Remember how I was telling you a few days ago about G’s limitless curiosity? How the books might crash to the floor or float to the ceiling… and we better just give them a little nudge to find out what they’ll do this time? How some days our life seems like one continuous science experiment? Remember how I was telling you that our awesome teachers and specialists were helping us channel that inquisitiveness in a positive way? Well, hold that thought… because in the next day or so I will give you the full run down on our brilliant ABA therapists, and how they’ve been creating a safe and nurturing environment for our budding scientist. An environment that includes projectile cotton balls, baking soda/vinegar volcanoes, and rainbow-colored snow. Have I got your attention? Good. Well, hold that thought. I promise I’ll come back to it.
This is the story about my other wonderful kid, S. The one who arrived home from school minutes after our ABA session ended. I’d just gotten most of G’s “experiments” cleaned up… but the sink was full of festively colored shaving cream, and the air was thick with the smell of vinegar. Clearly G was doing something fun and exciting while S was at school… and she was MAD that she missed it. Moments after discovering that G got to make a VOLCANO while all she got to do was go to SCHOOL, she stomped into the living room and hurled her frustrated body onto the couch.
I took about seventy deep breaths, then followed her to the living room and sat down beside her.
Me: It looks like you’re feeling mad. Do you want to talk about it?
S: Why does G get to do everything fun? It’s not fair!
Me: Like what? What does G get to do?
S: Like make a volcano. And he doesn’t have to listen when you tell him to do something. And he got more time on the iPad yesterday than me.
Me: Wow. There are a lot of things making you mad. It sounds like you’re feeling like things aren’t fair.
S: Remember when G got to go to that really fun place? The one with the swing and the climbing structure?
Me: I remember. It was the physical therapy gym. [Ed note: When G was two I took him for weekly sessions at the physical therapy gym. S had to come with us ONE TIME during a school vacation week. This took place FOUR YEARS ago.]
S: Remember how I really wanted to play in there, but I couldn’t because it was just for G?
Me: Yes, I remember that too. That didn’t seem fair either.
S: I really wanted to play in there.
Me: It sounds like you are feeling jealous because there are things G gets to do that you don’t get to do.
S: I guess.
Me: That sounds crummy. What does it feel like inside you?
S: In my head, there are all these different feeling rooms. Right now, the “mad” room is filled up with one hundred people.
Me: Wow. It sounds crowded in there. What about the “jealous of G” room? I bet that one’s crowded, too.
S: Yeah, that one has one hundred people, too. That’s the most people that can fit in there.
Me: Wow. One hundred people in “mad” and one hundred people in “jealous of G”. I wonder if we can do anything to get some of those people out?
S: It’s not fair that G got to go to that gym and I didn’t.
Me: I know. It’s just one of those things that G got to do. I wish I could change it, but I can’t. Is there anything that I can do now?
S: It’s not fair that G got extra time on the iPad yesterday, and I didn’t.
Me: [I make an executive decision to ignore the reason that G got extra time on the iPad. He needed something to keep him occupied while S got to participate in a rehearsal for the upcoming Multicultural Night at our school. Something that G would want to do, but it is well beyond the reach of what he is capable of. But that’s not important now.] Now, that’s something I can change. Would you like some extra time on the iPad now?
Me: How’s that “mad” room doing? Is it still crowded?
S: No, there’s only about 10 people in there now.
Me: How about the “jealous of G” room?
S: It’s always crowded in there. There’s 53 people in there now. That’s how it usually is.
Me: Hmmm. I understand how you feel. You certainly have a lot of reasons to feel jealous of G.
Me: Is there an “I love mommy” room in there?
S: Yeah. That one has a hundred people in it right now.
Me: My “I love S” room has a hundred people in it too.
And with that, S tucked the iPad under her shirt (where it wouldn’t be noticed –and envied- by G), and skipped happily up to her room.
Parenting siblings is a balancing act. Jealousy is part of the landscape, no matter how hard you try to keep things fair. Some things are inherently unfair, and it’s hard to keep things in perspective when you are the one that is feeling shortchanged– especially if you are a kid. I feel guilty ALL THE TIME about the extra time and attention that I give to G, and the impact it has on S. I often twist myself into knots trying to think of ways to even the scales. I’ve been trying to do a better job lately about accepting the fact that I’m doing the best I can. I’ve been trying to accept that sometimes S is just going to feel jealous, and that’s okay. She’s going to feel how she’s going to feel, and it doesn’t mean that I’m doing something wrong. I can’t change the way she feels. I can only be there to listen, and support, and help her work through the feelings.