture and everybody can be in it,” he told Little B. “If you don’t want to be in the photo, you don’t have to sit on the bench,” he added, “but I’m not going to tell some people they can’t be in it.”
Little B. sulked and thought it over. She finally decided she wanted to be in the photo. However, she would only be in it if she could turn her back towards the Gnome. So the King snapped the first shot.
“Do you guys want to trade places on the bench?” asked the King, hoping it might soothe ruffled feathers. Little B. did not want to trade places- she stayed put. Gnome and Prophet switched.
When Prophet reported the bench fiasco to me, I went to find Little B. and pulled her into my lap. It seemed important for her to hear what Prophet was saying, to be part of the discussion in an attempt to understand her feelings. Little B. refused to explain why she didn’t want Gnome to sit next to her on the bench. At one point, she said it was because she “didn’t like” Gnome.
“But you play with Gnome- just the two of you- all the time,” I pointed out. “And you hug her and say how much you love to play with her….”
Little B. had a hard time finding words to express her resentment of Gnome. I wanted to validate her feelings while helping her to understand why they might be hurtful and unworthy of her focused attention. So I explained to the three girls that it is the most natural thing in the world to feel frustrated and resentful of siblings after going from being an only child to being part of a troupe of kids within a family.
“Imagine if you went from being the baby to being one among four,” I began. “Until four months ago, Little B. was the baby- she got all the attention the littlest member of the family receives. But she was also the oldest, with all the privileges of being the oldest. Don’t you think that sometimes it is hard to explain why being a middle child can be frustrating?”
Prophet nodded. Little B. curled her legs in my lap. I could tell that Prophet’s empathy engine was working hard; she began to explain why Little B. might be “missing” getting “all the attention the way you get when you are the only one”. Prophet’s thoughtfulness really came out, however, when she gave the following example:
As Little B. puts on a brave face and tries to sort through all the challenging feelings and emotions coming her way, my best hope is that her siblings will encourage her rather than resenting her in return. Sibling rivalry is one of life’s greatest challenges. Learning to communicate one’s secret resentments on this front can equip you to handle difficult conversations and situations. My prayers for Little B. and the girls are the beginning to every day.